Project 2: The Subverted Object



For Project 2: The Subverted Object, my assigned object was a measuring tape. Our objectives is to apply semiotics and how it affects the interpretation of the image using the techniques we learnt such as literal, symbolic and linguistic message.

The colour scheme of the whole layout consists of yellow, blue, white and black which involves a high contrast of colours. In addition, yellow is the main focus as its vibrancy gives a sense of excitement and caution.



Component 1: Denotation

We had to capture 3 images to convey the object as a literal message. I’ve decided to use a fabric measuring tape to work with for this component. For this component, my main objective is to highlight the measuring tape’s practical utility which is to measure tangible (physical) object.


Interaction – Measuring a mannequin

To place emphasis on the interaction between the user and the object, I’ve decided to use complementary colours such as blue (nail polish of the user) and yellow (the colour of the measuring tape) against a neutral background to highlight the function of the object which is the act of measuring. In addition, I applied Rule of Thirds to have a nice composition and balance between the measuring tape, mannequin as well as the user.

  • Shots/Framing:  Medium shot, taken at an eye level


Object – Fabric Measuring Tape

This is an extreme close up of the measuring tape against a white background to showcase the details and components of the object, flexible form, smooth texture and the plastic material used. In addition, the measurement tape is being coiled up to show how measurement is universal but it’s messy at times because different parts of the world have different standards of measuring as shown from the scale; cm (white side of the measuring tape) and inches (yellow side of the measuring tape).

  • Shots/Framing:  Extreme close up shot, taken at an high angle


Environment – Sewing room

This photo is taken in a sewing room to show the environment where the measuring tape is commonly used. I wanted to showcase how a measuring tape is being used in this setting before all the sewing and creation of clothings/etc happens. Using a similar technique to place emphasis on using the measuring tape to measure the fabric, I used the same complementary colours of blue and yellow to ensure there’s a cohesive colour scheme.

  • Shots/Framing:  Mid shot, taken from a high angle


Component 2: Connotation

We had to capture 3 images to convey the object as a symbolic message by subverting (to overthrow/overturn from the foundation) the object’s meaning through other elements of our shots. For this component, I had a few considerations in my mind to work with;

  • How do we measure intangible object (e.g. happiness, knowledge)?
  • How did they came up with standards and society’s norms which is all related to measurement and scale (an element of the measuring tape) of expectations in this world?
  • How can I subvert and manipulate the measuring tape to express the concepts/ideas I have in mind?


Measurement of Happiness

This concept is about majority of our current millennials’ way of measuring happiness and their likability in their lives through social media. The measuring tape is subverted to a scale of measurement of happiness. To showcase how social media likes is similar to dopamine that feeds one’s ego and increase their happiness, I’ve placed the likes in a prescription bottle to show how it improves one’s quality of life and manipulate my mouth into a heart shape. As the millennials receives the love and recognition from their friends on their social media, it improves their mood as shown on the measuring scale. Hence, showing how dependent they are to social media to feel validated and happy in life.

  • Shots/framing/layout: Placed a black border so it looks like an advertisement on  TV to show how effective it is as a supplement in our lives.
  • Artist Reference: John Holcroft (inspired by John Holcroft’s illustrations of depicting the impact of social media in our lives and how it affects our quality of life.)

Evaluation (After critique):

  • Measuring tape being subverted to a scale of happiness is clear to the audience.



Suffocated by conforming to social norms

This concept is about an individual being suffocated by conforming to social norms to be accepted in today’s society. The questions on my mind while coming up with this concept are  “How are we supposed to be satisfied with our life when the trends are ever-changing?” and “What is the Norm?”. The measuring tape is subverted into the pathway/journey of following trends and as ropes to suffocate the individual.

The individual is being wrapped up by the measuring tape to showcase that it’s being restricted by social standards and it’s hollow to show that they’re feeling dead inside despite fronting a happy side of following the trends as shown on the mask. In addition, I used a contrasting colour scheme of yellow and blue; despite the individual being vibrant and flashy(yellow), he or she is walking on a suffocating and lonely journey which is sad represented by the blue road which it not completed at the end to show how the trends are ever-changing.

  • Shots/framing/layout: Tunnel vision to show that the journey is dark and it’s only lit up around the pathway to show it’s a short-lived moment of happiness when they manage to conform to the social norms at that period of time.
  • Artist Reference: Laura Zalenga (faceless figure) and René Magritte (incorporated the figure being hollow into this concept to show there’s layers of meaning to it and putting on a facade)

Evaluation (After critique):

  • It looks like a slender man ): – Prof Serena
  • Make the measuring tape as the path/journey more evident in this concept and use a rough texture to depict a sad & tough journey. – Jia Eenn
  • Take a real photo of a mask from Daiso (any cheap ones) and wrapped it up with the measuring tape to show being suffocated by social norms. – Prof Serena
  • Make the end of the journey (measuring tape) narrower to show bleak/unknown outcome of keeping up with social norms. – Marc
  • Should have left the measuring tape as it is without removing any elements of it being wrapped around the person. – Prof Serena



Select your outcome (How Standards Came About?)

