Evil Thoughts About Poster Text

Now that we’ve eased into our role as the evil group; I have an extremely evil idea that I think is a fair proposition we can take up with Prof. O’Gorman. I hope we also get bonus points for engaging in rhizomatic thinking heh heh.

To my understanding we are technically allowed to omit details in our poster if we are capable of explaining why in our papers. What I’m going to try do here is to present a line of reasoning that I think will be more than sufficient to justify why we are entitled to omit as much text as possible from the poster based on two points. Firstly, the purpose of the poster is predicated upon the goal of creating the most effective way of conveying meaning; I will argue that the inclusion of headings is entirely redundant. Secondly, Phillips and McQuarrie have misrepresented the nature of semiotics by imposing a 9-grid square utilizing only 9 categories as a basis for meaning between visual elements. The categories themselves are insufficient. I understand that this is a visual rhetoric course, but I’m making the assertion that the premise behind the square is wrong if semiotics is taken into account – in this instance, semiotics has to be taken into account because Phillips and McQuarrie are trying to present the processes behind visual meaning.

Anyways, my first point is the one I want to emphasize because it’s the most relevant to the outcome of the poster. Let’s begin: The goal of this poster is the production of a visually informative combination of image and text that conveys Phillips and McQuarrie’s 9 elements. We are being graded on how adequately we can package all this textual and visual information so that it is both aesthetically pleasing and cognitively simple to decode by a viewer. By making this poster, we are essentially asked to engage in a communicative process that involves two moments: the production and reception of meaning. If including text in the poster will not be conducive to the reception of meaning, we don’t need it.

So first, we need to understand the reception of meaning. Through the study of sign systems, we know that meaning is not objective. For example, a knife is cutlery in one context, a weapon in another and art in another still. The meaning of the knife is arbitrary. What we understand about anything is the result of how connotations are assigned to denotations. To borrow a quote from Stuart Hall, television violence isn’t violence, but messages about violence. How can any two people come to similar conclusions about meaning in varying contexts? Through convention. In a superhero movie, there is morally good and morally bad violence. In a gore movie, violence is the entertainment. There are certain cues and patterns we look for within these movies in order to draw these conclusions. Likewise, different types of media are subject to its own respective cues and patterns in meaning production and reception.

Moving onwards – If we are watching a movie that features a woman who is dating a neglectful and arrogant businessman, but by chance she meets a charming yet clumsy man, we know that the sweet guy will oust his arrogant rival despite his idiotic blunders. We understand who these characters are by using a variety of conventionalized cues. Background music, hairstyles, facial features and actors are some of the factors that are utilized in the process of meaning production. The producer and its audience use these conventions of understanding in order to form a symmetrical relationship so that the information that has been encoded will be decoded more or less the same on both ends. This is the same basis that allows us to understand things such as genre. I’m sure you knew my previous example was that of a romantic comedy even before I acknowledged it.

Now, instead of blurting out more theory, I just want to ask if we’ve reached a point in the course where the encoders and decoders have reached a point of symmetrical understanding. That is, if we were to bring a piece of paper that featured 9 advertisements structured into a grid, does every individual within the room have the capacity to understand not only what it is, but what each square means? I think the answer is yes, because the class has already conventionalized the meanings conveyed by the poster. In effect, whether the headings are present or not cannot affect the efficiency of meaning reception. We can still include titles such as “Juxtaposition-Similarity” but all additional text does not aid the poster in conveying meaning. If what I’ve said is valid, then all we need to focus on is producing aesthetics.


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