Semiotically analyzying parody posters

One of the most interesting application of the semiotic theory and the various functions in it, I find; are in the area of graphic design, and posters in advertisements in particular. The more minimalistic the poster in terms of the elements that make up the poster, the more meaning it makes and the more the viewer is forced to hunt for the signifiers and also make meaning out of it. Disclaimer: This is a parody for a GAP Khakis advertisement. I am pretty sure this is not an authentic GAP ad. I just happened to come across this on the internet. The idea behind this post is to see how a semiotic understanding of the parody posters could send in negative as well as positive vibes with the audience.

referential (content) An advertisement poster for GAP Khakis.

metalingual (code) The text (Hitler wore khakis) that supports (or reinforces) the statement made by the central character in the frame.

formal (form) The form is a poster that is either in print or on web medium. It is not known which one it was first made in. It is a nevertheless a bold cultural expression. The absence of color makes the statement more prominent. The user is forced to get their attention on the chief components of the frame. The first attention is on the face and the stature of the man (placing his hands on the hips- a signifier of achievement, and dictatorship). Then if your attention digresses towards the top, it is making a strong statement – “Hitler wore Khakis”. And if your focus digresses towards the down, then there is the brand name – “GAP KHAKIS”. Either way a statement is being made.

expressive (addresser) The addresser here is GAP, the garment . . . → Read More: Semiotically analyzying parody posters

Rhythmic Dance of Aesthetic Expression

Reflections from McCarthy and Wright: Technology as Experience. Have you ever felt the adrenaline rushing through you in a movie.. or the sound of silence falling into the valley.. onto to rise into a crescendo, only to fall back into an inquisitiveness… that slowly slowly catches you.. comforts you.. and then .. then there is the sudden jerk of emotion again .. and the cycle keeps repeating itself again and again… You keep moving from one an experiences to another… In the end you say .. What an amazing Experience! Movies after movies , roller coaster rides after rides… and photo exhibitions after exhibitions..

Here we talk about the Rhythmic Dance of an aesthetic expression. Dewey previously mentions about the rhythms of life, tensions and releases of engagement, and feelings of vulnerability in the face of our own needs and desires. Thus “rhythmic flow of life is the basis of our experience of meaning and value in the world.” Basically there are four components to it. It has an internal, dynamic structure. Its called the Cumulation, the Conservation, the Tension and the Anticipation.

Roughly Cumulation is the build up of the experience in the absence of a priori information about the experience. This is a build up over time. The human capacity of deriving meanings over things increases in a temporal flow. Cumulation is a thing of the past, leading to the present. Without such a build-up there is no fulfillment and without fulfillment there is no aesthetic experience.

Conservation is the tendency to hold onto the some of what one has gone through before, in-order to make sense and a better experience of what is in present. Conservation is in the present. This takes cues from the past and is creating the experience along the present. An example for . . . → Read More: Rhythmic Dance of Aesthetic Expression

From Amateur to Auteur

If one thing that the internet has done, it is that it has given rise to a lot of budding artists. This has resulted in the blossoming of the concept of parallelism in career. Many people aim to follow at least two or more careers. Often you would hear people say I am this and this. Or something like, in the weekday I am this and on weekends, I am that, or better still, I am this in the day and this at night. The most common form of these secondary careers I think happens to be a photographer and a filmmaker.

There is a good reasoning behind this. The reach of social networking is constantly on the rise. Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, Youtube etc often consume more daily time than official work for millions of people across countries. Travel has become cheaper with the low cost airlines and the whole tourism sector is blooming. So, more trips mean more photographs and videos. Good times but obviously results in good memories. And while sharing memories, one often ends up capturing a lot of content that is beyond the family and for-the-record shots.

The problem is that many who pick up a camera (of any kind) think themselves to be a photographer or filmmaker. The ignorance of basic film theory on mis-en-scene and the semiotics of a film have led to a lot of amateur content out there.  The whole notion of shooting and editing then becomes a basis of what’s shot by chance and is not governed by the vision of the person who shot it and is done without planning.

The freedom to remediate what already exist and created in the first place, (like Numa-Numa video on Youtube, more than 6 million views) has made the whole notion of film . . . → Read More: From Amateur to Auteur

Sustainability in the Indian Design Context

I recently came across this article in the Pratt’s institute magazine. Its called “Design: A Green Collar Job” by Debera Johnson. We as designers are responsible for the creation of the products, clothings, publications, advertisements, buildings, interiors, information systems etc. The list is huge.

Each of us are to play a vital role in the society. One of the most hot topics of conferences happens to be about saving the planet. So there are conferences on Global Warming, climate change and also it also gets a mention in other design conferences like CHI and TED.

One thing that I have noticed is the lack of participation from the Indian Design Industry on the topic of Sustainability. India, I feel is witnessing the changes that the western world witnessed quite some years back. As we continuously strive to creating better systems, and all things for a better lifestyle, each of us play a vital role. As the world becomes more complex, and unordered, it will look to designers to find solutions. With the economic progress that our beloved country is making on many grounds, it is but high time that we start thinking Green on a much larger scale and not just confined to the metros and the big offices.