This concept is about deciding becoming a follower or a leader in this world of ever-changing trends/norms. When I was thinking about how standards came about and who made them, I realised it’s all made up by humans. There’s a spectrum (scale) of people ranging from a follower (a prisoner of trends) to a leader (creating the norms). A follower needs an example to follow which are the leaders who are the trendsetters and setting up the standards. All these standards and spectrum of people creates order and structure in this world, hence, it’s essential to fit everything in and create a way of life for people to follow. Nobody knows what the world will be like if there’s no standards, norms, measurement (expectations) created by us. Hence, I believe it will be chaos if there’s no order or structure created.

The measuring tape is subverted into a prisoner bar code made by the scale of the measuring tape (follower), the measuring tape being manipulated into a crown bow which represents power and superiority (leader) and yellow caution tape manipulated by using the form and texture of the measuring tape which represents a sense of caution using our pre-existing knowledge.

The follower with the prisoner bar code is smaller in size and facing the leader to show its dependency on following the trends created by them. The leader is being represented with the crown bow and it’s bigger in size while looking down on the audience which signify a sense of authority. There’s caution tape around the follower and the leader to send a message that there’s an outcome and consequences when we’re deciding to be either a leader or a follower so, be careful.

  • Shots/framing/layout: A gaming interface to show how we’re just characters in this world having to make a decision of being a follower or a leader and dealing with the consequences of our choices made by whoever (god or whoever with power).
  • Artist Reference: Magritte (Incorporated René Magritte’s two perspective of the world into my concept from his surreal painting)

Evaluation (After critique):

  • To make the concept of the followers and the leader clearer, duplicate the follower and make a group of them that is smaller as compared to the leader. In addition, adjust the crown to the middle so it’s obvious that it is a symbol of power and authority. – Zoey
  • Change the measuring tape bow that represents authority to a crown made out of measuring tape so it’s more literal or the leader being wrapped in a measuring tape dress to show their power in creating trends. – Prof Serena
  • Manipulated the measuring tape too much and should have left the elements of scale and measurement on the yellow caution tape so the audience would easily know the object used is a measuring tape. – Prof Serena
  • Focused too much on one concept and should’ve explored more with the other ideas and not the only one I thought is the best. – Prof Serena


Component 3: Text and Image

For Component 3, I’ve decided to make a poster from Component 2’s third concept of becoming a follower or a leader because it really resonates with how people are being categorised nowadays (alpha or beta) and how the standards are a man-made concept created by human beings.



  • “Prisoner of trends” (To represent the follower’s role)
  • “Create your norm” (To represent the leader’s role)
  • “Select your outcome” – It’s a linguistic message that the audience can infer after seeing the text and the whole image that you either be a prisoner of trends (follower) or be the one creating the norms (leader) thus, selecting the outcome of how you want to live your life as someone who has the upper hand in authority or just following the standards is being created.

I feel like everyone is just a character in this world with a predictable outcome with the choice they decided on which is either being a follower (prisoner of trends) or have the upper hand of being a leader and leading the world. There’s no right or wrong with the decisions we choose but there’s advantages and shortcomings for both decisions.

Evaluation (After critique):

  • “Measure up” is a better relay to use because “Select your outcome” requires too much of pre-existing knowledge and context of the whole concept. – Prof Serena
  • Use a text that is related to measuring so it’s easier for the audience to relay the text to the image.




I knew I was screwed for some parts of component 2 and 3 ):):): I was having a mental breakdown during the critique and it felt like each of us are getting slaughtered one by one because we misinterpreted certain aspects of subverting and the use of anchorage and relay message. However, it’s all good! We survived and learnt how to apply subverting in our future concepts to make our ideas more dynamic and interesting through the examples and mistakes we made during this project <3

In terms of presenting, I felt like I should learn how to calm my nerves down so I can present smoothly without stuttering and I should set aside more time to practise my presentation speech so it’s easier for everyone to understand my train of thoughts.

After the evaluation for my component 2, I realised I shouldn’t manipulate the object by removing essential aspect of the measuring tape too much so the audience would still know it is a subversion of a measuring tape when it is viewed by its own without any context. I need to remember for each concept, it should be able to be viewed on its own and the audience have to be able to understand without much pre-existing knowledge and I shouldn’t assume they know what I’m trying to showcase as a creator. In addition, I shouldn’t be too caught up on one concept and try to explore more with the other concepts so everything is strong conceptually on its own.

This technique of subverting an object really pushed me out of my comfort zone and fried my brain juices as I had to view it from different outlooks. Nevertheless, I believe this project is essential for our design development because we’re able to experiment with the literal, symbolic and linguistic messages during our design process and make the whole project/artwork fun for both the creator as well as the audience in terms of interaction and deciphering the meaning of the work.




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