Issue.12 - Semiotics
A pinch in your eye.
A BEE MAY ROAM, BUT ITS HOME IS ALWAYS THE HONEYCOMB.
HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY READER?
Can you feel this excitement?
Sorry for yelling.
I have to be honest.
I have been wanting to talk about this topic for quite some time.
Simply because it will be extremely powerful in your hands.
No, not hands, eyes!
And also make your aesthetic taste better and more critical.
I always say that what makes someone a good designer, is knowing when the work is good enough.
I won’t say that understanding this can change your life.
But I could say that changing your life can make you understand this.
Semiotics is a lens for the eyes as much as it is the most confusing subject to study within a communication degree.
It is known by advertising professionals, art directors, designers, and many different branches of creatives as the monocle of beauty, signs, symbols, colors, and fonts.
All artists are passionate about semiotics but most of them don’t realize it.
In other words, semiotics may make you passionate about art and make you realize that art permeates every aspect of our lives.
In other other words, this issue can spark the artist within you.
Semiotics is all about decoding a visual message.
So let’s disrupt the matrix by decoding its walls.
12.1 Decoding a Flower
Analyzing the message behind a symbol.
How do you feel about flowers?
If we are to think about it, flowers are the artistic expression of nature.
They come in many shapes, colors, and sizes.
Each with its own unique set of particularities.
Seriously, have you ever seen a Gloriosa Superba? Also known as Fire Lily.
How about a Gazania Rigens? Also known as Treasure Flower.
Now let’s take a sharp look at the Amaryllis Hippeastrum, Also known as Knight's-star-lily.
As you can see, a semiotic exercise is about trying to dissect as much meaning as possible from a message, the message in the context above, being the names and images, even the Polaroid mockup can be a message if you want.
But what if we were to analyze something known to be a true, timeless, and treasured artifact of human history?
The painting of the Mona Lisa can be interpreted from an infinite amount of perspectives in order to get an infinite amount of meanings that are unique to each viewer.
You could be first intrigued by the eyes.
You could be intrigued by the smile.
You could be intrigued by the background.
You could be intrigued by the pose.
You could be intrigued by the painting as a whole.
You could be intrigued by the… frame?
You can be even more intrigued by the colors used by Da Vinci.
See? Of the many different symbols and signs in the painting, each contains a set of meanings. Whether it is the eye, smile, background, pose, frame, colors, or the painting as a whole.
Exercising abstraction makes it possible to find new meanings, like treasure hunting.
It is not only fun but massively important for communication professionals because if you can find a hundred different types of messages in the image of a flower, you can craft a hundred thousand different messages for your ads.
Abstract with caution, though. I can’t rescue you in the galaxy if you float too far away.
(or maybe I can.)
But listen, cosmonaut, this was only the tip of the iceberg.
I will abstract all abstractions and take this line of thought to an extreme contrast in order to forever position a semiotic lens in your eyes.
Seriously. Let’s make an agreement, forward you shall go into this issue but I need to be free of the responsibility.
Please, sign the term below.
“I, the reading reader, thereby acknowledge that this issue is so much abstract talk that it may make me highly dreamy and slightly bamboozled about my reality for a while, henceforth and once I decode this message, I shall proceed with proper due diligence and more, much more awe about everything around me.”
The Nature’s Masterpiece - Short Story
The Leafcutter - Tiny Art Critique
Mr. Godspeed - Chill Nomad Philosopher
Not in a thousand worlds, could any extraterrestrial, animal, plant, flower, or insect of that green and tranquil neighborhood located in a very special place within the immense boundaries of the Amazon rainforest, expect to see the friendship of such two iconic members of the local fauna.