I am wondering if there is any such data for India, as done by Photographer Chris Jordan’s “Running the Number” series. Some of them strikes you in the face. For Example, In the US, there are two million plastic beverages are discarded every five minutes. And this, one million plastic cups are used on airline flights in the US every six hours.

With the increase in the affluent middle class in India, the changing cultures and also a lack of proper system for many things, the days ahead do seem to . . . → Read More: Sustainability in the Indian Design Context

Definitely Male : Structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

A bit of a background, Bajaj Automobiles is one of India’s industrial powerhouses. In the 1980 and the 1990’s their flagship product was a scooter.Their advertisements were targeted at the general Indian public and were only showing a scooter. Till this time I am sure hardly people in India would have known that the scooter was associated with a female following and that it stood for what we read in the Barnard book and also seen in this ad.

This is the ad that appeared in 1989 and aired for a few years. [ Instead of focusing on the usage of the metaphor of a feminism with scooters, Bajaj here was trying to capture the attention of a nation with something more important to people in this lifeworlds. So they promote the issue of Indianism and being a proud Indian and how that a Bajaj scooter defines being Indian. The signifiers that is used in this ad above were that which were very traditional. So we have the person meditating, the family values, the emphasing on social interactions, the pride in owing a scooter, the worshiping of the vehicle and the rural roads that signified that the scooter was all about being proud Indian. It signified that the scooter was ruggid, was able to resist to harsh conditions and still be a loving commodity in the lives of the people.

In 1984, the Hero Group, then the world’s largest manufacturers of bicycles, entered into a joint venture with Honda Motors of Japan to create Hero Honda Motors Ltd, which has gone on to become the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers. In the 1990s Hero Honda starting to eat the scooter market. There was a strong emphasis on fuel efficiency and mileage. Bajaj Motors too entered this segment, . . . → Read More: Definitely Male : Structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

Semiotic Theory application in Graphic Design Critique

I think that understanding of the sender / recipient , addresser/ addressee is really important as a designer. Just like we discussed in one of our class with the case of the User Research, I think that using this understanding is really important while doing brand identity and logo design. Here is a case of Bharti , one of India’s industrial powerhouse. The context being discussed here is the company changing their logo recently.

Old Logo

So when a company goes in for a change in their brand identity, in most cases they they get it done by a different design company (or individual at times). So we have a change in the sender. For the designer doing the design, the recipient of the design is the client. But the final addresser perhaps would be the entire company and the addressee the audience to which the design is presented (the you and me). Thus one can see how they are all different in this case.

New Logo

The sender (the actual person) here would be the person who designed the logo in the design team (which one is not sure, as many times groups in India have it done by non-designers), the actual addresser in this case is the company, Bharti (group of companies rather). This is not the same as , the founder / owner of the company speaking through the design. It’s a non human that we are being spoken by. In this case one does not even think that its Sunil Mittal the CMD, who is speaking to the addressee.

When the client (addresser) has a vision , then does it hold the same for the designer (sender) as well? While designing a logo for a company with any . . . → Read More: Semiotic Theory application in Graphic Design Critique

Realism in Photography and Film

I have always considered myself a realist. As mentioned earlier, I have been inspired by Bresson, who is considered to be the father of Photojournalism (which I believe will always remain an example of realism) and is the inventor of the term “the decisive moment” in photography.

Bresson mentions in his books and in interviews that it was never the photography that he was passionate about. What interested him was life as it unfolded to him. His photography was an attempt to capture the experiences over time; in a fraction of a second, of the lifeworld as experienced by him.

“For me the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry – it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the respect for the subject and for oneself. “

He goes on to say this, “I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung up and ready to pounce, determined to “trap” life- to preserve life in act of living. Above all I craved to seize, in the confines of one single photograph, the whole essence of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

It is not completely evident whether Bresson adopted a very phenomenological approach to clicking his photographs or a structuralist one. When he talks about the composition it almost appears that there is the structuralist approach, whereas when he talks about the entire experience that he wishes to capture . . . → Read More: Realism in Photography and Film

Having a Design Philosophy

In order to do any project, one of the things that an expert designer tries to do is to look into their set of repertoires to find for solutions, based on past experiences. Over the times, I think that this leads to the development of ones own design philosophy. This is also something that Donald Schon mentions in his writings about a designer being able to identity a problem and look at the experiences gathered from the reflection-on-actions and reflection-in-actions over projects.

The design philosophy can be developed over time, or over multiple projects. One of the things that a professor mentioned in one of the classes I took was that there is a difference in being an experienced designer and a expert designer. One can be doing design for many years, but that does not guarantee that the person is an expert in the matter. This I think is a good analogy to look at the job market, where by default the person with more years of experience are wrongly thought of as being experts. If that was the case and was always true, then people would be CEOs at the end of their job life. However that is not the case and we have people becoming CEOs at 45 also.

So finally, what is my Design Philosophy? I think I am still in a nascent stage to have one that is very stringent and that it is truly applicable to all projects. But I do hope that with the years to come, I do have one. The way I see it, my design philosophy is based on strong design rationale, the ability to enhance user experience and a solid return of investment for the stakeholders.

Thus this becomes the three prime areas of focus as a designer . . . → Read More: Having a Design Philosophy