“Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades.”

Propaganda; Semiotic Analysis

What should be considered in a semiotic analysis:

  1. Detonation – physical object e.g. word ‘dog’.
  2. Connotation – understanding e.g. dog implies loyalty.
  3. Signified – what is signified in the image.
  4. Signifier -what Kind, icons, symbol or index?
  5. How does the text anchor the image? 

So lets look at this Propaganda Poster by Abram Games (Britain, 1942):

Poster by Abram Games (Britain, 1942).
Poster by Abram Games (Britain, 1942).


In the above poster the soldier is speaking and the speech is travelling and his comrades are dying.

The soldier has spoken about his knowledge regarding the military and as a result this information has travelled into enemy knowledge and they have gained an advantage therefore killing his fellow comrades.

The purpose of this poster is to scare soldiers into not speaking out about their military knowledge therefore keeping information censored.
The poster utilises a very selective colour palette.  The word ‘your’ is red and the sword is also red, implying that ‘YOU’ are killing your friends through blood & violence. ‘Your Comrades’ is yellow indicative of guilt & mustard gas. The smokey yellow texture separates the soldier from his friends.

The solider is an icon.
The speech is a symbol
The colour red is an icon.

How does the text anchor the image?
Without the text the audience would not understand what the image is depicting. I would not have recognised that the spiral was actually speech travelling out of the soldiers mouth, nor would I have interpreted the figures dying as comrades. I would have assumed they were the enemy.

I think this poster would have been very effective upon the British audience as it depicts the extent of devastation that leaked information can inflict. It successfully scares soldiers into keeping war related information censored by threatening the lives of their comrades.

“Art & Technology: A New Unity”. The Modernist Movement.

“The modernists saw themselves as the creators of a ‘machine age’ aesthetic truly redolent of the twentieth century.. compatible with the mass production capacity of progressive industrial culture.” – Jonathan M. Woodham.

I believe that Modernism is the cultural movement of those who opposed the traditional forms of art, interpreting that they were outdated in the new fully industrialised world. Emerging in the twentieth century with a belief that decorative embellishment was ‘out of tune with the age’. “Trash is always abundantly decorated” as designer Le Corbusier stated.

Modernism was a rejection of ‘traditional’ design and the result of wide-spread experimentation. Designers across the world believed in a ‘simplified’ method, experimenting with typography as an image, lines & non-traditional colour palettes. For example the Cover of Red Magazine which held a great influence towards avant-garde designers across Germany & Russia.

Red Magazine
Red Magazine Cover 1928

With wide-spread experimentation across the world an ‘International Style’ emerged from the 1920’s through to the 1960’s. It was most prominent in architecture but influenced many aspects of design including furniture, typography & posters. Modernism was generally characterised by simple, geometric structures, with the abstract manipulation of light & shade. For example Gerrit Reitveld’s Schroder House was a turning point after the war in which modernism attracted more critical attention. It’s use of primary colours, red, yellow and blue combined with geometric shapes is symbolic of the modernist movement.

The Museum Of Modern art (MOMA) was closely associated with the promotion of a ‘Bauhaus Aesthetic’. With the establishment of Bauhaus and under the directorship of Walter Gropius, a design aesthetic fundamental with the spirit of modern mass production was visible. For example William Gipsen’s Giso Lamps poster adopted a modern abstract form, symbolic of the Modernist movement.

Willem Gispen, Giso Lamps Poster 1928
Willem Gispen, Giso Lamps Poster 1928

The Modernist movement is completely astonishing in my perception. A dramatic increase in industry catapulted the art world into a universal completely contradictory style and changed the design world forever. It just goes to show that whats happening in the world around us is portrayed in our creative practice.

Diane Arbus: American Portraits

Lake Macquarie Art Gallery


Today I experienced Diane Arbus’s works in the flesh. And it was revolutionising.
It is one thing to see an original in text books or online, but it actually experience it sitting in front of you is a whole another experience.
You get a grasp on the actual size of the artwork, you see details you may have missed & you get to witness the actual texture of the work.
The first thing I realised when I entered the gallery was the immense open space it possesses & the sheer amount of works they have there!

