Icons and metaphors in visual communication: The relevance of Peirce’s theory of iconicity for the analysis of visual communication





In this paper we adopt Charles Sanders Peirce’s concept of iconicity to analyse pictural communication. While visual semiotics has a well-developed structural school, the concepts of visual semiotics stemming from Peirce’s pragmatic sign theory are often overlooked. The specific purpose of this study is to explore the semiotics of visual signs, exemplified by two prominent pictures of former US President Donald Trump. We argue that Peirce’s semiotic framework for iconicity in visual signs (the image, the diagram, and the metaphor) offers a useful framework for discussing how the meaning of visual signs is motivated. On this basis, we propose that Peirce’s concept of hypoicons provides us with a richer understanding of how visual signs acquire meaning and how their interpretation varies across cultural habits, and collateral experience.

Author Biographies

Martin Thellefsen, University of Copenhagen

Martin Thellefsen is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen. He has a strong background in information science and knowledge organization and holds a Ph.D. from the Royal School of Library and Information Science. His research is interdisciplinary, and his primary focus lies in the semiotics of information, knowledge organization and technology. At present, he is engaged in research that explores the semiotics of technology, thus investigating how signs are embedded in various technological artifacts that influence human perception, behavior, and culture. Furthermore, he focuses on the semiotics of digital communication, shedding light on the intricate processes through which meaning is conveyed, shared, and interpreted in online environments.

Alon Friedman, School of Information, University of South Florida

Alon Friedman is an Associate Professor at the School of Information, University of South Florida, and holds a Ph.D. in information science. He is an interdisciplinary researcher, and his primary area of focus lies in visualization theory and the visualization of data. By employing diverse theoretical perspectives, he explores the intricate relationship between information and its visual representation. Currently, he is engaged in several projects, one of which delves into the exploration of Peirce's sign theory in relation to the analysis of data. The aim is to uncover novel ways to interpret and understand information in its visual form.




How to Cite

Thellefsen, M., & Friedman, A. (2023). Icons and metaphors in visual communication: The relevance of Peirce’s theory of iconicity for the analysis of visual communication. Public Journal of Semiotics, 10(2), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.37693/pjos.2023.10.24762