Image – Concept, functions, characteristics and examples

We explain what an image is, its functions and characteristics. Also, what are corporate, personal and public images.

An image reflects the appearance of something, real or imaginary, concrete or abstract.

What is the image?

It is understood by image the visual representation of something or someone, that is, a figure or illustration that resembles something, that reflects the appearance of something, be it real or imaginary, concrete or abstract. Today we generally call photographs, paintings, illustrations or works of graphic design, as well as statues, and also the reflection of the mirror.

The word image comes from Latin imago, translatable as “copy” or “imitation”. Since our species relates to the world primarily visually, is closely linked to what we grasp of reality through our senses, and even with the thought itself.

That is why we speak of imagining or mental images, for example, to refer to the projections we make of things or situations in our mind; and in those cases, the image can encompass much more than the simple appearance of things.

In fact, the term “image” is used in a large number of different contexts, and artistic disciplines such as painting, photography and even literature handle it in their own way. On the other hand, fields of study such as Visual Culture or Visual Studies aspire to build a knowledge properly related to the image, in general, and our understanding of it.

Image functions

An image can fulfill, according to its nature and its role in our society, with different communicative functions or tasks, similar to the so-called functions of the language of Roman Jackobson. In many cases, they meet several at the same time. These functions are:

  • Representative function. It takes place when the image serves to allude to its referent, that is, when it is about specific information regarding the reality represented, as occurs with a photograph or a portrait, in which we must understand the image as a kind of testimony of what there is or what there was.
  • Symbolic function. The symbolic role of the image is one that is arbitrarily connected or linked with the cultural baggage of those who contemplate it, acquiring meanings and connotations that at first glance are not found or are not evident to anyone, but that lend themselves to specific interpretations. depending on subjectivity and culture. For example, certain pictorial representations (paintings) are associated with sadness or melancholy, such as autumn, and a painting of an autumn meadow is surely interpreted as a sad stage of life, and not as a simple reference to the existence of meadows autumnal in the world.
  • Semantic function. In this case, the content of the image is put at the service of the transmission of a specific meaning, as occurs in traffic signs or in other icons and visual signs whose correlation in a system of values ​​and meanings is unique, clear and specific.

Corporate image

When talking about the corporate image or business image of an organization, it refers to the specific way in which a company presents itself to its audience and to its competition, that is, the message and the values ​​that you decide to embody or transmit with your brand, and to which the consuming public will be more or less receptive.

The corporate image is very important in times of open capitalist competition, typical of the consumer society. Organizations must distinguish themselves, project different messages and try to convince their customers that they are not only an organization that sells products or services, but also defends a world view, a business sense or a series of social values, cultural and economic.

Thus, corporate image specialists help organizations to find the right message for their audience, and to understand the aesthetic and symbolic dimensions of their advertising management and their public policies.

For example, a corporation that is irresponsible with the environment, will surely see its public image greatly diminished, since it may be accused of irresponsibility with supreme ecological values ​​and indispensable for life in general.

Personal image

personal image
Personal image is closely linked to self-esteem and personal worth.

The personal image or self-image is the personal representation we have of ourselves, both in the appearance aspects, as in the profound. Self-image is closely linked to self-esteem and personal worth, and consists of a mental projection that is often difficult to change, even when it is a wrong or unreliable representation of who we really are.

The personal image can be understood as a “mental photograph” of ourselves, and Based on it, the way in which we communicate with others is always defined. The latter is key, since the opinion of others and the idea that we make of it are factors that have a significant impact on our image of ourselves.

Many times we think that we are one way or feel that we are perceived in some way, and we are surprised to find the opposite in the mouths of third parties. This is because our self-image not necessarily true to reality.

In the corporate and labor world, in addition, the term “personal image” is used as a form of personal projection, of a message that we send to the environment, regarding who we are. Our way of dressing, our manners, our diction, are aspects that make up the image we give to others, and that in some way define what they may think of us, or the way they decide to interact with us.

Public image

The public image is a field of study of the image that can be a bit vague, since both personal image and corporate image have a place in it. That is, it focuses on communication and the way messages are configured visually.

Governments refer to public image, for example, to talk about how they are perceived by their electorate and to try to predict how society will react to their messages. On the other hand, a company will understand by its public image, precisely, its corporate image.

The field of public image can be defined as the way in which an organization or an individual makes themselves manifest in the public sphere, that is, how they choose to communicate with others and what set of values, traits and characteristics they transmit to them.