Visible Signs

Date: November 23, 2017
Category Text
Topic Semiotics
Author David Crow

In Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts (second edition) by David Crow, he introduces the topic of semiotics in the field or arts and design.


* Theory comes from the Greek theoria, which means to view.


3 ways of understanding semiotics

→ The signs themselves

→ The way they are organized into a system

→ The context in which they appear


Semiosis → Describes the transfer of meaning; the act of signifying.

Metanym → Used to represent a totality


“Where there is choice, there is meaning”


Convention → An agreement about how we should respond to a given sign

Motivation → Used to denote how much the signifier describes the signified

→ The less a sign is motivated, the more important it is that the reader has learned the conventions that help to decode the image.


Symbolic Creativity → Attached to energy, feelings of excitement and physical movement

→ This is the basis of confidence


The interplay between unofficial and official language exists because you can not have one without the other.


Disorder is unlimited, unlike order/pattern

→ Therefore disorder can be seen as dangerous and powerful


Context can transform the economic and cultural value of an object.


Umberto Eco → Open Work

Information = Odds that the adresse will know contents of the message after receiving it /

Odds that the adresse will know the contents of the message before receiving it

The amount of information contained in a message is dependent on the probability of the reader already knowing the content of the message before recieving it.


The amount of information is greater when the source is improbable.


Much of what an artist does is make choices. By choosing to isolate a particular part of a pattern we immediately make an artifact.


Case Studies for further research:

Universal Everything – Forever – London V&A

Roland Barthes → There is a significant role to be played by the reader (The Death Of The Author)

Paul Willis → How we produce and reproduce our own identities

Marshall McLuhan → The medium is in the message


Notes PDF