Authors media.

The concept that interested me most about Diane’s works was that they weren’t of ordinary subjects. They depicted unusual beings ‘outcasts’ to society as one may put it. She shone light & drew attention to the corners of the world in which people shunned or ignored. Upon research of Arbus I learnt that she herself had severe episodes of lows and highs, I feel like this is conveyed in her works. By photographing not happy people but unaccepted people.

For example: ‘A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C.’, ‘Identical Twins’ & ‘Jewish Giant’ all portray in-ordinary people.

Sourced images: http://brooklynrail.org/2005/04/art/diane-arbus-revelations-beyond-shock

The exhibition also held exhibitions of my favourite photographer Lee Friedlander, which I had seen all of his works online through excessive research but never witnessed them in real life before.
I love his self portraits and his street shadow photographs. I try to mimic these techniques within my own photographs. His works are one of a kind and very inspirational!

Authors images. 

“A Great & Truthful Medium”

What is it to be original?

The nineteenth century anticipated the rise of photography & the notion of “a great and truthful medium” was established. Many believed that Mathew Bardy’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln depicted Lincoln’s ‘true’ form without the social sigma. This was the first time citizens could truly interpret Lincoln’s appearance, creating a sense of reality & personal connection. But was this actually Abraham’s true form?
The photograph is taken from a straight angle in which Abraham appears large & strong, his expression creates a serious and compelling depiction; an excellent candidate for leader in most peoples eyes.


But what if this photo was taken at a high angle? Making Abraham look small and weak. What if he was smiling instead of an expressionless face?
Would he still be an ideal President of the United States in the peoples eyes?

I do not view photographs as ‘true mediums’. Even in a world without ‘Adobe Photoshop’ and image distortion the photographer has the power to crop what he doesn’t want the audience to see. For example: If I was taking a photo of an apple with a bite taken out of it, I could choose to take a photo of that apple from behind making it appear like it is a full and complete apple.

What interested me most in this weeks reading was the section regarding Lady Flinter. Lady Flinter took it upon herself to ‘toy’ with widely available nineteenth century design mechanisms. Flinter took this process of printing of photographs and edited the Prince of Wales into a photograph with her. She placed this photo into her family photo album as if it was a legitimate photograph. This can be seen as the start of an entire area of untruth imagery in order to gain social status.

What Lady Flinter did as I see it is the start of an entire era of photo manipulation in order to achieve social status. Similar things can be seen in today’s society where software like ‘Adobe Photoshop’ is widely available and people utilise this software to create a perfect image of themselves online for social status. For example this is something that the Kardashians are renowned for. The existence of Photoshop has toyed with our perceptions of whats real and whats not.

So what is it to be original? Is it the original photograph? Is it the final edit version? Or is it neither? As the angle, lighting and frame can all contribute to a different depiction of the subject.
I personally think its the original photograph but the answer is entirely up to your interpretation.


Tutorial 2: Nineteenth Century Design Timeline

Class Activity

In the tutorial today we were asked to form groups and arrange images of design stages into chronological order based on the reading for this week. Our group was the closest group to get to a correct arrangement of images.

