There are two leading theorists Ferdinand Saussure & Charles Saunders Pierce , who discuss semiotics. They both have opposing theories.

We have been looking into the use of Semiotics through design, with symbols & isotopes alongside that.

Semiotics in its simplest form is the study of signs and how there are interpreted and used. They are a part of everyday life, whether we are aware of that or not, its so deep set in what is around us, through advertising, safety signs , road signs & many more. Semiotics study the meaning in different languages of communication.

Ferdinand Saussaure stated that the sign has two meanings, the signifier and the signified. The first one is the material that has a meaning and the second one is the meaning. Go into more detail regarding Saussure on a separate blog link as follows.

Ferdinand Saussure




The Durex advert. The signifier being the durex logo as we know it and recognise it, with a price label of £2.50. The signified being image of the baby toys, its give meaning to the sign or signifier. Simple advertising but cleverly done, as it uses slight shock tactics but in quite a pleasant an easy going way.




Charles Saunders Pierce broke semiotics into three aspects index, icons & symbols.

Index is associated with its referent, it indicates something, yet not connected to an object. A smile can suggest happiness. The index can often have several different meanings, dependent on the viewer and where there from. As certain symbols can have opposing ideals.

Symbols have no convention until the person has already learnt the meaning behind that. Again this can be hard due to cultural differences, or learned perceptions. A world wide symbol would be road signs and there warnings. The triangle within driving generally conveys warnings. So just being seeing an object within the triangle we have already made a link due to learned perceptions.

Icons would then be the clear representation of the object itself. Can be illustrative or diagrammatic.Most of the icons used today are internationally known, especially those in digital world.

Through Pierce & Saussure’s theories, its quite simple to apply them to everyday adverts, icons , symbols that we see. Learner the difference between the signified & the signifier, helped alot being able to differentiate between whats what. Being able to apply theory to what we are creating helps understand how to get the right message across, how to play with the viewer essentially, get them to feel certain things, see certain things first etc.


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