Tag Archives: visualcommunication

Connotations of adverts.

Denotations of an old navy advert.

I first see the man in a navy sailor uniform, wearing an old fashioned white sailor hat. He’s sat on an orange missile or mini submarine, and then I notice the date (1917) in the university’s write up and decide it’s probably a missile. Words encourage FIGHTING MEN to sign up to the navy. Bold lettering in red and navy stand out at the bottom of the poster. The missile is moving, demonstrated with splashes from the water bouncing as high as the man’s head. The man on the missile is holding a fuse in his hand.

Connotations are put forward by the question, suggesting the missile is phallic, but I don’t see it. I see a cowboy riding a bull or a wild horse at a county fair. With a whip in his hand, holding on tightly to the bucking missile as it jumps across the water’s surface. A real man, a man’s man, an all American cowboy is suggested by this poster. The sense of danger and excitement emphasised by the raised hand as if the missile isn’t dangerously jumping all over the place, it needs inciting to be more treacherous by the whip/fuse.

I read into the poster that the navy are looking for the daring adventurous men to board their ships. The kind who’d jump on the bullock at the fair to try his chances at whatever prize is on offer.

Denotation: The poster above shows a hand drawn green hand, with pink fingernails. There are blue droplets falling towards the hand. “Why you need to wash your hands!” along with other messages, are written by hand followed by “Wash your Hands!” MRSA Action UK is printed in the top left corner, with Mid Yorkshire Hospitals and the NHS logo top right.

Connotation: The picture is clearly drawn by a child, with uneven handwriting around it. Although the written messages are clear, washing hands removes germs, the implied messages are interesting. The green hands imply dirt or illness, or in the world of animations, evil hands. I believe that the use of a child’s drawing is to shame adults into washing their hands. Even a child knows to wash their hands, that it stops germs. If a nine year old knows this then an adult has no excuses.

The poster was part of a group of posters designed in collaboration between the NHS trust in Yorkshire and the MRSA charity to reduce MRSA figures.

Chris Cruise, Head of Infection Prevention and Control at the Trust said: “It’s very important to get children involved, they see the world from a simplistic perspective and they have no preconceived ideas, they say it how they see it. Or draw it as they see it, as we found in the poster competition, the designs the children produced were very good!” 

After reading Chis’ description, as to why they use a child’s drawing, I’m still believing it has more to do with budgets, lack of funding and shaming adults.

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Crop Circles and semiotics

To reflect on the signifier and signified of a crop circle photograph.

The question baffled me for a while, am I writing down about the content or the photograph? I expect that’s what the question means by ‘reflect on the signifier’.

The photograph, the signifier, is composed to include the Silbury Hill, a place of special scientific interest. The mound has been recorded as a monument of historic significance due to the age of the site, believed to have been started in Neolithic times (English Heritage, 2019).

Crop circles have also been a source of much speculation. Many sitings of UFOs are claimed to be along ley-lines. These theories however have been ridiculed by the scientific community.

Wiltshire is a place of huge spiritual significance to the pagan and druid religions in the U.K. due to the siting of several monuments, including Stonehenge. Ley-lines converge within the county, and these are believed, by pagans and druids, to bring substantial energies from the earth and the universe. British ley-lines were originally discovered by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s, he believed they were prehistoric travelling lines created using beacons on hilltops (The Guardian, 2000).

“We must be on our guard for despite common parlance which simply says that the signifier expresses the signified, we are dealing, in any semiotic system, not with two, but with three different terms. “

Roland Barthas, Visual Culture, the reader, page 52, 2007

Meanwhile Roland Barthas states that when we talk in terms of signified and signifier, we are missing the object, the sign. I mention this as I return to my original question, was I commenting on the content or the object, and Barthas aids me in understanding it is all three, the signifier, the signified and the sign.

Re-contextualising images

Exercise 2, photomontages and collages.

So my initial research was with the named artists in the course book. These are my thoughts on those artists, with the addition of some of my own found artists.

My initial reactions to the artists is one of intrigue. They seem to all cover war. I appreciate that this was the most controversial topic over the last 100 years, it also reminds me, that with Brexit, the EU peace treaty comes to an end between Britain and the rest of Europe.

John Heartfield satirises it with the use of photo-collages, mixing hitler with an ape certainly invokes the dark humour of the time. His piece called “The Executioner and Justice” certainly shows how, at times of war, justice becomes blind to what is going on. Very few words are needed to discern their meaning, and at the time the visuals would have been startling compared to the “blitz mentality” and official propaganda that was being produced across Europe.

Another great example of an anti war activist is Peter Kennard. His visual language is completely different from Heartfield’s. Where Heartfield’s montages are more chaotic and have humour, Kennard’s are more instructional and fierce. His use of bold text on his montages adds a different dynamic than Heartfield’s collages. There’s little to unravel and the message is revealed with a single glance. His tone is louder, his use of capital letters across the anti bomb posters is something that has continued into modern digital conversations as attention seeking or shouting. A matter if urgency is displayed across the works from anti nuclear bombs to protesting the privatisation of the telephone systems in the UK.

Cleaning the drapes by Martha Rosler

I find Martha Rosler’s collages sit neatly between Heartfield’s and Kennard’s works. They mix the dramatic war imagery of Kennard’s work with the satirical nature of Heartfield’s. Rosler uses everyday scenes juxtaposed over war scenes to show how western society turns a blind eye to the atrocities across the world. The images strike a complex balance between a satirical look at modern society in America and the UK and the harsh realities of living in a war zone. Her use of curtains adds a reality into the images as we close our curtains to shut out the outside world.

