An extract from the book: WALKING TOURS AROUND THE HISTORICAL CENTRE OF PALMA, Ajuntament de Palma (1994) – Presentation: Francesc Figuerola Villalonga, pg.9

The geographical location of Majorca, an island anchored in the Western Mediterranean, has always made it a natural stepping stone between the peoples of North, South, East and West, and so encouraged links between the cultures and peoples living around the seas.
Palma, the capital and economic centre of the island, has always been a city oriented towards the sea, the same blue Mediterranean Sea across which, until relatively recently, all foreign influences reached the city. Some have been positive, others negative, but each has influenced and moulded the nature, personality, physiognomy and the history of the citizens of Palma.
Friendly and relaxed, but full of personality and character, suspicious of the unknown, but welcoming and responsive, these people are reflected in the literature written by travellers who, over the centuries, have visited the island. A temperate climate, an abundance of natural light, diverse scenery and crystal clear waters have done the rest.

 

And a few photographs of Palma …

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It has been a little over two weeks since I arrived in Palma, to intern at ABA Art Lab. A composite of an art gallery and a design studio. I am immersing in the Mediterranean lifestyle and acclimating to the daily routine.

I found this introduction from a passage where Josep Pla, a renowned Catalan writer, recounts his impressions when he arrived in Palma for the first time, in 1921. It beautifully describes my excitement to read about and discover Palma, Mallorca and the surrounding Balearic Islands, during the time I get to spend here.

 

I drop my suitcase at Can Tomeu, in the Passeig d’Es Born, and begin wandering. This is the tastefulest moment of cities —when they’re unfamiliar enough for you to find no sign of monotony and so get the feeling of novelty altogether.

(The passage is available at: http://www.torribioblups.net/painfulbits/BPrimeresImpressions.htm.)

 

And a photograph of Palma’s fantastic signage …

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          Every single thing about food packaging is considered (typography, shade of colour, material, imagery, etc.), to evoke a certain predefined emotion in a consumer. ‘We are great believers in semiotics’, says designer Ray Armes. Food packaging seizes an insight into designers’ messages and brand strategies applied, to manipulate consumer into buying the product. It’s a collection of ephemeral objects, whose analysis offers myth-making property in plain sight (Anna Kealy). Freedman and Jurafsky recognize the precise premeditated aspect of food packaging design in targeting a specific audience, as an opportunity to study socioeconomic classes of modern society. By examining texts directed at different classes, they evaluated ‘how the words express representations of class identity’ (Freedman, J. and Jurafsky, D.).

          Appropriating their path of analysis, I evaluated two different brands of long grain rice (Tilda – gbp. 2.29/500g and Tesco – gbp. 0.99/500g).
Freedman and Jurafsky argue that the inexpensive food packaging shall have the lower Flesch-Kincaid Readability Grade, making it easiest to read. My analysis of rice packaging supports the hypothesis. The expensive rice packaging has more words, ‘wrapped in more complex language, presumably designed to draw a potential buyer into believing that the product is somehow consonant with his or her educational capital’.
The second factor, health, was not as prevalent in rice as it was in potato chip packaging. Interestingly enough, the healthier food (rice) does not specifically promote its’ healthiness, but unhealthy food (potato chips) does heavily. In general, (according to potato chip analysis), expensive packaging uses ‘significantly more words or claims relating health than inexpensive packaging’.
These two aspects of socioeconomic status (language, health) are therefore reinforced in food packaging, according to potato chip and rice packaging analysis.

Furthermore, Freedman and Jurafsky apply Pierre Bourdieu’s thesis on tastes and culture to food packaging analysis.
‘Bourdieu proposed that…tastes of high-status class functioned as a public indicator of class’ distinguishing upper from lower class. They translate that into brand language, by seeking words such as: more, less, suffix –er, superlative words (most, best, finest) or relational words (unique). Another way to make the difference obvious, is by using linguistic negation (eg. ‘to emphasize bad qualities that a product does not have, implicating other brands have this quality’). Again, these two qualities were not as present in rice packaging, possibly because my sample of observation was not large enough, but Freedman’s and Jurafsky’s analysis of potato chip packaging confirmed the notion.
‘These striking differences support Bourdieu’s claim that an important component of taste is negative. The notion of upper-class taste promulgated or reinforced by food advertising is one that is defined least partially to contrast with tastes of other classes; what it is to be upper class is to be not lower class.’

