At the top of the post copy and paste the following: Roland Barthes’ “Rhetoric of the Image” essay from Image – Music – Text, Translated by Stephen Heath. Hill and Wang, 1977. (excerpt)

Questions / Prompts

  • How do images hold and convey meaning?
  • How do we understand them?
  • What are they trying to say?
  • How do they persuade and influence us?


In Roland Barthes’s “Rhetoric of the Image” essay he explains how images hold and convey meaning through three messages, linguistic message, non-iconic decoded message and coded iconic message. Signs, signifiers, and signified are used within images as a written language to help communicate the message. Barthes simplified the science of advertising, breaking down the three messages. We understand these messages due to our cultural awareness, society, and individual experiences. Looking at the image a product or service advertisement content is used to explain the message. The linguistic message is used to convey meaning in an image. It is the written language of words used to communicate the message. The coded iconic message is the image with a coded message that is a cultural or symbolic meaning that can be understood by one who is knowledgeable of the message. The non-iconic decoded message holds the literal meaning of the image which is understood through perceptions. Images persuade and influence us through their language, content, objects, shapes, or colors that are implemented within the image. The featured elements are what we use to interpret the message, whether the message is clear or unclear to us. Images persuade and influence how we dress, what food we eat, what we think we know sometimes missing factual content, and what company’s we choose to trust.

Gucci’s ad from 2019 created an uproar on social media after this controversial sweater, that clearly features a resemblance of blackface. The black turtleneck worn by a white model covers the face and had an opening with red lips. Not only was this sweater for sale but it was released during Black History Month. This ad is an example of the use of racial stereotypes. It’s absurd and offensive to African Americans. This ad also tells its buyers that the company lacks diversity within its organization, because if more people of color worked at the fashion house, the insensitive garment may have been flagged as inappropriate and racist before being sold. Although Gucci apologized for the offensive garment, the company that is known for embracing the black culture, unfortunately, didn’t do their research to ensure its customers that the company isn’t socially aware of the social issues throughout the culture that gravely affects the black community.

Annontation Links:

  1. Idea: The collection of fresh vegetables crowded around a concentrated can of tomatoes sauce signifies that the ingredients in the can are just as fresh as the vegetables surrounding the can.
  2. Idea: The artistic position of the vegetables, pasta, and other objects used in the image ignite memories of beautiful still-life paintings.
  3. Definition:  Guise