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  • Danielle Louise

Week 11 | Trends and Environments

Lighting up the message, symbolism and semiotics of the new.

Lecture notes:

Symbolism and Semiotics with guest lecturer Martin Hosken
Looking to unpack the theory and symbolism of The Message. Latin root meaning missus – the intention to send away, dispatch or release.

To unpack the message we must look not only at the sender and the original intention but also the context, medium, the transmission and at the receiver of the message. Designers must pay more attention then ever before within the ever increasingly competitive, complex and sophisticated market where message is key.

To unpick the message you must look into the wider premise of communication. Some questions below what should be looked into:
  • Did the message even get through? or did it fail?

  • What is the intent of the sender?

  • What is it that is actually being shared?

  • How can we use and interpret the notion of the image?

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols
How a sign is defined:
  • Signifier: This is the thing itself. The item, the object, the word or the image that carries the message.

  • Signified: This is the concept conveyed.


Take one story to see how it is reported globally. Collect three versions of the same story from three different countries. How is it reported? Headline? Text? Unpacking meaning and distorting meaning.

I chose to look into how stores are reported globally as I am interested to see the difference. I initially wouldn't have thought there would be much difference because it would all be the same story - however it probably differs more than I think. I am also interested to look at the different editorial styles of global newspaper layouts.

After looking through a few different stories that were reported in global newspapers, I have decided to explore the stories that were published when Diana, the Princess of Wales was killed in 1997. As it was a very sad and emotion global event that happened before I was born, I think this makes it a good event to look back on and how it was publicly reported.

August 31, 1997 (London, England)

In the UK on the day of the Diana's death. The paper headline just reads 'Diana Dead' in big, bold, capitalised type. They also just used a black background so there is no distraction from the main message and also showing it is extremely shocking news. The sub text is in bold red text again stating the Princess but also Dodi have been killed with small profile photos of them both.

This is different from most newspaper front pages, particularly because of their being no other images on the page. There would also usually be adverts and sections related to other stories in the paper. However this is dedicated to Diana. It is more of a statement and a symbol of mourning.

On the same day this was the front page of the paper in Hawaii. This contains a lot more information and imagery. The headline reads 'Diana killed in Paris crash'. The lower case text giving it a more subtle feel than the UK version. However they use a shocking image of the car crash to visual show what happened. They also add a profile picture of Diana right at the top of the page with a tribute note to contrast.

The fact they mention the paparazzi in the sub text would also be a way to draw people into reading more. Particularly because most people new how much Diana was stalked by the paparazzi.

This front page in Canada also uses ' Diana dead' as the headline like the UK paper. However it doesn't feel as shocking as the UK version. This uses a lot more imagery and lowercase text. This paper also includes a lot more body text than the other two papers.

I like how this paper seems more respectful, using nice pictures of Diana, even the picture of her on her wedding day. The subtitle in caps the read 'Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997' is a nice tribute.

The little information section in the bottom left seems a bit unnecessary though and is the only bit that seems a little disrespectful.


To reflect, there were more differences than I would have expected though the papers from the UK, Hawaii and Canada. These papers were all released on the day of her death but all chose different ways to relay the news to the public. I found the Canadian paper to be more respectful than the rest, using some nice images of Diana and text with less impact. The UK paper chose to make the headline most of what you see on the page to create impact but is respectful in using black and inly a small image of the princess. The Hawaii paper I feel to be more controversial. Using the image of the crash on the front page may make people want to read it more to see what has happened; but it could also be an emotional thing for people to see.

The papers were also taken over for the next few weeks focusing on Dianas funeral. It would also be good to explore how these differ and the change in messaging.

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