Final aspect Freedman and Jurafsky look at is authenticity. They come to a conclusion that authenticity in food is present in targeting both classes, however there is a distinction between the two kinds of authenticity. ‘The authenticity promoted for a lower socioeconomic class…emphasizes family, the tradition and historicity of the product.’ They call it ‘traditional authenticity’. The other aspect emphasizes ingredients, the cooking process and naturalness. Aimed at upper class, they call it ‘natural authenticity’. In my analysis of the rice packaging, this is especially evident in the more expensive Tilda Long Grain Rice, using phrases such as: wide variety of cuisines, versatile rice, rich fertile soil perfect for growing long grain.

          Throughout the essay ‘Authenticity in America’ Freedman and Jurafsky have ‘investigated ways in which food advertising language can reflect our representations of social class using the potato chip as their object of study’. I have adopted their analytical path, to observe whether their findings apply to food packaging in general, by employing a different type of object – rice. While my sample was too small to reassure the hypothesis, undertaking this task I gained a deeper understanding of food packaging design and a new perspective on socioeconomic classes presented through advertising.

 

Kealy, A. (2014) ‘Natural fantasy’, Eye Magazine 87 (spring). Available at: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/natural-fantasy.
Freedman, J. and Jurafsky, D. (2011) ‘Authenticity in America: Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising’, Gastronomica vol. 11 (no. 4, winter), pp. 46-54. California: University of California Press.

          Recently I visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. The small exhibition offered was only a sample preview of the whole exhibition, as the museum is still under construction following re-allocation. With the idea of expansion, the new premises is larger than the previous, and will be fully opened in mid-January 2016.
The sample exhibition, which is divided into three parts, offers an overview of branding and packaging design of ‘everyday products’ – such as foods, drinks, toiletries, etc. (fashion, technology, furniture, …, brands are not represented). Photography is not allowed in the museum, which I thought was a slight disconnect, understanding the exhibition shows objects that were predominantly appointed for everyone (furthermore items are not presented in a particularly delicate manner, that would suggest photography could cause damage).

          The first room offers an insight into the evolution of an individual brand/product through time. The objects are presented in a linear way, making the brand’s progress very clear. However, there is no time agenda, leaving the viewer guessing which decade the specific version belongs to. Observing the transformation of different products, I started to draw conclusions, which are further explored in the second part of the exhibition.

First, very much obvious common feature analyzed, is the evolution of materials. From earthenware, wood, glass, paper and card, tin boxes and cans (19th century), aluminium and cellophane (1920s/30s) to flexible plastics (since 1950s), materials radically changed the shape and exterior of products’ packaging. Clear examples of such transformation are Johnson’s Baby Powder and Imperial Leather Talcum Powder. A point is made in the exhibition, with which I strongly agree, that the first and foremost important factor in production (especially everyday products) is cost. Though functionality, attractiveness, recycling – ongoing use when empty, etc. are important, manufacturers always keep the packaging to a necessary minimum, maintaining the primary needs of protection and delivery to costumers.
Second notion, also explored in the 2nd part of the exhibition, is how brand identity is build through origin, name, image, colour and shape. Some brands make use of special features, such as: specific patent (eg. Cerebos salt pourer) or catch phrase, to differentiate themselves from others. An interesting point of observation is that in the sea of ever-changing brands, there are some that stay more-or-less unchanged/true to themselves and therefore become iconic, successful brands (eg. Guinness, Perrier, Martell, Farrah’s Toffee, Toblerone, Lyle’s Golden Syrup, Coca-Cola, …).

