The Complete Graphic Designer
Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their
impact on communication and language. Signs and
symbols help designers convey unique messages
through shared experience and meaning and are one
of the most effective tools used in communication.
Culture, age, gender, and life experience are factors to
take into consideration when choosing visual symbols
to communicate a message.
The ﬁ eld of semiotics was ﬁ rst introduced in the
1800s by the American philosopher Charles Sand-
ers Pierce as the result of his work in linguistics. His
pioneering work led to the categorization of signs into
three basic types: icons, symbols, and indexes.
These are signs for three of the
largest religions in the world, rep-
resenting Christianity, Judaism,
and Islam. Additionally, these
symbols are indicative of religion
Types of Signs
Icons are realistic representations of objects or
things in the form of simpliﬁ ed illustrations or pho-
tographs that communicate quickly. Websites are
notorious for the use of icons such as a basket or
shopping cart to represent a site’s online store.
Symbols are arbitrary signs with no apparent resem-
blance to the object or thing being represented that
require the use of a common or shared language or
cultural experience to be deciphered. Letters of the
English alphabet rearranged into words and sentenc-
es are visual symbols for sounds and language.
In a book, the index is where readers can look to
quickly ﬁ nd more information about a particular
subject. In semiotics, an index references the subject
matter or object. For example, a highway sign con-
taining an icon of an airplane represents an airport.
Provision-Complete Graphic Designer
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