Semiotics – 06.10.2014Posted: October 6, 2014
Today we had a lecture about semiotics (how we read images). I really enjoyed this lesson as it gave me the opportunity to learn lots of new subject related vocabulary (that I will most definitely use in front of my friends and family so it looks like I know what I’m talking about at least some of the time). I learnt that in the area of graphic design the word connotation means the key to how we understand things. For example: culture plays a main part of how words and other ‘signs’ are perceived; some words in English mean other things in other languages and vice-versa. So when we say ‘pies’ in Britain our minds automatically picture what we wished we’d had for dinner instead of that overpriced, soggy breakfast sandwhich we shovelled down, whereas a Spanish speaker would instantly think of feet because that’s what the word means in their language. Similarly with sounds, smells and images; the denotations.
We were given the task to deconstruct an image of our choice in a small group and work out the meaning, the purpose and other aspects of the image. In my group we chose this image of the ingredients needed to make a pie, partially because it was different from what the rest of the class were working with and partially because of a quick, mumbled round of eenie meenie.
As a group, we we asked to answer a list of questions about the image. This was the result:
1. What is it? How is it made? Why?
The image is a display of different ingredients needed to make a pie, a collage of photos printed in an neatly organised grid (which insists on making me wish I’d eaten more for lunch instead of just that rather unsatisfying – and increasingly famous – breakfast sandwich).
It is printed on what feels like a newspaper material which suggests it is more for information value rather than entertainment. The print looks sophisticated and the material has an expensive, quality feel to it which suggests the aim of the image is to give the impression that if their advertisement is luxurious then so is their pie. It also suggests that the page is aimed at the more wealthy, upper class end of the population.
Another quick note about the paper is that it is recycled and therefor making the company behind the advertisement more likable to their audience. It gives a good impression/example and shows that if they care about their resources and the environment, they must care about their food too.
2. What is the context? What is around it?
The image has a matte black background which shows elegance as well as separation between the items, which creates a sense of isolation and mystery. The vast empty space behind the food causes the audience to focus entirely on each of the individual items; there are no distractions and the image cuts right to the chase. The background also makes the whole page look very modern and the contrast with the white text makes the page more bold and appealing to the viewer.
3. Who made it? What was their motivation?
Although there is no official credit to the photographer/designer on the page we suspect that the piece was made by an in house designer at Marks and Spencer. Their motivation was to sell the product by giving it a homemade, nutritional feel to the product which emphasises the fact that Marks and Spencers put the effort into making the pie so you don’t have to, so why not buy it?
4. When was it made?
The image was probably made recently as the booklet it was printed in was published for this month.
5. For whom was it made? What for?
The image was made for anyone who loves pie (people like me) and more importantly, quality food. It is a marketing/advertising piece and has the purpose of convincing the consumer to purchase food from Marks and Spencer and possibly to inform the current consumers of Marks and Spencer of a new range.
6. Is it for an event? What is the viewpoint? Is it contemporaneous? (one of those fancy new words I’ve learned)
In the most literal sense of the word viewpoint. the image is a still life taken from above, the camera pointing directly down onto the subject. This screams simplicity. It is so blatantly clean and plain, the path of the eye moves smoothly over the whole image without having any trouble taking it all in. We assume from the image that the photos were taken with the sole purpose of being printed on this page and that the ingredients we are seeing were not actually used in the making of any of the actual pies.
7. Is it a concept/idea?
I’ve really enjoyed spending so much time deconstructing images and working out what the meanings and the motivation behind them were and as Olwen said, I’ll never look at any image the same way again!