Assignments and Readings

Assignment 4

Dollar Store Semiotics

A sign is anything that can be used to tell a lie.
-Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics

Make a visit to a Dollar Store.

Choose a product that uses persuasion to suggest it is something it is not: healthy, genuine, effective, etc. The product you choose should be rich in signs. Clones, knock-offs, and other non-mainstream products are best.

Carefully analyse the systems of signs present in the item, using techniques similar to those in class on the knockoff brand chocolate bar. Treat the item as expressing a rhetoric: a systematic series of signs and messages, all performing different tasks.

Make reference to the various rhetorical strategies and appeals (ethos/pathos/logos), denotative and connotative language, types of codes and their audiences. Write a descriptive essay, outlining the semiotic aspects of the item. Use Barthes's "Rhetoric of the Image" as an inspiration, if you need.

Length: 500-1000 words. You may use illustrations and other diagrams.

Due: 6PM, Sunday Feb. 25. Upload the PDF file to

Name the file: YOURLASTNAME_DSGN3100_Assign4.PDF

Read: The Semiotics of Food and Drink

Assignment 3

Logos, Ethos, Pathos.

Locate three works of design - one for each of the three modes of rhetorical appeal. They need to have been published, in print, in the last 6 months. Include the source for each, using MLA style.

Document each, and then create two alternate versions of each, using the other appeals. For example, if the work uses logos, create a version that uses ethos and pathos.

You do not need to redesign each work - you only need to submit an altered concept, using words to describe the new version. Submit as a PDF file.

Due: 6PM, Sunday Feb 4. Upload the PDF file to

Name the file: YOURLASTNAME_DSGN3100_Assign3.PDF


Assignment 2

In "The New Citroen" Barthes talks about previous cars belonging to a "bestiary of power" and the DS more in the category of "household equipment."

Take a walking survey of the environment - choose a street, or series of streets, and choose a category - cars, buildings, businesses or other element.

Record 25 names of the items of the type you have chosen, and then organize them into (possible) categories based on the names - a bestiary, if you will. Make sure you organize based on the characteristics of the names, not the products themselves. Connotations values of names is what is most important here. Think about why the names are appropriate. What conventions are there about naming in this category? What qualities are the names trying to convey. In Barthian terms, what myths are these names supporting?

Once you have grouped and displayed your data, summarize your findings. What possible "codes" for your product or category can you suggest?

Present your findings for on-screen use - as a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation, or PDF for on-screen use. Make sure to include a title page with your name as the first page or slide.

Read Creating Effective Brand Names: A Study of the Naming Process for background on practical aspects of naming.

Read for more background on the the idea of myth.

Due: by 6 PM Sunday Jan 28. Upload as YOURLASTNAME_Assignment2 to

Readings 2

  • Essay: The New Citroën
  • Essay: The Rhetoric of the Image
    Read for Monday Jan 22.

    Readings 1

    • Read Sections 1 and 2 of Semiotics for Beginners
    • A Course in General Linguistics by Ferdinand de Saussure
      Read "Part One: General Principles (pp. 65-100).
    • Sections 1 and 2 Pierce's theory of the sign
    • All for Monday Jan 15.

      Assignment 1

      Visually document 25 signs.

      Label each one, and classify each example as indexical, iconic, or symbolic. Make sure each sign is one you have found and documented yourself - you may use photographs, sketches or text where appropriate.

      Ensure that you are choosing a wide variety of signs, and not limiting yourself to obvious examples such as icons, wayfinding signs, etc. Some signs may be difficult to classify, or may be difficult to designate as signs, but be prepared to justify their inclusion. Use the "signs" chapter of Semiotics for Beginners as a reference. Make sure to understand the basic concepts behind both Saussure and Pierce before you begin.

      Submit as a PDF file. For each sign, clearly note the signified, the signifier, and its Peircean category (index, icon or symbol). If sign spans multiple categories, note them. If there are multiple signs working in combination, be sure to make it clear what sign you are referring to. Lay out the document with multiple signs per page.

      Due: 6PM, Sunday Jan. 14. Upload the PDF file to

      Name the file: YOURLASTNAME_DSGN3100_Assign1.PDF