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I do semiotics. "What’s that?!" I hear you choke. Er, semiotics. Semiotics derives from the ancient Greek word semion, meaning sign and is a subject devoted to evidence based analysis of signs and meaning.

It is a field that encompasses, culture, communication and meaning including logos, branding and street art. Semiotics is used now as a powerful insight tool brand strategy and communication.

In addition to teaching an MA course module entitled Brands and Meaning at <em>Warwick University</em> I do occasional mentoring and give semiotics masterclasses at School of Communication Arts (hence, this blog post).

I am passionate about education, love interacting with young people, and it’s always good practice for me as a consultant getting across sometimes tricky ideas to a fresh audience.

In the SCA masterclass I cover decoding advertising, meaning transfer in the image, connotation, inter-textuality, the gaze, sonic semiotics and applications to brands. The one thing I try and impress upon my audience is that ‘everything’ communicates, so no detail should be overlooked.

I used this classic Channel 4 ident set in "The Empire of Signs" (as Roland Barthes called it) - Tokyo, Japan as a branding analogy to show how semiotics is about picking out the meaningful and significant from the noise.

However, the quality and impact of the final work is everything, and, as any art director or copywriter will tell you, creativity is often (painfully!) about the editing and whittling down. Skilful reduction of form reveals the gem within! This means that artistic creation implies the exercise of the critical faculty as much as it does imagination (sorry, William Blake!)... Oscar Wilde wrote as much in his famous essay 'The Critic as Artist' "Without the critical faculty there is not artistic creation at all worthy of the name…Criticism is itself an Art.”

So, in creativity, selection and omission are just as important as inclusion. But how to decide what to include and what to exclude. What meanings are you trying to convey and through what signs?

Semiotics sees every work as a text, a machine for generating meaning. We tease out the implicit meanings in colour, form language, the gaze. We help brand owners see their brands with new eyes. A semiotic analysis equips with an ability to see how categories are structured so we can  think about creative treatment alternatives. How swapping out frame A instead of frame B shifts visual impact or connotations of a print ad, or how a different music track can transform our interpretation of a visual montage.

Oliver Perrin, former advertising creative director turned rogue semiotician, has coined the phrase non-arbitrary creativity. This is a term I have now adopted as a way to explain why semiotics can be useful clients in design and branding.

Unlike some research methodologies that see consumer opinion as the ultimate arbiter, semiotics (like behavioural sciences and neuroscience) believes that it is often the emotional or metaphorical is most powerful . And that we cannot always explain why something appeals because it is determined by cultural or unconscious factors. So semiotics does not constrain creatives, but rather helps expand the spaces in which to play.

This is why semiotics has been used to sparked for new products and new campaigns. In my business I've helped launch Wrigley's 5 Gum, BMW Mini to create a global campaign using Britishness, and have helped inspire the X shaped design of Mexico City's new airport. It is the perfect vehicle for articulating any creative brief. Having done a semiotic analysis you can justify your creative choices… Semiotics is creative problem solving. And a springboard to creativity.

To find out more, to book a masterclass or for any project enquiries, please mail me on chris@creativesemiotics.co.uk.

Chris