Creative Design Lab (HCI206)


3. Meaning and semantic language in visual communication

Semantic interpretation of images was outlined. Examples from photography, art, advertising, social media and photographic reportage were discussed. Group practised in identifying the visual elements that act as visual signs, then inferring their interpretation (what they signify) was attempted, and subsequently we hilighted taking into consideration the context, the indidual interpretations, cultural understanding, collective or contextual understanding, and importance of text in the interpretation of an image.

A better understanding on deriving meaning and semantic language, is achieved by group brainstorming on photographic examples and follow up discussion.

In Semiotics a second level of meaning is derrived (a "connotative"). These meanings are not objective representations of the thing depicted, but new usages produced by community, often following examples from language (i.e. metaphor, excaggeration, etc). Connotation arises from the relationship between a signifier and what it is signified.


elements of form and their interrelationships


Relationships in the level of content and meaning

Every element in an image is transformed into a sign,

that signifies meaning


Every image tells a story


Communication System

Communication model

Transmitter –> message -> receiver

application in the articulation of visual message

[ coding …… decoding ]


A simple sentence is transformed

Sentence AABB--->

message  (encoding)

(rhetoric is applied)--->

decoding --->

Sentence (ABBA-ish)


language and image

In language


  (i married a bear)


    exaggeration, etc


In Image


  replacement, repetition, increase in size, , etc



Relationship of signs with what they represent

Syntax (syntactics):

Structure, and the relations between the signs


Interassociations of elements , signs, signifiers, meaning: semantic system

semiotics - Analyse the obvious meaning of text or image in media,

Then identify secondary associations of meanings that are not obvious at first glance, within the system of signs

Actions in images: addition, replacement, omission of visual elements,

In the level of image (signified)

Cause relationships in the level of meaning


System:  Elements and text are seen together to read the picture

The reading is based in Context, personal and cultural background


Watch out for

  • Time, place, action, actors
  • Mood, information
  • Visual rythm
  • Light, colour, contrast
  • Framing, composition
  • Depth of field
  • Gaze
  • Location of the viewer,
  • structure, arrangement of elemets into grid, lines, axis