sayo's blog

Short paper #2 Image and Sign in the First Page

Posted in Assignments, Short Paper by Sayo on March 30, 2009

Image and Sign in the First Page

Sample page for analysis:

Fig. 1 Current  York Quay Gallery, Toronto Close Distance / CONTACT Photography Festival (group show) May 9 - June 21

Fig. 1 Current York Quay Gallery, Toronto Close Distance / CONTACT Photography Festival (group show) May 9 - June 21


In this short paper, I will discuss connotaion of images in multimodality and how an image in the first page make effect on artistic impression  through network media. Comparing the website of an artist with other examples, not only semiotic reading but also artistic dimention is to be considered in multimedia arts. This perspective will be reflected on making our website prospectively.

1. Media Art and Web site

Nowadays it is generally acknowledged that some websites play a role of visual art as if they are expected to be a kind of alternative musuem or gallery. Without visit to distant locations or paying entrance fee, viewers can apprecate all kinds of artworks including from masterpiece to minor pieces on the Internet. Visual communication in network media does neither require viewers to wait in line, nor prevent to watch works closely for security reason. Online media art give viewers  freeier appreciation of artworks everywhere and at every time they are.

, if someone searches for any information about Japanese media art, it is common to visit the website of Japan Media Arts Plaza, which is supported by Agency For Cultural Affairs in Japan . The site has offered not only information about Japanese media art and Festival, but also a demonstration of interactive artworks by awards winner . Those interactive demostrations in the websites have been usually used in media art, which will also contribute to public accebility and education.

Meanwhile some medai artists emphasize interactive technology in those sites, some artists are showing only art works in their own sites. When you visit the website of a British photographer, Darren Harvey Regan, you will find only photographies and short texts about the young artist. His website is consisted of only three section: photographies, concise profile, and contact information.

2. Safe signs

Although the pictures are fascinating, if the discovery of the site happens by a pure coincidence, it is thinkable that the most accidental visitors should dismiss the site because of the inconspicuous layout and the unstated detail information about the contents and evident intention in the first page.

The simple style is comfortable for users to read quickly, if users are hasty and busy. However, sometimes it would be disadvantageous for commercial website to keep first visitors’ attention only to dismiss future customer. Complicated websites on the Internet might be also problematic. For example, using a lot of flash pictures (e.g. VG ), unexpected sound effects (e.g. a band’s site in Myspace ) or longer browsing time to open a first page (e.g. Japan Airlines ) should also unfavorable and stressful for many users and will cause much dissatisfaction. These webistes are more attractive and appealing to users’ attention than textless and motionless websites. However, ignoring comfortable usability is also cause of missing visitors. It seems to me that such a simple style website, namely putting only images or picutures instead of informative texts, is more fascinating than others. Becasue such a simple design is helpful to browse quickly. In addtion, users might think that restraining warning colors is a sign of safe webiste. The webiste of D. Harvey-Regan are supposed to take those points in consideration.

3. Connotation of image

The Dumbest Generation is also moving texts in the first page might be somewhat annoyuing for first visitors, but somewhat effective to impress subliminal words on human barin. Bauerlein’s intetntion is to contend about visual communication in the digital media.The structure of the welcome page is similar to Baulein’s Website, the Dumbest Generation, which inform us of his book,  The Dumbst Generation (Fig. 3) . For example, whiteness of background, simple black font and putting an image in the center of the page will be in common in both website. However, differences between two is clearly appearing in connotative level.



In the first homepage of Harvey-Regan, there is only one of his photographies (Fig.1). The image in the center on the left side shows a hazy fog and dusky strand melting into the cloudy background. Probabaly most viewers might be confused with the faint scenery because of the ambiguity, and then undertsand it assumably that the image is kind of a landscape. If viewers are somewhat familiar with art history or interested in visual culture, the image might allude a landscape painting by Caspar David Friedrich (Fig.2). It is well-known as one of German Romantic landscape painters.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2 The Monk by the Sea ()

Looking up above the picture, it seems that a full name of the artists appears. However, it is impossible to know exactly who the person is, or what the website attempt to do. If we set up any website, the first page should be generally set up as a face of author or website’s perspective. But the first page of the websites would not sufficiently tell viewers about what information of the contents and purpose of putting the site at this moment at all.

In the website of Harvey-Regan, clicking the words of links button: photography, about, contact. lead visitors to information about the artsist. In the page of “Photography”, viewers find an actual portfolio of the photographer, in which his excellent photographic works are lined up. Like as a gallery, the photography page is to be watched along with scrolling bar from left to right, or vice versa.

The gallery is divided into five sections: shadows of the object, landscape with, witness, gestures, sticks. In each section, you will watch the pictues along with scrolling bar from left to right horizontally. If you click any picture in the gallary, the image will pop up on another window, in which you can zoom up the image in a small or large size. The function of the pages of photogrpahy is completely recognized as only portfolio of the photography. If one might expect any entertainment, which nowadays users search for in network media , this might not be excting for the most viewers because the website does not give excting motion moving pictures.

It it surely the photography by Harvey- Regan is also associated with any other images, such as Caspar David Friedrich’s landscape painting. His influence by German Romantic painting has mentioned in the statement of his profile page. Then we can understand that the picture in the first page is a sign of influence by C.D. Friedrich as he states:

My practice to date looks at land and the self in relationship to each other. I am interested in the appropriation of land into landscape throughout the history of Art, notably Romanticism’s notion of the Sublime in the work of painters such as Casper David Friedrich and J M W Turner and their use of land as a vocabulary to refer to concepts and states beyond itself. (1)


If one see a screen in any website, there might be two ways for that. First is based on verbal communication. This is analogized to reading a book. Secondarily, one can see a website as a painting in quadrangle frame. This is aimed at visual interaction with viewers. These communication is not always directly happening. It is unsure to answer to give definition of direct interaction between artist and viewers. Sending e-mail or posting commnets are supposed to be not direct communication if reply messages might be sent automatically or by other person. In this sense, direct interactive is not eble to exsist in practical. Only indirect interaction between viewers and artists might be expected. Indirect interaction enable viewers to read the text and images in a website. As Mitchell notices that “the photograph occupies the same position in the world of material signs that ‘impression’  does in the world  of mental signs or ‘ideas’ in empirical epistemology “(2), an image on the website might be significant signs of the website’s concept.

As the picture by Harvey-Regan reminds me of German Romantic painting, some might recall a memory of visit to sea in childhood. Because the artist does not explain exactly what the pictue is intended in any articles or any text. It might depend on viewers’ imagination and previous memories to grasp the meaning of images.  In that point, viewers are required reading of images on the Internet. Such arbitariness of interpretation is a fascinating point of visit to artist’s website. That is why, it is important to decide carefully image usage in the first page of a website.

(1349 words)


1., accessed 30.03.2009.
2. Mitchell.,E.J.T., Iconology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 60.

Chandler, Daniel.  Semiotics: the basics, London : Routledge, 2002.
Cranny-Francis, Anne. Multimedia : texts and contexts, London : Sage, 2005.
Kress, Gunther and Van Leeuwen, Theo. Multimodal discourse : the modes and media of contemporary communication , London : Arnold, 2001.
Rettberg, Jill Walker. Blogging, Cambridge : Polity Press, 2008.
Rose, Gillian. Visual methodologies : an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials, London : Sage, 2007.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: