VIN Entry #4 – Iconic Messages (Coded and Non-Coded)

19 Nov

Besides the linguistic message (text), there are two ways to read messages inside an image according to Roland Barthes. The coded iconic message is the symbolic part of the message, relying on the reader’s connotations to get its point across. For instance, this icon I created of a microphone may conjure ideas of performance, volume and possibly even fame.

An image I created of a microphone

An image I created of a microphone

This is a coded iconic message. It brings with it its own meaning and connotation within our social construction. Coded iconic messages are extremely useful in design because they allow a great deal of information to be conveyed in a simple, succinct and visually pleasing way.
Barthes provides us with a second way to read an image: as a non-coded iconic message. This term would refer to an image that may need to be contextualized before gaining meaning. For instance, a photograph, such as the one I made here, would be considered a non-coded iconic message.

A photograph I made of an oven

A photograph I made of an oven

By itself, an image of an oven may not mean very much. however, contextualized with a linguistic message and perhaps even a coded iconic message, the image gains significance for the viewer. Non-coded iconic messages are important for designers because they allow a medium that can be detached from loaded connotations.

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