Information Design and Semiology: A Visual Study on Deconstructing Musical Notation for Improving First-grade Children's Learning


The Western diagrammatic system for musical notation, which represents notes and melodies through graphic forms on a five-line structure - the pentagram - is considered a universal language and is respected and followed by both formal music education and musicians around the world. It evolved from oral heritage into an intentional figurative system by which melodies could be sung and played for centuries. However, when we look at the accessibility of formal music education for children up to seven (7) years of age - before reading age - it is easy to find gaps. We have analysed the main symbols of formal musical notation and conducted a comparative study of their structure and the relationship of musical graphic symbols to design principles, sign classes and Peircean Semiotics. We also deconstructed a sheet of music to identify this graphic language’s positive and negative features in terms of design principles and its understanding by children up to seven years of age. When we consider children’s learning, we must additionally take into account the complexity of what is offered to the cognitive structure acquired up to that point. It can be concluded that formal music notation is quite complex and does not meet the need for simplicity that would promote children’s learning. By acknowledging children’s development stage and matching it with design principles, the results show that an adapted symbolic language can help the children to better understand the meaning of the musical symbols and make their translation easier and more effective.


Ines Antunes
Student, Doctorate, IADE - Universidade Europeia, Lisboa, Portugal

Carlos Rosa
Dean, IADE, Portugal

Flavio Almeida
Assistant Professor, Faculdade de Artes e Letras, Universidade da Beira Interior, Castelo Branco, Portugal


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Visual Design


Graphic Design, Information Systems, Figurative Languages, Musical Literacy, Children's Development

Digital Media


Information Design and Semiology (pdf)