Finally, I observed how packaging design was simplified through time and moved from text-heavy to image-based. This concept was further examined in the last part of the exhibition, the so called ‘consumer timeline’.
The evolution of brand packaging from Victorian era onwards, takes up the biggest part of the sample exhibition. Collections of products from the same time, give a nice overview and sense of the decade (eg. colour – each era selected different colour palettes, which somehow reflect the mood and events happening at the time). The period I found most interesting and demonstrative, was between 1940s and 1960s – the 2nd World War and time after it.
In 1940 food rationing was initiated, due to war. Ration books and coupons were introduced, advertising posters encouraged participation in land work, instead of product buildup. The materials used for packaging were recycled or of inferior quality, such as thin paper, just good enough to serve its purpose. Furthermore, packaging designs used a lot of irregular but expressive handmade fonts, which showed the rushed manner. Shopping windows no longer advertised or displayed goods, in desire to use the stocks to the best advantage. Booklets on resourceful cooking were published. It was a radical time, which called for drastic measures, which also reflected on brand packaging and advertising. In 1950s/60s, once the war was over, the optimism can also be sensed in bigger and brighter packaging. In 1960s television and film characters first started cropping up regularly on food packaging.

Slowly, the brand packaging transformed into today’s aesthetics. By 1980s cleaner and simpler illustrations and more consistent branding (logos) produced a much more mass-produced look. Consumer culture had taken over, especially with the introduction of global market brought by the internet from 1990s onwards.

          Overall the sample exhibition offers a good overview, however it is down to the visitor to take the time and decipher it, as it is quite cramped and mostly object/image-based. It could be argued that the oversaturation is a common feature of consumer culture, however this being a museum, a clear representation would be appreciated from my point of view. Perhaps that will be the case once the exhibition is fully opened in 2016.

Re-writing the object review, I adopted the language of Imperial War Museum. Using photographs of various texts within the exhibition as my material, I utilized cut-and-paste technique to recreate my review. Graham Rawle employed this technique in his graphic novel, Woman’s World. By adopting the language of women’s magazines, he elevated his story and brought it closer to his intended audience.

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Wartime is a radical period of time, calling for unprecedented, drastic measures. The lower ground of the Imperial War Museum is delegated to ‘First World War Galleries’. It offers a broad and detailed insight into many aspects of war. One of them being propaganda for volunteer soldiers’ recruitment.

As the 1st World War outburst, Britain took measures to recruit army soldiers. Aimed at men able to fight, many posters circulated around Britain to persuade men into joining. These recruitment posters employed a variety of techniques appealing to different aspects of an individual’s life.
The first and most famous poster shows Field Marshal Lord Herbert Horatio Kitchener, addressing and pointing at Britons to enlist. A very straight forward image is supported by bold text, creating no confusion whatsoever, that ‘you’ (every eligible candidate) specifically are wanted. This poster, with an image of a national hero in the center, aims to evoke patriotism in men, to trigger them into joining.
The second poster I selected uses a different mechanism. Reading ‘daddy what did YOU do in the Great War’ it employs emotional blackmail, playing on men’s consciousness to get them to volunteer.
Finally, I selected a purely text-based poster aimed at women. Their perception is manipulated with a very bold statement accusing them of prolonging the war, leaving them with no choice but to let and encourage their men to volunteer.

These approaches are only a small sample in a variety of methods used, to get men to recruit. Furthermore they are a clear representation of the lack of moral values, when it comes to manipulation of people during war, in order to achieve a pre-set goal (in this case a pre-set number of soldier recruits). These posters, as all the other segments of the exhibition, evoke the undeniable feeling of agony and mercilessness of war.

In the essay ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ Roland Barthes discuses how a system of signs conveys a message in an image. To support his theory, he chooses to analyze an advert (Panzani Advertisement), as the ‘signification of the advertising image is intentional’ and therefore easier to recognize.
The underlying questions of the essay are:
– Can images function as conveyors of meaning, given that they are essentially analogical representations (the ‘copy’) of something else?,
– Do images really constitute a language, and if so, how does meaning work within this language?.

         The basic equation of semiotics:
          signifier (the material substance – eg. an object, an image, a word, etc.)
          +
          signified (the meaning)
          =
          sign (the material substance which has a particular meaning to a person or a group of
          people, both the signifier and the signified together)

         
Barthes catalogues messages recognizable in an image into 3 categories. To introduce the reader into the topic, he provides an example of all three in the Panzani advert.

