My Obsession with Signs

So, as many of you have noticed, I’m kind of obsessed with signs…

That’s because part of what I study is visual rhetoric, the use of images for rhetorical purposes.

On this trip, I’m specifically interested in the similarities and differences between street and warning signs in the U.S. and here in Europe. More specifically, I’m interested in those that are “iconic” in the semiotic sense of the word. In semiotics (specifically according to Peirce) an icon is a sign that bears some resemblance to that which it symbolizes. So, in the example below, the sign actually resembles a man yelling at you, holding out his palm to tell you to stop. We can make sense of it because of that resemblance.


Furthermore, the sign is somewhat international because the hand signal itself is somewhat international. If a raised palm meant something else in our culture, we probably wouldn’t be able to make sense of the sign as easily. But, since that hand signal is a part of several cultures (including our own) we understand what the sign means even if we don’t speak the same language as those who created it.

I could keep going, but you really don’t want a semiotics lecture from me…

I’m not really sure where this is going at this point. I’d love to turn it into some sort of research project, but I don’t quite know what my argument would be yet. At any rate, I wanted to mention it here and post some of my favorites because I wouldn’t have seen half of these if my fellow PFP’ers weren’t pointing them out. Enjoy!

Photo May 17, 9 53 04 AM
Photo May 25, 1 13 51 PM
Photo May 25, 12 29 44 PM