Readings, Week 2, Definitions

BRAND: A brand is a collection of images and ideas representing an economic producer; more specifically, it refers to the descriptive verbal attributes and concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme that convey the essence of a company, product or service. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service. A brand serves to create associations and expectations among products made by a producer. A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols and sound which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust. (

CULTURAL ICON: A cultural icon can be an image, a symbol, a logo, picture, name, face, person, or building or other image that is readily recognised, and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group. A representation of an object or person, or that object or person may come to be regarded as having a special status as particularly representative of, or important to, or loved by, a particular group of people, a place, or a period in history. (


1. also i·kon ( k n )

a. An image; a representation.

b. A representation or picture of a sacred or sanctified Christian personage, traditionally used and venerated in the Eastern Church.

2. An important and enduring symbol: “Voyager will take its place … alongside such icons of airborne adventure as The Spirit of St. Louis and [the] Bell X-1 William D. Marbach.

3. One who is the object of great attention and devotion; an idol: “He is … a pop icon designed and manufactured for the video generation” Harry F. Waters.

4. Computer Science A picture on a screen that represents a specific file, directory, window, option, or program.


LOGO: A logo (Greek λογότυπος = logotypos) is a graphical element, (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand. Typically, a logo’s design is for immediate recognition, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied superiority.[1] The logo is one aspect of a company’s commercial brand, or economic or academic entity, and its shapes, colors, fonts, and images usually are different from others in a similar market. Logos are also used to identify organizations and other non-commercial entities. (

POP CULTURE ICON: Pop icon is a celebrity whose fame in pop culture constitutes a defining characteristic of a given society or era. Although there is no single definitive test for establishing “pop icon” status, such status is usually associated with elements such as longevity, ubiquity, and distinction. Moreover, “pop icon” status is distinguishable from other kinds of notoriety outside of popular culture, such as with historic figures. (

MASLOW’s HIERARCHY OF NEEDS: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as being associated with Physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level. (’s_hierarchy_of_needs)

MARSHALL McLUHAN: THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE: “The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium imbeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time. The phrase was introduced in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.[1] McLuhan proposes that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study; he said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. He pointed to the light bulb as a clear demonstration of this concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.”[2] Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less the individual news story itself — the content — and more the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. (

METAPHOR: Metaphor (from the Greek: μεταφοράmetaphora, meaning “transfer”) is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects. In the simplest case, this takes the form: “The [first subject] is a [second subject].” More generally, a metaphor is a rhetorical trope that describes a first subject as being or equal to a second object in some way. Thus, the first subject can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second subject are used to enhance the description of the first. This device is known for usage in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words, emotions and associations from one context are associated with objects and entities in a different context. A metaphor is generally considered to be more forceful and active than an analogy (metaphor asserts two topics are the same whereas analogy may acknowledge differences. Other rhetorical devices involving comparison, such as metonym, synecdoche, simile, allegory and parable, share much in common with metaphor but are usually distinguished by the manner in which the comparison between subjects is delivered. (

POPULAR CULTURE: Popular culture (or pop culture) is the culture — patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance — which are popular, well-liked or common. This is often defined or determined by the mass media. Popular culture is deemed as what is popular within the social context — that of which is most strongly represented by what is perceived to be popularly accepted among society. Otherwise, popular culture is also suggested to be the widespread cultural elements in any given society that are perpetuated through that society’s vernacular language or lingua franca. It comprises the daily interactions, needs and desires and cultural ‘moments’ that make up the everyday lives of the mainstream. It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to cooking, clothing, consumption, mass media and the many facets of entertainment such as sports and literature. (Compare meme.) Popular culture often contrasts with a more exclusive, even elitisthigh culture,”[1], that is, the culture of ruling social groups.[2] The earliest use of “popular” in English was during the fifteenth century in law and politics, meaning “low”, “base”, “vulgar”, and “of the common people” ’til the late eighteenth century by which time it began to mean “widespread” and gain in positive connotation. (Williams 1985) (

SEMIOTICS: Semiotics, semiotic studies, or semiology is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols, both individually and grouped into sign systems. It includes the study of how meaning is constructed and understood.  One of the attempts to formalize the field was most notably lead by the Vienna Circle and presented in their International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, in which the authors agreed on breaking out the field, which they called “semiotic”, into three branches:

  • Semantics: Relation between signs and the things they refer to, their denotata.
  • Syntactics: Relation of signs to each other in formal structures.
  • Pragmatics: Relation of signs to their impacts on those who use them. (Also known as General Semantics)

These branches are clearly inspired by Charles W. Morris, especially his Writings on the general theory of signs (The Hague, The Netherlands, Mouton, 1971, orig. 1938). Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological dimensions, for example Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication. However, some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science. They examine areas belonging also to the natural sciences – such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics or zoosemiosis.  Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols.[1] More precisely, syntactics deals with the “rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences.”[2]. Charles Morris adds that semantics deals with the relation of signs to their designata and so the objects which they may or do denote; and, pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis, that is, with all the psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena which occur in the functioning of signs. (

SIGN: A sign is an entity which signifies another entity. A natural sign is an entity which bears a causal relation to the signified entity, as thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (Contrast a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation). The way in which a sign signifies is a topic in philosophy of language, see also Meaning (linguistic).  Any given signifier or symbol is dependent upon that which is intended, expressed, or signified in a semiotic relationship of signification, significance, meaning, or import. Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. These different relationships that exist between sorts of signs can help people and sorts of things that are signified can be called the modes of signification.  The range of uses of signs are varied. They might include: the indication or mark of something, a display of a message, a signal to draw attention, evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, the symptoms of a disease are signs of the disease), a character for a mathematical operation, a body gesture, etc. (

SYMBOL: A symbol is something — such as an object, picture, written word, a sound, a piece of music, or particular mark — that represents (or stands for) something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. Symbols indicate (or serve as a sign for) and represent ideas, concepts, or other abstractions. For example, in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain, a red octagon is the symbol that conveys the particular idea of (or means) “STOP”. Common examples of symbols are the symbols used on maps to denote places of interest, such as crossed sabres to indicate a battlefield, and the numerals used to represent numbers. Common psychological symbols are the use of a gun to represent a penis or a tunnel to represent a vagina. (

VALUE SYSTEM: A value system is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code.

Personal and communal == One or more people can hold a value system. Likewise, a value system can apply to either one person or many.

A personal value system is held by and applied to one individual only.

A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community/group/society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law. (