Seeing & Knowing

Amnesty International Advertisement

(‘Amnesty International: Eyes’)

“The way we see things is affected by what we know, what we believe” (Berger 1972).

In this post I will explore how two advertisements reflect this statement, and analyse how Daniel Chandler’s concepts on Semiotics are portrayed in each example.

The advertisement for Amnesty International represents the above statement – the signifier is the image of a child’s bruised face and the text; the signified, however, reveals knowledge required to understand the advertisement as intended. The connotations are that the child has been abused; presumably by the child’s father based on the caption. If one didn’t know this the interpretation would be different; therefore this advertisement is affected by what we know.

Chandler’s concept of the Symbol/Symbolic applies to this advertisement, where the signifier doesn’t immediately represent the signified, with the exception of the connection between the two in the sign. If the text were to be placed in front of a smiling image of a child, for example, the signified would change as a result.

Lego Advertisement: Create

(Jung von Matt Hamburg, ‘Lego: Create’)

The second advertisement approaches this idea differently – the signifiers being a toy and human hand, the logo and ‘Create’. The signified reveals the advertisement’s meaning – this is dependent upon the viewer’s familiarity of Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’. The knowledge being that a child playing with Lego acts as God of his creations. Without this knowledge, the advertisement wouldn’t be effective in capturing the experience of playing with Lego.

Michelangelo's 'The Creation of Adam'

Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (RasMarley 2009).

Lego Advertisement: Plane

(‘Lego: Plane’)

Chandler’s concept of Differentiation can be explored here – particularly by looking at another Lego ad. This advertisement features a different signifier and signified than the previous advertisement, but using differentiation to combine the two signs (being advertisements), we can provide meaning to them. The two ads can be seen as part of a set if we apply the signified of Lego allowing a child to use their imaginations to create. The meaning (signified) becomes more apparent if we combine the two advertisements than on their own, although the juxtaposition of the each allows them to be seen as more effective individually.

Reference List:

Amnesty International (n.d.) ‘Amnesty International: Eyes’ [image], 25 Powerful Advertisements That Will Make You Stop and Think, From Up North, viewed 12th November 2015, <;

Berger, J 1972, Ways of Seeing, Ways of Seeing, viewed 12th November 2015, <;

Jung von Matt Hamburg (n.d.) ‘Lego: Create’ [image], 71 Brilliant, Clever and Inspirational Ads That Will Change the Way You Think, Pinterest, viewed 12th November 2015, <;

Lego (n.d.), ‘Lego: Plane’ [image], 5 Creative and Effective Minimal Print Ads, Pinterest, viewed 13th November 2015, <;

RasMarley 2009, ‘Michelangelo Buonarrati (1475-1564) – 1511c The Creation of Adam (Sistene Chapel, Vatican)’ [image], in RasMarley’s Photolist, Flickr, <;


One thought on “Seeing & Knowing

  1. Hey Ruby,
    I am really enjoying reading your posts; you have a strong understanding of semiotics and how meaning is created. You clarified really well that without the addition of text to the first image, our interpretation would be different and probably misunderstood.
    The other examples have no use of text to support, so the imagery needs to be strong to send the message (which they all do!). I also liked how you mention about the child using their imagination when playing with lego and how the creators have transformed this into the advertisement. Differentiation is about using our imagination to bring something in – which this advertisement just does for us. If the plane shadow was missing, would this ad still have the same effect?
    I look forward to reading more of your posts, thanks for making them insightful and enjoyable! 🙂


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