4.5: Signifier – Signified

(to be looked at again when I study Barthes in my Illustration course)


Find an advert from a magazine, newspaper or the internet, which has some clearly identifiable signs. Using the example above to help you, list the signs.

What are the signifiers? What is signified? Read:

Roland Barthes essay ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ (1977) 

to help clarify your understanding of these principles. You might find Barthes hard going at first, but please persevere. The way in which meaning is constructed in an image is directly relevant to photographic practice.

For an example of the dissection of an advert by

Marlboro Men

Motoring advertising provides some of the most spectacular imagery: vehicles are often anthropomorphised – heroic against the elements or nimble on ice or intelligently negotiating streets and saving the family. See:

There have also been some superb parodies of ad campaigns(including Marlboro) as well as ingenious campaigns for not-for-profit organisations, see:

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