1. First came Aboriginal Stencil Art –  The Aboriginal People have been around for thousands of years, hence why we put this image first.
2. Next Chinese Invent the Ink Brush – Again a really early technique.
3. The the Gutenburg Press – a very early printing mechanism, invented in the Holy Roman Empire by the German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440.
4. Next lithography where ink is applied to a greased image on the flat printing surface, non-greased sections, repel the lithographic ink.
5. First Sans Serif Typeface – this typeface I specifically remembered from the reading to originate in the early 1800’s.
6. Dagurerreotype Camera – The first commercially successful camera invented by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre which influenced design in this period dramatically.
7. The Arts 7 Crafts Movement – Emerged in the 1860’s when William Morris believed that ‘design arts had an important role in improving the lives of everyday working people’.
8. First Anime moving picture – Japanese cartoon. Our group struggled with this one as we were unsure when this emerged but it did appear fairly early.
9. The ‘Jazz Age’ – again no one in my group is a Jazz fan unfortunately, we were confused  where this stood on the timeline. The colour palette and geometrical shapes that this advertisement conveyed seemed fairly modern.
10. Rosie the Riveter – Clearly towards the end of the timeline as Rosie emerged in the first world war when women realised they could do what men were doing in the workplace.
11. Modernist Electricity Poster – the black and white appearance of this advertisement left us puzzled, but it was contradicted by the electricity being advertised. Therefore it is obviously second last in the timeline. It is actually a local Newcastle Ad.
12. And lastly but not least the Xerox Alto – the first GUI.

I found this exercise extremely educational as it required us to utilise our knowledge from the reading and arrange images with our hands in order from earliest to latest in History.

Authors image. 

Ref: Graphic Design A History Stephen J. Eskilson

‘More is More’

Nineteenth Century Design

The Relationship Between Major Events & Design:

The nineteenth century; The century of mass production witnessed an abundance of new technologies in response to the demand for media & advertising.
Major events occurred and the design world experienced an all-time low.

The nineteenth century is known for its chaotic collage of typefaces and design imbalance. One can only associate this bombardment of typeface and disorganisation prevailed with the Industrial Revolution. The sudden demand for mass production of goods required quick and printable advertising. The introduction of new technologies such as the mechanical letterpress, lithography and chromolithography, mass printing became in-expensive. Poster advertisements and pictorial newspapers were accepted into an urban setting. Cities designated ‘hoardings’, specific kiosks in which posters could be legally hung in an attempt to bestow some order to the chaos experienced on the streets.


Within the urgency of production, most posters lacked a stylistic approach and utilised large type to convey their message. Take the image of Astley’s Amphitheatre for example, this poster displayed a central illustration with a bombardment of dissonant text surrounding. Influenced by the industrial revolution the Astley’s Amphitheatre poster portrays the chaotic reuse of type that occurred throughout the nineteenth century.

The nineteenth century was also an era in which many American’s had a nationalistic vision to control all of the territory between the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, knows as ‘Manifest Destiny’.
How does this relate to design?
Well The Currier & Ives Firm provided cheap and popular lithographic prints, in opposition to the photograph their employees illustrated plain and ‘realistic’ landscapes of ‘The Great West’ (shown below). The audience accepted Currier & Ives illustrations into their ideology of ‘Americanness’. Therefore this style became associated with the national identity of America that was ambiguous before this era of design.


The nineteenth century anticipated the rise of photography & the notion of “a great and truthful medium” was established. Prior to the Nineteenth Century most citizens had only witnessed political candidates as illustrations, which in most cases were bias & incorrectly depicted the opposition to look monstrous & evil. Mathew Bardy’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln depicted Lincoln’s ‘true’ form without the social sigma. This was the first time citizens could truly interpret Lincoln’s appearance, creating a sense of reality & personal connection. The capability to produce positive prints onto paper sheets greatly influenced politics in the nineteenth century & persuaded citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln.


I believe that the industrial revolution & American nationality influenced the design world tremendously; the urgency from mass production of goods allowed an explosion of print advertising through new technologies & inexpensive printing materials.
As did the design world influence major events; the photograph persuaded citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln.

I’m going to end on a quote by Ralph Wornum in response to The Great Exhibition 1851, it somewhat provides an image of how the industrial revolution ‘lessened the design taste.’ “That there is nothing new in the Exhibition in ornamental design; not a scheme, not a detail that has not been treated over and over again in ages that are gone; that the taste of the producers generally is uneducated.”


Ref: Stephen J.Esilson Typographica: Graphic Design A History.