Edited 17th April 2015

I was immediately captivated by this image.

An image has the power to instantly communicate a vast amount of information, often with different ways of looking at them, depending on your personal knowledge and beliefs.

Denotations: First we see two adult men, from the shoulders up, dressed in similar suits – one navy blue, and the other, black. The man on the left has thick black hair, wearing reading classes and appears to be of Asian heritage. The man on the right has darker skin and short, Afro hair, suggestive of an African background. No context is suggested by the setting, which is blurred and generic. They are both in focus, and take up majority of the image, drawing our eyes to centre of the photo and their kiss. The two men have their eyes shut and lips puckered. In the top left hand corner “UNHATE” is written in bold, white, capitals and in opposite corner, a dark green box frames the words “United Colours of Benetton” also written in white. Beneath this “Support the Unhate Foundation unhatefoundation.org” is written.

This illustration is constructed of signifiers, what is in the image, describing the denotation of the image before we begin to interpret the signified, forming meaning from what we see. Every image is made up of two parts: what you see, and what you interpret. This can be studied through semiotics, a term coined by its fathers, Charles Pierce, Ferdinand Saussure and Rowland Baths. Semiotics is, defined by the University of Vermont, as “the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation”.

Connotations: Clear to some, the two men in the photo are the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama (right), and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping (left). These two governments are recognised as being ideologically opposed to one another, yet in this image their leaders are seen sharing a kiss. This confronting image makes us instantly question the purpose. This affection, combined with the white text “UNHATE” suggests a message of love and harmony. This image, of two great leaders of opposing world superpowers, suggests that they have put aside their differences in order to share an act of love asking: if they can do it, why not us?

There are many other ways this image can be read. It could be viewed as an advertisement promoting cooperation between the American and Chinese governments, or a campaign promoting equality and acceptance for LGBT relationships. The text “United Colours of Benetton” suggests that it could also be interpreted as a ‘shock-value’ advertisement for the clothing brand.

So what does the image actually stand for?

“What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.”

This image was used as a part of the Unhate Foundation’s, 2011 campaign titled: UNHATE. The Unhate Foundation is founded by the Benetton Group who run the clothing brand “United Colors of Benetton”.

What how did you respond when you first saw this image? Loved it? Hated it? Do you think it was successful in communicating it’s intended message?

Let me know what you think in the comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts…

– H.

Want more information? Go to: Unhate Benetton

Definitions and information

Video Credit

Image Credit


5 thoughts on “UNHATE:

  1. You know when you are shown something for the first time that you weren’t even aware existed, and then suddenly it appears everywhere you look daily? THAT IS THE UNHATE FOUNDATION. I was shown a similar picture in my BCM110 tutorial campaigning for United colours of Benetton and its so interesting how many ways their adds can be depicted! Love the whole idea.


    • You’re so right! The exact same thing has been happening to me! I’m constantly reading and hearing about what a great tool Twitter can be, but also how quickly 140 character can make or break both your reputation and career…
      United States of Benetton and the Unhate Foundation have some pretty great campaign’s hey? You can check out all of their initiatives here!
      Thanks for letting me know what you thought 🙂
      – H

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all the United Colours of Benetton’s campaigns mainly because they play with the essence of semiotics. Their ads would have very little importance if the context and connotations were removed. For example viewing this photo out of context, it could simply be read as two men of different race kissing. Placing the photo into context, your brain goes wild trying to figure out why two of the most powerful political leaders in the world are kissing. The use of the term “Unhate” is an unusual way to describe the word ‘love’. This juxtaposes the two topics. Through what is signified, my initial reading of the image is that United Colours of Benetton are making a statement in regards to the tension between the countries opposing politics and like you said, “suggests a message of love and harmony”. However, referring to the meaning behind the campaign, this is not how the photo as intended to be read. Instead, it is simply spreading the message of love…

    What a great choice of image, awesome job!


  3. Hannah, you have done such a good job at deciphering the denotations and connotations of the image and I also like how you mentioned the other ways the image could be interpreted depending on what knowledge each individual may already have about either the campaign or the world leaders.
    I really think this image was effective, I would have taken it in the way that we should stop hate and try to get along, just be harmonious really. If this is what was intended then I believe that a good job has been done.
    Congratulations on such a well written, thought-provoking and informative post!


  4. This is a really strong image and it immediately captured my attention. Before I was even aware of the actual purpose of this image, each of my interpretations still related back to some sort of acceptance and harmony.

    This is a well thought out picture. Using people in power who are in conflict and opposed to each other, strengthens the influence of the intended message of the foundation to its target. Even if you are unaware of the relationship between the two people in the image, love is represented through the kiss, and also by the fact that it shared between two people from different races.

    By wanting to spread love through the use of the word ‘UNHATE’ is interesting. I believe that using the word ‘love’ on the image would have been to simplistic. Having these words juxtaposed certainly intensifies the motive and hope of the foundation.

    An image such as this is obviously going to cause some sort of global debate, so whether the reaction to the picture is positive or negative, people are still going to pay attention, while hopefully putting some thought into the message of ‘UNHATE’.

    What a great choice of image for this topic. Great post, I enjoyed it ☺


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