This week in art school we’ve been learning about semiotics….the study of signs.  Signs are all around us, as words, pictures, gestures, language to name a few.  How we interpret signs is known as semiotics.  Semiotics is broken down into three types of signs; icon, index and symbol.  To explain a bit further, I’m going to show you some examples of each and explain what they mean.

An icon is a sign that bears a resemblance to the real thing, such as photographs and drawings.  Below I have shown for example toilet signs that resemble the shape of a stereotypical man and a woman, a photograph of the Forbidden City in China, and a diagram of the human skeleton.


A symbol is a sign that has no resemblance to what it means.  See below examples of the ying and yang symbol, the @ symbol, and another examples of symbols for male and female.


Finally, an index is a sign that is directly connected to the signified.  Handwriting and type are classified as symbols, but they are also indexical of the writer.  The drawing of a clock is a icon, but is also indexical of time.  And finally, the drawing of a dove here is also an icon, however has connotations of peace so is therefore also an index.  A lot of traffic signs are index signs, as they refer to a location.

Below shows an continuum used in semiotics.  I have taken my earlier example of a dove and shown a transgression from representational and realistic, to ambiguous and abstract.


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