This duo was simply one of a kind because they were also artists within their own species, rarely late for meetings, sometimes polemic, most of the time inspiring and inspired, but always, always uncomprehended. “There goes the forest’s Batman and Robin, the enigmatic vigilante and his spirited protégé” said the beetle community when they took the high road. “Look, everyone, Han Solo and Hairless Chewbacca are passing by, the charismatic spacefarer and his gentle giant ally.” said someone in the frog community when they stopped by the pond for some water. “Watch out, everyone! There’s Mario and Luigi, the fearless, go-kart racing duo. They are going to eat us all!” Yelled the Funghi community when they stopped by for some snacks.
The dynamic duo spent thousands of hours journeying through that massive, living cradle that was their homeland. They never really talked about it, but both knew what was their destination. Leafcutter was not really fond of walking so could always be found on the top of Godspeed's head, the driver of that locomotive, that patiently trailblazed through those bumpy roads at his own… speed.
— HOLY COWABUNGA GODSPEED, WHO PICKS THAT NAME FOR A TURTLE? YOU ARE A LIVING PARADOX UNLESS YOU CAN DOUBLE THIS SPEED. Yelled Leafcutter as if his tone could actually intimidate a living thing.
— Patience, my ferocious friend. He who can wait achieves more than he who rushes in. Said Godspeed as he slowly finished the next solid step to the next destination toward the north.
— I don’t know why I still bother about discussing speed with a turtle, just know that I would easily beat you on a race, you giant moving shell.
— As you complain, there you remain seated, effortlessly making nothing, whatsoever, to help us on our important journey. My focus I shall protect, your chit-chat I am to neglect.
— Are you saying I’m not being helpful? I am the epitome of utility, my friend. A deep well of knowledge, oratory, and good taste. Continued Leafcutter when he suddenly realized something of the most unexplainable set of colors in a pond, close to both of them and right behind a leaf. — STOP, HIT ALL THE BREAKS, SLOW - THE - GOD - DAMN - SPEED! DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SEEING?
— I hear buzzing in my ears. Such a noisy buzz, strangely coming from the very top of my head but directly hurting my ears. Said Godspeed as he continued to focus on walking.
— LISTEN TO ME, I BEG YOU TO STOP, HIT THE BREAKS YOU TURBO TURTLE. WE FOUND A TREASURE. Leafcutter yelled in despair as he was starting to worry about the idea of not taking a deep look at what they found.
Without knowing what else to do, Leafcutter crawled to the height of Godspeed’s right eye and pinched it with all the strength that an ant could possibly convey.
— Ooooouch! That actually hurt. Why on earth would someone pinch an eye? What is troubling such an already troubled mind? Said Godspeed as he slowed the pace to zero kilometers per hour and looked around to find the said treasure. — Do you refer to that flower? You are absolutely right, what an exuberant and inspiring grasp of nature’s beauty. Right here and now, we shall stay parked.
— Some good reason has finally come to your tortoise mind. Have you ever seen such a flower? Godspeed, we may have found Nature’s true and only masterpiece. I always know what to say but for the first time in my life, there is a loss for words.
There stayed Leafcutter and Godspeed just observing the flower they had found as if when looking at it, time froze in a sense of not only joy but hope and strength for their journey. Sometime later, Godspeed spoke.
— Tell me, my friend, what do you see in this flower that brings such enormous joy to such a tiny heart like yours?
— Everything about it is perfect, it exhales vitality! Look at those soft petals, I have never seen a flower with such shape and colors, I can smell the perfume from here, my god, Godspeed. I’m sorry, but I believe this is a farewell, I will climb it and there I will live in beauty and joy for the rest of my life.
— That’s it?
— What do you mean that’s it? What are you seeing with your pinched eye that I’m missing with mine?
— Oh, my dear anty and weird friend, don’t you realize you are looking at just what is external about that flower? Once again, time is blurring your mind.
— How dare you call me superficial? I was a famous art curator back in my time in the ant community. Your left eye is about to get pinched for such offense.
— Just like us, organic beings, that flower is subject to the test of time. We found it in its most beautiful moment but can’t you realize that is only a temporary state of being?
— Interesting, go on.
— If we were to keep staring at it for more and more time, what would we experience?
