I like reading signs, especially because they are short. I don’t like categorizing people, especially according to their abilities. And if a sign does so, it confuses me, if not annoys. Why divide people if the message is meant to catch everybody’s attention?
It is in human nature that we categorize things, patterns and objects. However, it is more sensitive when it comes to personal abilities. The sign I have come across recently says, “Intelligent people read!” It would be more understandable if the sign would elaborate what kind of pieces and how much exactly they read, in case I would like to affiliate myself to “intelligent people”. There is nothing salient in those two words. However, as De Saussure explains, words have not much sense on their own; they become value laden in relation to others. Thus, the words “intelligent” and “read” can turn to a more meaningful game, when they are “on their position on the chessboard” (as cited in Chandler, 2002, p. 20) In our case the sign labels some as “intelligent who read” implying there are those who are less or not intelligent at all. In other words, by soaring some the slogan diminishes others. The better sign, for example, though banal, would be “Discover the reading world with us!” which is not separating, but embracing and involving.
The Pierce’s model of signs and symbols triangulates the form, the sense of the form and the meaning beyond the sign. He explains that it is not only what a symbol is and what it represents, but also how it is interpreted (in Chandler, 2002). For example, the sign “Smart people turn off their mobiles when they work!” raises the question, “If one turns the mobile, will he/she become smarter? Or, – Do all smart people turn off their mobiles when they work?” Because the message is not calling to care about people working around, it is suggesting that if you want to be smart or look smart, then turn off your mobile, because that’s what smart people do. Now there is another sign, which I leave for you to contemplate on and share your thoughts in comments, “Turn off your mobiles, brilliant minds work!”
One might say that those are nothing more than signs, not many people read them. I believe in power of words, in their ability to build perceptions of oneself and others. The signs like these push us to subconsciously determine ourselves to one category inferring that there is another. Why divide people if a sign is meant to be for everyone?