Semiotics: I saw the signs and it opened up my eyes

If someone dress memehad asked me to explain semiotics in one image. The image to the left would be it. If you have been living under a rock and haven’t come across this image which is highly unlikely. Then you would have not known that this image, an image of a simple dress had sparked global dissemination. This image blue up worldwide (pun intended) as everyone was quarrelling simply over the colour of the dress. One half of the audience saw a white and gold dress where as the other saw blue and black. So this my friends, is the epitome of semiotics.

To put semiotics definitively. Semiotics is the study of signs and the ways it is interpreted. To go further deeper, those signs has two components that was developed by Ferdinand De Saussure and Charles Pierce. One which is the signifier being the things that gives meaning and the second component is the signified showing what is evoked.

If you’re still having trouble getting a grips on semiotics then I found that this video really aided my understanding.

This video from The Big Bang Theory provides us with further insight to show how the signified meaning the connotation from the tie can be perceived differently, reinforcing the idea that signs can be arbitrary. As Penny, a girl who is uneducated instantly understood what the tie on the door knob (signifier)  understood, whereas Sheldon. A genius and college graduate at eleven struggled to comprehend the signifier. Showing us that the interpretations of the signifier (denotation)  are often based on shared knowledge, thus this presumption is  translucent and can lead to different connotations (signified).


Additionally to broaden the understanding of semiotics,  I will deconstruct this artwork from renown artist Barbara Kruger.

In this artwork the signifier is the image of a lady with the text “Your body is a battleground” written over her and also a split in the centre of her face. The signified is the battle against woman’s body. As this artwork emerged at a time where there were numerous demonstrations that were protesting a new wave of anti-abortion laws. Kruger created this artwork for the Women’s March to support woman’s reproductive freedom. As in this artwork you can see the divide in between the woman’s face, portraying the battle of ownership over her body with the play between the negative and positive sides.


Turnbull, S 2017, ‘Representation and Interpretation’ Powerpoint slides, BCM110, University of Wollongong, viewed April 2 2017

Barbara Kruger Untitled (Your body is a battleground), The Broad, viewed April 2 2017, <;


1 thought on “Semiotics: I saw the signs and it opened up my eyes”

  1. Your humorous and relatable approach to semiotics initially had me very interested in your post. I appreciated your simple but effective way in which you have explained semiotics. I found it intrigued that you mentioned that signs also have the ability to be arbitrary – this is an insight I myself haven’t considered nor have I seen this idea in other blog posts. Great example of Barbara Kruger’s ‘My body is a battleground’ to highlight the meaning behind the denotation of the obvious text. As this artwork holds great political and social context it really incorporated well into the connotation aspect of semiotics – if you didn’t have the prior knowledge of the Womens March or the plight of women’s reproductive freedom at the time the artwork’s creation an individual’s interpretation of the text would be different. This is an aggressive and powerful artwork, do you think Kruger’s artwork would still have meaningful connotation (signifier) effect today like it did at the time it was released?


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