— Time would get to it, the petals would dry out, it would wither, the stalk would get weak and it would end up in the ground, forever decomposing itself and nurturing another living thing.
— So would it still be beautiful some time from now when it doesn’t exist anymore?
— Unfortunately not.
— So is it entirely beautiful if just for a single moment? Everything that is superfluous is temporary and untrue, Leafcutter. You missed the most important thing and it is right in the center of it.
— What is that? A bee? Well, it is a fancy bee but I can’t seem to find anything special about it.
— Look at the whole picture, my friend. A bee landing on a flower and gifting it the pollen of another distant flower so that it can grow and mature with life. This is something that is happening all the time and all around us between all flowers and bees, in a perfect exchange of holistic and synergic collaboration between species from the same origin, our origin.
Leafcutter stood paralyzed in awe while he started to see something much more profound in meaning than his eyes could possibly convey and Godspeed finished his line of thinking.
— Universal and eternal is this exchange that is happening in the same scene that we are both looking and that also pertains to the flower you found. Ephemerous and temporary are the external traits of such flower in the same way that temporary is mine and your short journey on this blessed land.
12.2 Paralysis in Awe
Analyzing the symbol behind the message.
Why was a story like that one important?
Not because Godspeed pointed out that everything that is shallow can’t sustain itself for being fragile.
But simply because when dealing with symbols, as a communicator or artist, you need to understand how to grasp universality and atemporality.
The mind of all consumers contains a huge set of symbols that everyone is already familiar with. Time; Nature; Regeneration; A hourglass; A flower; The sun…
The mind of our consumers are bombarded with branded messages containing thousands of symbols coming from all directions, but some symbols will always stand out in their eyes and heart. Those are the symbols that should represent your brand or art piece because those are the symbol that will make your brand worth remembering for already living in your consumer’s mind.
There is a huge amount of technicalities to talk about within this subject but they shall be discussed in a future issue.
This is all extremely important on a personal level as well because pertains to how you perceive what is aesthetic, beautiful, and valuable, which is nevertheless, what we are always looking for in life. Because we want to keep what we perceive as valuable close to us. But the concept of “valuable” can be completely different for every person.
So I have to leave two questions that might buzz in your ears for a while.
Are you attracted to what is superficial?
Or is it that which is superficial that is attracted to you?
12.3 Pandora’s Box
A Fresh Digest on my latest discoveries and some other things.
12.3.1 In the Lenses of Thi
The photo was taken with a Canon SL3 Rebel, the photo treatment in Adobe Lightroom CC, and the photomanipulation in Photoshop CC.
Fine-tuning photography is always a process about removing some of the imperfections but keeping its essence, how to make it better by adjusting all of the information that is presented? What is important for the message and what isn't? What colors tones and light profile can make it feel unique?
Distorting and reinventing some aspects of it is very much a photo manipulation process where I need to make use of semiotics in order to craft a clear message. Separating the image into two sections was the first step to representing a constructed and artificial version of the image on the left and a real but unfamiliar version on the right.
If you notice the right side of the flower, it is the only part of the image that is entirely unedited and protected from distortions. Through the bee, I wanted to tell the same story as in “The Nature’s Masterpiece” but visually. So copying it and making what was once an image fly away and turn into an actual icon was the best way I could find to represent the semiotics theme.
It is quite impossible to send an exact message because every interpretation is unique, but the direction I aimed for could maybe be summarized as: “Breaking the Visual Matrix with Nature”
8.3.2 Chords 🎶
It only feels right to choose this track for this edition, not only because there is a lot of symbolism behind the album artwork to be decoded but also because this is the favorite band of the one friend that inspired me into becoming a designer many many years ago! I hope you like it.
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About the Author
Made in 1996. Born & Raised Brazillian. Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and Communication. Adept to autodidactism. Curious Soul. Published Author. Founder of Sentient.
That’s me in a nutshell but you can learn more about Agency and myself on the About page!