Semiotics is the study of signs and signifying practices. Signage surrounds us on a daily basis and can come in 3 forms symbolic, iconic and indexical. Semiotics is also the way in which we process and understand information and how different contexts can differ the meaning of a sign. For example a cross can be a symbol for the ambulance, the Swiss flag or Christianity.
Symbolic signs: are signs that need to be taught in order to recall the meaning they cannot be automatically interpreted and they don’t always look like what they represent. Examples of these include hazard signs and driving theory test signs.
Driving symbols are there to direct you in a certain way, warn you of on coming hazards, advise you of how quickly you should drive and advise you on where you can or cannot stop. These symbols are vital for individuals who want to drive as they need to learn particular symbols and their meaning to ensure that you and all other motorists and pedestrians are safe when you drive.
Hazard symbols are used to warn individuals of the potential dangers in the current environment they are in. For example in every institution and work place it is compulsory that health and safety talks are given to make individuals aware of what each symbol means and where they are located. These talks are to ensure that everyone is kept safe especially in dangerous environments such as science labs and power plants. The above mentioned driving and hazard symbols are arbitrary signs and place no relationship on what the symbol represents. When these symbols are placed in different contexts they can have different meanings.
Iconic signs: (visual resemblance to the object it signifies)
Iconic signs look like an object or a particular action that they are informing you about, so that they can be easily identified and the meaning can be interpreted quickly. Examples of these include toilet signs, disabled signs fire exit signs.
At a young age we have been taught to associate various symbols with an action. An example of this is demonstrated by the Toilet signs that are represented in the form of a male and female. These signs are commonly situated on the door of the toilet, which makes it easier for the viewer to identify and interpret their meaning i.e. that one toilet is for men and the other is for women. If these symbols were placed in a different location such as a wall they would not signify their intended meaning.
Indexical sign: display a causal relationship to the thing that the sign signifies (smoke caused by fire). A way in which we can understand this relationship is through the following example, medical symptoms such as rashes and pain can lead to illness. This sign highlight that without theses symptoms there is no illness. Another example of causal relationship is demonstrated by rain and sunshine at the same time, which produces a rainbow.
The mud tire track shown below is also an indexical sign of a vehicle. In order for the viewer to understand the meaning of this image they must realise that the print was caused by the vehicle when driving over the mud. When the viewer has processed the indexical sign and its context the viewer is able to visualize and interpret what it signifies in this case it is more than likely that the vehicle was a car.