Definition of Semiotics

Student names: Kaela Wallace, Matt Hillesheim, Kelly (Chin-Han) Chiu, Charlene (Chung Yan) Chan

Date of post: 4 September, 2014

Topic and relevant lecture weeks: Lecture 5/6 Semiotics 

Semiotics is the study of the underlining analysation of the building blocks and signs which make up an image. The use of the semiotics framework to study images, allows us to discover hidden meanings within the images and also gain more of an understanding of the physical and emotional messages that the image is trying to communicate.  

To dissect and analyse the images using the Semiotics theory we first understand the signs. It is divided into signified and signifier. Signifier is a object or something in context that represents another thing which is the signified. For example, a leopard can represent speed, violence, killing. Therefore, the leopard would be a signifier and the signified is speed, violence, killing.

Design theorist Pierce also state sign is understood as: Icon, index and symbol. Icons are the image indicators that we see in everyday life, the toilet icon, no smoking icon etc. We read the icon and interpret the meaning of it. Index is a signifier, eg. smoke is a sign of fire or hot water. Symbol can often be read subconsciously, eg. a shadow in a dark environment symbolises danger.  

Visual Social Semiotics then expands on this theory and describes the relations between the viewers of the image and the people, places or things in the image. They are understood by analysing the representational, compositional and interactive meanings of the image.   

By looking at elements of the composition this way, we can identify and analyse the images better and more precisely . 


Definition of Compositional Interpretation (CI)

Student names: Kaela Wallace, Matt Hillesheim, Kelly (Chin-Han) Chiu, Charlene (Chung Yan) Chan

Date of post: 1 August, 2014

Topic and relevant lecture weeks: Lecture 2 Compositional Interpretation 

Compositional Interpretation is studying and analysing an image and how it is operating. It focuses less on the meaning of the image and more on the detailing and construction of the image itself. The framework for studying the Compositional Interpretation of an image involves five main criteria; content, colour analysis, spatial organisation, light and expressive content. This criteria helps bring a brief understanding of an image into perspective as mentioned by Rose (2001, p.33-53).  

Rose, G. (2001). Visual metrologies : an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials [ProQuest]. Retrieved from