IAT-102: 05 Context Schmontext

IAT-102: 05 Context Schmontext — A slide deck

Context Schmontext

Lecture outline

In this week's lecture

  • Semiotics
  • Context

Lecture slides will be available the morning of the lecture.

Close All Laptops Please

The last row is for laptop users.

P01 Grades

Your grades will be released later today or early tomorrow. Upon reviewing your grade, please make sure to:

  • Review the rubric breakdown in Canvas.
  • Review your submitted file.
  • If you have questions or concerns, email Andrew

Your TAs will not be able to discuss P01 grade concerns.

How Many Pictures Must We Use?

Up to you! But too many will crowd your text, and too few will bore your readers.

Is Wrapping Text Around Images Ok?

A pair of dogs playing with a ball

What might be some concerns with wrapping text? Hey there where ya goin', not exactly knowin', who says you have to call just one place home. He's goin' everywhere, B.J. McKay and his best friend Bear. He just keeps on movin', he keep improvin', every day is better than the last. New dreams and better scenes, and best of all I don't pay property tax. Rollin' down to Dallas, who's providin' my palace, off to New Orleans or who knows where. Places new and old, too, I'm B.J. McKay and this is my best friend Bear.

What Text Do I Need to Make?

If it is not bodytext, you should write it. And do not edit the bodytext.

This includes:

  • Titles
  • Subtitles
  • Captions
  • Folio (magazine name, issue date...)
  • Page numbers
  • Pull-quotes

How Should the Hierarchy Occur?

Given the following textual content, what is a logical order of hierarchy?

  • Body text
  • Titles
  • Captions
  • Folio (magazine name, issue date..)
  • Page numbers
  • Pull-quotes
  • Subtitles

How Much Text Must I Use?

All of it.

What is Using an Image Actively?

Using an image actively is about similar to using 'whitespace' actively: It is about building a strong relationship between the image's content and the article's text.

Two jars of jam sitting on the counter with one open and half-eaten

Rubric Moment

When the rubric refers to building a clear relationship between the body type and other elements — such as images — we are referring to the meaningful positioning of elements to strengthen the visual connection between them.


Think about the content of your article and how you can visually engage the reader.

Rubric Moment

When the rubric refers to a clear, yet un-repetitive flow we are referring to a layout that maintains consistency in structure, but varies enough to maintain the reader's interest.

Medium-fidelity layout sketches
Is this medium fidelity? Why?
Medium-fidelity layout sketches
Is this medium fidelity? Why?
Medium-fidelity layout sketches
Is this medium fidelity? Why?

Context Schmontext


The relationship between a user and all the parts of their environment, as they perceive it.

Layers of Information

Within this class I would like you to think about three layers of information:

  1. Physical: A user's relationship to their environment.
  2. Semantic: Messages or meaning established for others.
  3. Digital: Encoded/computer-centric messaging.


Put simply, is the study of signs.

Signs Aren't Just Signs

(in semiotics)

A caution sign


The Saussurean model

Have two parts:

  1. The Signifier, was the psychological impression of the sound.
  2. The Signified was a concept.


The modern model

Have two parts:

  1. The Signifier; is the material form we can physically sense.
  2. The Signified; is the mental or psychological associations.

One Signifier, Many Signified


A digitally rendered drawing of a dog

One Signifier, Many Signified


A digitally rendered drawing of a dog


  • Dog
  • Fuzzy
  • Cuddly
  • Noisy
  • Slobber

Abstract Relationships

Signs are relational; we only understand cat in relation to dog.

Icon, Index, Symbol

The Peirce addition

These define three approaches that we take to defining the relationship between the signifier and signified.

  • Icons: Signifier resembles the signified
  • Index: Signifier directly connected to signified and a link can be observed
  • Symbol: Signifier is arbitrarily related to the signified


A digitally rendered drawing of a dog


A digitally rendered drawing of a bone



How We Talk About Meaning

How might we talk about this as an:

  • Icon?
  • Index?
  • Symbol?
The British Petroleum (BP) company logo

Why These Are Important

Icon, index and symbol illustrate different ways we can interpret meaning of a given message. It also help assess how clearly that relationship may be understood.

Substance and Form

Hjelmslev and semiotics

"...there can be no content without an expression, or expressionless content; neither can there be an expression without a content, or a content-less expression."
Louis Hjelmslev

Understanding Meaning

A bit more semiotics

Denotation is a literal or descriptive meaning of an item.

  • What is this a picture of?
  • What typeface is this?
  • What is this colour?

Connotation is a individual or cultural meaning of an item.

  • How does this picture make you feel?
  • What does this typeface remind you of?
  • How does this colour effect your opinion?


A photo of a broken starbucks bottle in the sand
What are the denotations of this photo?
A photo of a broken starbucks bottle in the sand
What are the connotations of this photo?
A magazine spread
A magazine spread
A car advertisement
An iPhone ad


Icons from the 1984 Mac interface
A bird stuck in a cage with the words 'a land of freedem' written over top
How do the denotations/connotations of this photo compete?

Obvious vs. Obscure

The designer's challenge



  • How is it accessed?
  • Environment used in?
  • Time of use?
A bus stop caution sign in an unnatural shade of green
IAT-102 — P02: Layouts

Sketching Exercise

Pick three objects that you use daily, and sketch them at a medium fidelity. For each sketch, identify:

  • What you use that object for.
  • What are some denotations of that object.
  • What are some of your connotations of that object.
  • What are some of a friend's connotations of that object.

Next lecture will be all about presenting design.

Contacting Andrew

Your Lecturer

Reachable at:

  • Office hours — Mondays from 8:30-9:30am and Thursdays from 8:30-9:30am at the Surrey campus mezzanine.
  • ac.ufs@h_werdna