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Visual Framework of colour analysis of shop signs in cities of India



Abstract attached
Keywords: Shop signs, Colour, Visual framework, Bricolage, Semiotic analysis
Shop signs are the quintessential urban markers of business and trade in a city. They unravel the
fascinating dimensions of the visual culture of a city. There has been a paucity of published literature on
analytical frameworks designed to study attribute(s) in a shop sign. Therefore, this research aims to
investigate the design and formulation of such a flexible visual framework. This framework aims to work
as an analytical tool to describe the visual communication, integration of the elements and the emerging
relationships in the attribute of colour as part of the visual design of shop signs in India. In order to build
a foundation for the visual analysis of shop signs, a background study was initiated with a journey of
signs and shop signs from Prehistory to the Digital age. This historical journey has helped us in
developing an overview of shop signs in context of our research. We initiated this research by conducting
two pilot research projects. First project documented through photography shop signs from pre
independence till present times from the historically rich Abdul Rehman street market of South Mumbai,
India. A semiotic analysis of these signs gave insights about the semantics, syntactics, pragmatics and
their design transitions. The second pilot research project involved open card sorting of a group of
Bengaluru city shop signs by designers and non-designers. The results indicated colour being the main
visual attribute in the design of shop signs in context of India from viewers’ perspective. The data
collection for the main research involved documentation of a large number of shop signs through
photography, belonging to a range of marketplaces in 12 cities of India. During data collection,
information about the shop signs such as their design, changes and business objectives was gathered from
the shop owners. The documented data of 3500 shop signs was reduced by the method of stratified
sampling that gave us a group of 450 shop signs from five cities in India. We could identify that in a shop
sign, information operates at three levels, namely main text or shop names, secondary text or tag lines and
background sign panels. These layers constitute the morphology of a shop sign. As material objects of a
visual culture, shop signs carry business identities with the aid of visual attributes. Of these, colour has
been observed as the primary attribute that imbibes an art of persuasion in visual communication. This
research could identify dimensions and characteristics in colour based on an existing colour analysis
method. The researcher could identify four factors, renamed quadrants patterns, trends, tendencies and
conventions as part of a visualised framework. The identified quadrants were integrated by the
methodology of Bricolage in the design of this framework. Finally, a visual analysis of colour was
conducted for the selected five city shop signs with the aid of the formulated framework. This analysis of
colour has revealed spatial relationships and contextual meanings in the three layers of information in
shop signs.
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The published research related to history of signs presents a generic commentary. Therefore, this paper presents a detailed scrutiny of the essence and the narrative behind the evolution of signs [focus: shop signs]. According to The Complete Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols, ‘Signs are vehicles for information and meaning, operating on many different levels – the universal and particular, intellectual and emotional, spatial and temporal, spiritual and material.’ Later periods of human civilization witnessed a conscious shift from the traditional industry to a knowledge-based economy that inculcates information-digitization. These signs were not only reflections of owners’ tastes and personality, but also formed the ethnic makeup of a street market. Gradually in the digital age, commercially oriented signs started giving continuity to public spaces and built streetscapes. This paper brings forth an emergence of signs and shop signs in India, rest of the Asian Pacific Rim countries followed by European countries and finally the Western Pacific Rim countries in North and South America
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