introduce me to semiotics, please.
February 5, 2008 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in learning more about semiotics. What are some good books, websites, or other resources?

Specifically, I'm looking for stuff on semiotics and either industrial or graphic design but I should probably start with a general introduction to the whole field.

posted by heeeraldo to Education (11 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is stuff you've probably seen if you've done a cursory google search, but if you haven't you might want to check out the wikipedia article on Saussure's notion of sign & signifier/signified and this also looks like a good place to start (it has suggested readings re: visual media)
posted by juv3nal at 6:28 PM on February 5, 2008

though I've not read his stuff on semiotics, I'm guessing Umberto Eco might be good, seeing as he can actually write well (unlike many of the philosophers I've been forced to read)
posted by nangua at 6:30 PM on February 5, 2008

Best answer: Semiotics for Beginners.
posted by eschatfische at 6:39 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Saussure's Course in General Linguistics, which was assembled from student's notes from a course he gave, is actually surprisingly easy to read and is a not bad general introduction. If you want to go deeper into the philosophy side of the subject, you'll want to check out Peirce. You can go much further into the subject from the philosophy angle, especially down the post-structuralist road, but I don't think that is what you are looking for.
posted by ssg at 6:41 PM on February 5, 2008

A nice introduction to semiotics in action, and which touches in places on architecture and design, is Roland Barthes' Mythologies. You can find an excerpt ("Myth Today," wherein he applies semiotic analysis to a Paris Match cover among other things) here -- although it's more technical than the other essays in the book, which were written for the general public.
posted by macrone at 7:17 PM on February 5, 2008

Adding to Saussure andf Barthes, I would recommend three books:

Signs in contemporary culture

Postmodern Semiotics
Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology

These books cover a wide range of approaches, and are quite accessible. Postmodern Semiotics has a few cases studies of architecture and fashion.
posted by ddaavviidd at 7:52 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't believe only one other person recommended Roland Barthes, so here I am to be the second. A lot of the essays in Mythologies are about TV shows or print advertisements or other memes that you will recognize and be able to actively feel a part of the analysis in, which isn't always the case.

Though he may be too far on the usability side for what you're looking for, you might also consider Norman's Design of Everyday Things and the books that follow it. They're heavy on the industrial design aspects, though.
posted by whatzit at 1:58 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Starting with Saussure is not always a good idea. Especially if you are interested in semiotics of visual communication, i would argue (if I had 30 pages and 3 days) that you want to be checking out some less linguocentric theories of the sign (but I'm a Perician cultist, so that's biased).

The very best overview of semiotic theory I have ever read is Richard Parmentier's and Elizabeth Mertz's introduction to *Semiotic Mediation,* published in 1985 by Academic Press. Alas, the book is long out of print. But it is in libraries and contains a very smart and comprehensive comparison of Saussurian, Perician, and Fregean perspectives.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:48 AM on February 6, 2008

Also nice: Hodge and Kress, *Social Semiotics,* which is now a little old, and very Australian, but deals extensively with the semiotics of media and visual communication in a very clearly explained textbookish way.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:49 AM on February 6, 2008

Response by poster: yowza.
there's a lot here; I'll start with the websites and move on to the books.

thanks again, gang!
posted by heeeraldo at 12:23 AM on February 7, 2008

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