Look around.
What do you see?

A desk, the carpet, a tree?  Everything surrounding you carries a series of mental associations that affect our interpretation and application of them. We are influenced by everything we see and experience in the world around us. 

Semiotics is the study of 'Signs' and their meanings. Graphic Design is the practice of creating visual Signs for users to interact with. Though not often discussed together, Semiotics and Graphic Design work hand in hand. Designers naturally understand aspects of Semiotics. We know that different typefaces have different voices and that a color palette can suggest a tone or mood for the overall design. Semiotics is why design can make us laugh, cry, angry, silly, sad, and most importantly, curious about the world around us.

Why don’t we talk
about semiotics in
design education?

Graphic design is a young discipline, with classes often focused on the practice, rather than the theory, of design. With this in mind, few resources have been offered that pose Semiotic theory and Semiotic Thinking as part of the foundation of graphic design. Even more, Semiotics is a complex theoretical field, consistently analyzed by Semioticians through two branches: the Saussarian branch of linguistic application and the Peircian branch, which goes beyond linguistics into visual application. Regardless of which branch you choose to follow, both are jargon-heavy and dense, instantly alienating a large audience, especially undergraduate students who are still learning basic design principles.

How can we make Semiotics more accessible to young designers? 

We set out to create a pocket guide that would serve to distill this dense topic into something more palatable. With a clever layout that can be read in multiple directions and ways, our exploration of Semiotics lies both in the text of the guide, and also in the design of the publication. Though in no way a complete or detailed account of Semiotic theory, our guide acts as an introduction, allowing budding designers to dip their toes into the world of Graphic Design theory and providing a platform from which to dive into deeper thought. 

Download the guide: