Illustrating Semiosis: A Pragmatic Turn to Peircean Semiotic Theory for Illustrators

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The pragmatic semiotic theory of Charles Sanders Peirce has a lot of practical benefits for enhancing visual communication in illustrations. His triadic theory of Semiosis focuses on the dynamic interrelationships between the concept to be communicated, how it is represented through a semiotic sign, and how this affects the success of how the concept is eventually interpreted. Peirce's pragmatic semiotic theory uses complex language, and although Peirce is embraced in some design disciplines, the language that defines Semiosis (or sign-action) is problematic beyond academia. This paper is an attempt to address this by providing illustrators with a basic introduction to how Semiosis can help to enhance the success of the visual communication in their illustrations. This is done by translating Peircean terminology into illustrator-centric language and providing an example of how the Semiosis is implemented in an illustration. Within the limits of a short paper, illustrators can begin to understand how the triadic nature of concept/representation/interpretation can benefit them during their ideation and sketching phase to author effective images. In doing this, this paper will mostly discuss iconic, indexical, and symbolic semiotic representation within pragmatic semiotic signs of the intended concept to be communicated in an illustration. This paper's aim is to enact a pragmatic turn in illustrators, in which Semiosis theory becomes more integrated within their practical work, by providing a more illustrator-centric dissemination of Peirce's semiotic theory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 6th International Conference on Illustration and Animation
Place of PublicationPortugal
PublisherInstituto Politécnico do Cávado e do Ave
ISBN (Electronic)978-989-99861-6-9
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2018
EventInternational Conference on Illustration & Animation - Esposende, Portugal
Duration: 13 Jul 201815 Jul 2018
Conference number: 6


ConferenceInternational Conference on Illustration & Animation
Abbreviated titleCONFIA
Internet address


  • Illustration
  • Visual Communication
  • semiosis
  • Pragmatism
  • Peirce
  • Sign-action
  • Semiotics


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