Semiotics and Framing Cultural Insights via Digital Networks

by Tim Stock, Managing Director, Scenario DNA, US


Think of semiotics as the elixir for big data. It is the new design thinking. It’s a way to make order of the chaos coming at us. Looking for context turns the framework of semiotics into a science more akin to epidemiology. Going forward, ideas and innovation need to synchronize with new signs and signals. Perpetuating the signs we already know and are comfortable with is not sustainable. This presentation examines the methodology of culture mapping and its use in structuring cultural signals.

Analysing Social Discourse

by Gabriela Pedranti and Ximena Tobi, SemioticaStudio, Spain

We would like to introduce the Social discourses analysis theory, proposed by Argentinian semiotician Eliseo Verón. We have used it for teaching, in academic research and in diverse projects for different companies.
This theory comes from Peirce´s triadic sign theory, which main difference with other theories about the signs is that it includes a historical-community-social component.
Verón’s theory is based upon a double hypothesis, which says that every social phenomenon has a constitutive significant dimension and at the same time, it proposes that every process of meaning production is necessarily social.
From this point of view, the analysis of any social phenomenon (a product, a brand, a communication creative piece, certain beliefs, habits, etc.) will proceed in an archeological way: re-constructing the processes of meaning production that had place in the “original” construction of meaning of the analized phenomenon.
The other great pillar of this theory is the concept of circulation of meaning. Whatever the object of study is, the analysis of the production circumstances (how is it constituted) will not be equivalent to the analysis of how it is read-understood by society. There is always a difference between the production and acknowledgement “poles”.
In order to illustrate this theory and its methodology, we will explore some cases so as to show its power to “inscribe” any phenomenon we have to explore in the meaning network which gives it its meaning (a network that is social by definition).

From local to global and back to the original

by Martha Arango, Semiotician, Beyond Research, Sweden

This abstract concerns one of the biggest dairy companies in Sweden that over the last few years has experienced a significant international growth. The company has a very long tradition and a strong brand image in Sweden and the brand is considered one of Sweden’s love brands.

A new communication platform was created with the aim of attracting consumers globally and to ensure the local target groups maintain loyalty to the brand. The campaign was launched internationally and locally with the slogan “Closer to nature”.

The objective of this semiotic analysis was on a deeper level to understand why the new TV commercial had a half-hearted response locally.

Semiotics deconstructed the commercial into: characters, attitudes, body language, clothes codes, main narrative structures, visual scenes, environment, temporality, rhythms, viewpoints, music/sound-images, pay-off and the values they convey.

The results were compared with the brand values and the Swedish cultural context. The semiotic output provided the answers to why this commercial was not successful in reaching its target groups locally despite the fact that the concept, in terms of closeness to nature, is the typical way of life for Swedish people.

Orbiting the Black Hole of Category Convergence

by Michael Bensinger-Colton, Design Strategy Director, and Rob Swan, Vice President, Executive Creative Director at BrandImage — Desgrippes & Laga

The convergence of semiotic codes within categories in today’s FMCG marketplace effectively create a “black hole” of meaning… as a result, shoppers could respond with confusion… or worse, indifference… how does this happen? How can we avoid it?

Analyzing social discourse

When Semiotics & Art Collide: noizuyo-e, pictures of the noisy world

by Thierry Mortier, Semiotic Architect,

Noizuyo-e, pictures of the noisy world,  is an artist’s journey through noise, semiotics & art in search of building a Peircean sign as a semiotic architecture.

Artist Statement

I make noise. I construct this noise. Build it up as a semiotic architecture.
A sign, a built up sign, using other signs as its building blocks.
semiotic generation through saturation.
superimposing signs to construct signs of superposition.

I call them noizuyo-e™, pictures of the noisy world.
ノイズ 世 絵

thierry mortier
semiotic architect
記号論 の 建築家
the channel inside your head


From Code to super-signs For a semiotics of brand equity

by George Rossolatos, Semiotic Brand Consultancy //disruptiVesemiOtics//

This presentation addresses the marketing concept of brand equity from a structuralist semiotic perspective, by demonstrating why and how the notions of code/subcode are central in accounting for the multifarious dimensions of brand meaning and value. Based on the basic premises that surplus of meaning is reflected in surplus financial value in the concept of brand equity and that brand equity and code are fundamentally interdependent, an attempt is made to lay the conceptual foundations for operationalizing brand equity semiotically. The managerial implications in terms of planning for brand equity against the background of the relative novelty of brands as signs and different levels of codedness are discussed against the background of the model of The Generative Matrix of Equity Potential.


