Semiotics is the study of signs and their meanings. In our class, we look into the structures of meaning and how our brain reads visual signs. Specifically, for our class we focus on visual semiotics to sharpen our visual literacy skills.

This section of the class helps us to understand and read artwork and images that we encounter throughout the class and life.


To understand the basic structure of visual semiotics. How to use visual semiotics / visual literacy to learn to read and understand art.


  • CS.VIS.8.1.0 - Students perceive and respond to works of art, objects in nature, events, and the environment. They also use the vocabulary of the visual arts to express their observations.
    • CS.VIS.8.1.0.DPS - Develop Perceptual Skills and Visual Arts Vocabulary
      • CS.VIS.8.1.1 - Use artistic terms when describing the intent & content of artwork.
      • CS.VIS.8.1.3 - Analyze the use of the elements of art and the principles of design as they relate to meaning in video, film, or electronic media.
    • CS.VIS.8.5.0.VL - Visual Literacy

CS.VIS.8.5.3 - Demonstrate an understanding of the effects of visual communication media (e.g., television, music videos, film, internet) on all aspects of society.










Sign -

A sign is anything the communicates meaning. Think of this as the definition of the signifier and signified together.

Signifier + Signified = Sign

Signifier -

A signifier is the visual element of a sign. It is anything that stimulates one of your senses.

Index -

Index is a type of signifier where the signified causes the signifier. Think of this as a remnant, artifact or evidence of the idea it represents.

(Remember: Index may or may not look like the thing it represents)

Icon -

Icon is a type of signifier where the signifier looks like the signified. Icon will always look, smell, taste, feel or sound like the signified. Icon is the most common type of signifier in art.

(Remember: Icons look like the thing the represent.)

Symbol -

Symbol is a type of signifier where the signifier does not look like the thing it represent. A symbol only carries a specific meaning because of social convention (society agreed with) the meaning of that symbol.

(Remember: Symbols do NOT look like the thing the represent.)

Signified -

The signified is the idea or concept being represented by a signifier. It is the thing your brain thinks of when you see, taste, touch, smell or hear a signifier.

Denoted -

The denoted form of the signified is the literal meaning. It is like the dictionary definition of the thing being represented.

Connoted -

The connoted form of the signified is the deeper meaning. The connoted message is connected to experience and other ideas, concepts or systems.