Meanwhile I find myself perplexed by Hannah Höch’s work. Her collages seem amateurish, however technically the images are well sought and placed. It takes me to read about her background to understand the meaning of her work. At face value it is difficult to discern why she picked these particular images, and I can only assume that at the time she made them these images would have been well recognised. It is well placed within the Dada movement, of chaos and satire, and you can see how surrealism developed as an offshoot of dadaism.

This exercise reminds me of the recent ghosts of war images used to remind people of the atrocities that are being forgotten. The collages of every day scenes imbedded with war time photography is a stark reminder that our landscape hides the evidence of our past.

Seth Taras

The collection of images below are from an instagram artist called urugallen.

I find these images as startling as the ghosts of war images due the artists attention to detail in the images he selects. They have similar storylines as Martha Rosler’s work, however the clean lines between images seems to add the immediacy of Kennard’s work.


People holding Red Leave posters being force fed right wing propaganda through foie gras feeding tubes
© Fois Gras by Kekezza Reece

This is my montage based on my belief that no decisions are made in isolation. We all make decisions based on our assumptions and perceptions. We are surrounded by information all the time, even if we choose not to buy newspapers, watch the news, and view adverts. We are still bombarded as we go about our daily lives. This force feeding of views and opinions, wrapped up as news, has now become so endemic in our mainstream media that it is hard to find the true facts in any article.

Identifying visual communication

Exercise 1

  1. Persuasion: “convince, entice or direct the viewer for commercial, political or social ends”
This is a leaflet from the 2015 protest. Used to notify people of an upcoming protest in London. The bold use of the green and red colour symbolise the left of the political compass. Trying to unify the parties against the conservative party. The use of this particular font adds a home made feel to the leaflet.
A company who focused their marketing on youtube advertisements. This company fuses information and entertainment to convince people to use their blenders. It’s a clever blend (pun intended) of persuasive, information, and authorial content.

Information: “delivering information or content”

In this image we can see assembly instructions. These have now come in a pictogram format for some time, to save publishing instructions in multiple languages.
Here is a classic example of information based visual communication. It is impossible to go into a doctor’s surgery in England without seeing this poster. Public Health England using easy to digest bullet points to stop people asking for antibiotics.

Here we have the classic disabled accessible sign. Often used on toilet doors. However there has been an increase in hate crimes (Home Office, 2018) towards disabled people and even as a wheelchair user I have been subjected to it.

This was designed by Grace in Scotland to include people with invisible disabilities. https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/scotland/1639908/rail-bosses-back-girls-invisible-disability-campaign/

Identity Design: “creating an emotive response or association with a brand identity, logo or other visual identity”

Here is a well recognised logo of Burger King. These brands have come to stand for a consistency across the globe. You know if you walk into a Burger King, or a MacDonalds, anywhere in the world the products are going to be almost identical.

I wonder what the discussion would have involved at the design company, did the company go with the executives wishes or was there room for freedom of design. A lot of these idents we recognise were established at a time before brand identity and continuity of message.

Here we have the Toblerone logo. This is a logo representing the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Did you know there was a bear on the mountain? Not only was one of the founders called Theodor, but it was also started in the city of Bern, whose city logo is a bear.

Here we see a video of the 2018 Coca Cola Christmas Truck. Coca Cola has used visual communication to change our entire perception of Christmas. Before this Father Christmas was either a saint, or an elf. Neither of which were dressed in bright red with a fluffy white beard (Coca Cola Journey, 2018).
The truck wasn’t added until 1995, and it was originally an advert made by Industrial Light and Magic (Staff, 2018).

Authorial Content: “aims to entertain, satirise or educate”

This is a comic by Sophie Labelle, she is also known as Assigned Male across social media. She is a trans woman educating society, whilst supporting the LGBT+ community. I think she is an excellent example of authorial content. These are topics that have become very controversial as the mainstream media has started to cover them.

This is a fan fiction animation from the My Little Pony Universe. I think it highlights how a fan fiction can become a cult classic in it’s own right.

Interactive Design:  “offer users the opportunity to get visual feedback, contribute content or to feel a part of something”

This is a range of websites designed to give information, but in an interactive way. The websites above are My Little Pony, Taylor Swift and Tool. Another interactive design would be within the gaming industry. These encompass everything from apps on your smartphone through to massively multiplayer online games.

Alternative messages:  subcultural and grassroots tool for protest, creating identities or alternative ways of communication. 

The main example I could think of for this is the #metoo campaign. The conversation started with a hashtag, this is a way to link conversations together on social media, and has taken on a visual communication in its own right. It is now used on t-shirts and posters at rallies.
Following on from this you have the Pussyhat project, and although many believe this is trans exclusive feminism, it has been a vehicle to add a cohesiveness to rallies and protests.
Finally there is Project Semicolon, taking an innocuous punctuation mark and turning it into an entire visual campaign to raise awareness on suicide and mental health. The strap line “my story isn’t over yet” is a clever use of the meaning behind the semi colon. The sentence could have ended, but it didn’t.
In this age of digital communication messages have become global, social media has exploded ways for grassroots protestors and cultural movements to find allies around the entire globe.