Dear All,

This is just a quick update to say that everything is coming together nicely for Semiofest. We are looking forward to seeing all those of you who can make it on Friday 25th or Saturday 26th May.

We just wanted to let you know our plans for the Friday and Saturday night. After the event is finished on Friday we would imagine that most of you will want to go out for a meal. All that talking and listening will make us hungry. It turns out that the area Semiofest is held in, W11, is blessed with some pretty good eateries. Rather than booking one place for 60 people which we’ve struggled to do however, we thought it would be more feasible for us to break into groups of 10 or 15. We can then perhaps check out different restaurants and then meet up later if we all want to.

The restaurants we have earmarked for Semiofest participants on Friday are the following.

1. Taqueria – Mexican, No Set menu, Westbourne Grove

2. Al Waha – Lebanese – Set menus £22 or £26, Westbourne Grove

3. El Pirata – Spanish – Set menus £20 or £25, Westbourne Grove

4. Khan’s – Indian, No Set menu, Westbourne Grove

Some of you have mentioned that networking is one of the prime reasons you are coming to this. Just to let you know that there will be places to go to prolong discussion after the programme has finished… This will not be all of you because I know you are probably all far too respectable for that but there are places to go for those who want to go out to party later.

Supper Club is less than 5 minutes walk from the venue:

Cuban band on Friday, funk and boogaloo on Saturday:

And then Westbourne Studios itself has music / club on every Friday night and of course a bar…

Chris and Organizing Committee

Colour Semiotics

by Maryam M. Daroodi, PhD Student, School of Design, University of Leeds, UK

The main aim for this research is to investigate the emotions and semiotics of colour. Since colour is an important factor in the design process, this research could aid designers in their colour selection by providing localised knowledge about colour meanings. Most previous psychophysical experiments (e.g. [1-3]) were carried out in the laboratory with controlled stimulus presentation and viewing conditions. One weakness of this approach is that data are generally collected for very few observers who tend to share a common cultural background. For example, Ou’s study was based on 31 observers and Sato’s study was based on 24. How reliable are these data and the models derived from them? The novelty of my research is that we aim to collect data from the internet using a distributed experimental paradigm. The Global Online Colour Survey has been designed to allow any participant to take part, irrespective of their geographical location, age, gender or cultural background[1]. The aim is to collect responses from many thousands of participants. However, there are two issues: firstly, how to promote the survey and drive traffic to it, and secondly, how to motivate participants to take part. The first issue has been addressed by various activities (including direct mailing to international contacts, blogging, youtube video, and other uses of social media). The second issue drove us to present each observer with only one colour (out of the 28 that constitute the study) so that the 10 questions that are asked about each colour can be completed in less than 30 seconds. It is hoped that this not only encourages participants to take part but also it increases the conserved attention for each colour[2]. Therefore, each participant only sees a portion of the whole experiment. However, a controlled laboratory-based version of the same experiment is also running to allow comparison between lab- and web-based experiments.  The disadvantage of a web-based experiment would seem to be lack of parameter control (though see [4]); however, the advantages include collecting responses from a wide variety of people and being able to analyse responses according to gender and/or culture.


The deeper aim of the research is to use the data collected from the web- and lab-based experiments to develop models that encode the relationships between colour and semiotics; parameters of the models could include age, gender and nationality. An interesting issue is that the semiotics of colour is undoubtedly complex and cannot adequately be represented by simple mathematical relationships of the type that have been published. New ways of storing, representing, and displaying the data may need to be developed, especially if the models/data are to be used by the design community. It is also likely that colour semiotics change with time and methods for continual collect of data and assimilation into the database may also be needed.


[1] Strictly speaking, the Online Global Colour Survey is only available to a subset of the population since it is provided in ten languages. However, these languages cover a substantial portion of the population who have access to the internet.

[2] We note that since each participant only assesses one out of 28 colours, we will need, on average, about 28 times as many participants to collect the same amount of data as in the laboratory experiment where each observer can assess all 28 colours. Since other researchers have used about 30 observers, this would suggest that the Online Global Colour Survey requires about 1000 participants to be equivalent (as of November 2011, 1600 participants have taken part).