Semiotics is a way of seeing the world, and of understanding how the landscape and culture in which we live has a massive impact on all of us. Every day we are unconsciously interpreting the meaning of signs around us – from traffic lights to product logos, the shapes of cars, the architecture of buildings, and the design of cereal packaging.

'Dark Room Keep Out' sign on brick wall

Signs, Systems and Context

There are three main areas that form what we understand as semiotics: the signs themselves, the way they are organized into systems, and the context in which they appear. Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts, explains and demonstrates key theoretical terms, looks at how to appreciate the layers of meaning in a sign and how readers interpret the way a sign is expressed.

Cameraman at work on movie set

Film Grammar - Telling a Story in Pictures

If a scene is to have the desired effect, the filmmaker needs to know exactly how the screen communicates and how images will be understood by the audience and will work upon their imaginations moment by moment. This is where semiotics is useful. A movie is a vast outpouring of signs. In The Language of Film, discover how to control and channel this flow of information in order to create the desired illusion and shape the audience’s experience.

Person using meal delivery service through mobile app

Interactive Design - The User Experience

An aesthetic user experience is one where the user’s concern for their own self is temporarily lost in an effortless involvement in the moment, and their sense of time within the interaction is altered. Interface Design shows you how visual communication basics can combine to produce positive interactive user experiences with practical advice on improving communication between designers and developers, and a tantalizing look at designing interactivity for all five senses.

CIRCA 1950s: Montage of outstretched arms.

Photography - Choice and Understanding

Photographers make a series of decisions to enhance or encourage a particular reading of their work: the choice of black and white or colour; how to compose the image within the frame – what to include and, equally important, what to exclude; what is the angle of view; what is in focus; and so on. Reading Photographs explores what it means to make a representation of the world and how photographing the world affects our understanding of it and of ourselves.

Child using a lightbox to draw on paper to make a flip book

Animation - Visual Language

Animation combines many of the formal compositional traits of traditional painting with the time-based properties of camera and film editing. Discover how symbols or objects, environments and composition can be used in an image to create narrative meaning in Animation in Context and how to translate these ideas into layouts, set designs and beat boards.

An Ettore Sottsass 'Carlton' bookcase, 1981, is on display

Product Design - Perception

Products communicate to us through visual language. Like spoken and written words and sentences, this language can be split into units and studied. On their own these signs would be meaningless but they become comprehensible when compared with other signs within a system. Explore the perception of form and some of the tools designers use to imbue their products with meaning in Thinking: Objects.

Images above and on the homepage are courtesy of Getty Images.

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