          Panzani Advertisement
                    1. linguistic message:
          He suggest linguistic message in this image is a ‘twofold’, constructed of a denoted/literal
          message (labels, caption) and a connoted/symbolic message (the word ‘Panzani’
          connotes italianicity).
                    2. symbolic message:
          Barthes recognizes 4 non-linguistic signs, that constitute the connoted image of the advert:
          – the half-open bag signifies return from market,
          – tomatoes and peppers signify italianicity,
          – the collection of object signifies a total culinary service,
          – the overall composition is reminiscent of, and therefore signifies, the notion of a still life.
                    3. literal message:
          The signifier and the signified are essentially the same, which results in a non-coded/
          denoted/literal message (eg. the photo of a tomato – signifier, signifies a tomato – signified).

Panzani Advertisement

         
He then continues to explore each type of message separately, ‘to understand the overall structure of the image, the final inter-relationship of the three messages’.

1. LINGUISTIC MESSAGE
The linguistic message can embody 2 functions: anchorage and relay.
Anchorage is the most frequent function of linguistic message. Images are prone to multiple meanings and interpretations. Anchorage is used to guide the viewer to the meaning, or at least to navigate him through the maze of possible meanings, chosen in advance. Not only towards the identification, anchorage also leads the viewer to the apriori-set interpretation of the symbolic message. This technique is ‘commonly found in press photographs and advertisement’.
When it comes to the function of relay, ‘text and image stand in complementary relationship’. The text adds meaning. Relay is very important in film.

The two functions of linguistic message can co-exist in one whole, but one dominates depending on the situation.

         
2. THE DENOTED (NON-CODED, LITERAL) IMAGE
To see the denoted image in pure state, we would have to be able to see the image at the first degree of intelligibility (the point at which we see more than just shapes/colour/form, but instead eg. a tomato). According to Barthes, this is impossible, ‘for everyone from a real society always disposes of a knowledge superior to the merely anthropological and perceives more than just the letter’.

          He identifies photography as the only medium with the characteristics of capturing
          a message without a code (it can not intervene with the object, it is mechanical –
          the guarantee of objectivity). The absence of which (a code) reinforces the myth of
          photographic ‘naturalness’. Drawing, for example, relies on all sorts of conventions,
          which create a code (subjective editing, style, etc.).

The role of the denoted image in overall image structure/meaning is one of naturalizing the symbolic message – supporting and contextualizing the connoted elements (semantic artifice of connotation is extremely dense in advertising), making them innocent.

         
3 THE CONNOTED (CODED, SYMBOLIC, CULTURAL) IMAGE / RHETORIC OF THE IMAGE
Analyzing the connotations of an image can prove itself challenging. Each image/lexia (possibly) connotes multiple meanings/lexicons, and the number of readings of the same lexical unit depends on the individual viewer.

          connotation=a system which takes over the signs of another system in order to make them
          it’s signifiers

          lexicon=a portrait of language/knowledge within the viewer, that corresponds to a body
          of practices or techniques. There is a plurality and a co-existence of lexicons in an
          individual, the number and identity of these lexicons form in some sort a person’s idiolect.

A single lexia mobilizes multiple lexicons, which may or may not be shared among viewers. Therefore the meaning is not constructed only by the creator, but also the consumer, ‘and the interactions of his lexicon(s) with the signs contained in the image’.
Furthermore, ‘analyzing connotation presents a difficulty as there is no particular analytical language (corresponding to the particularity of signifieds) for expressing/articulating them’.

          Signifieds of connotation are sometimes expressed by using the suffix –icity, to create an
          abstract noun from an adjective (eg. italianicity).
         
Untangling Barthes theory, this is how he enlists the most important concepts of the connoted image/rhetoric of the image.
The signifiers of connotation within a particular medium/substance are called connotators. The entire set of such connotators is the rhetoric – so the RHETORIC OF THE IMAGE is all the visual elements within an image, that can be employed as signifiers to connote (signify) signifieds. The common domain of signifieds of connotation is an ideology. Therefore rhetoric is the signifying aspect od ideology.
However, there always remain purely denoted elements within the frame, that can not be connotators. These are the non-coded, literal images.