Blog #7

Blog #7 – Post Modernism

By: Valerie Cochrane

Contemporary Culture & Design

Focus: Semiotics

Semiotics is the study of signs, analogies, symbolism and communication. Without semiotics what would our world be like? I personally don’t think I could image a life without some form of branding or signage. Semiotics was created to form a relationship between us and materials. Signs dictate what we use specific things for and what company created it. Ultimately semiotics is a logo or a branding strategy. In the 1980’s and 1990’s this is when signage really took off. Our society was becoming more advanced with the production of transportation, electronics, appliances, and food joints. We focused on luxury living that revolved around entertainment and aesthetics. Take something simple and make it more attractive. It doesn’t matter if the item itself was useful or not or needed modification. Semiotics allowed people to display recognizable images and words across almost anything so that people would remember them and be drawn to it. Symbols were also incorporated into this mix so that people could understand the action quickly without being too distracted. For example symbols for food, gas and washrooms were easy to read and understand while driving past on the road (shown in figure 1).


Fig 1: Roadside Symbols

It grabbed people’s attention, made them think and persuaded them to act. This form of semiotics I feel was beneficial to our society because it helped us get the point across without being over powering and distracting. Simple images, logos and signs made a significant difference on our society and I am thankful for it, but when you take a good idea and push it too far that is when things go bad.

Not everything was able to be redeveloped. Buildings took a lot more time, effort and money to change opposed to small products and signs. The idea of plastering a fake appearance over top of an already existing building to conform to the new “look” was a lot cheaper. It was a smart idea to say the least but was it necessary? This relates to semiotics because if someone sees an image they recognize they are more willing to trust and accept it opposed to something new. Monuments were imposed to draw every more attention and business to one location over another. It did more than draw attention though, it made us think, feel and react in a certain way. For example MacDonald’s deveopled the big gold “M” archway to signify people where they were. The jingle instantly comes to mind and so does the mascot and the craving for delicious deep fried food. One image triggered a chain reaction of multiple thoughts within a matter of seconds (Shown in figure 2). It was a brilliant strategy at first but the lifelong effects it had upon our world is devastating. 


Fig 2: MacDonald’s Sign

It seems that now all we want is cheap fast deep fried food, horrible service and a city plastered with glowing lights trying to draw your attention. Semiotics started out as simple symbols, images and logos but later progressed to branding and marketing strategies. It escalated quickly into something that our society became reliant upon and competitive with. It was not about getting a message across anymore. It was about being bigger, better and bolder. We associated everything now a days with brands.

The creation of Semiotics was inventive and ingenious, but the effects it had on our society was not very beneficial. It made us become reliant on color and images. We are attracted to signs that display colorful images and logos. The bigger the sign is the better it must be. The invention of semiotics has turned our world upside down and made mankind materialists. We brand logos on everything now a days. Signs, clothing, accessories. If something doesn’t have a logo or brand plastered somewhere on it then it must not be good. As much as some of us say we do not care where it comes from the fact is we all do. Once you learn where its origin is or which company produced it, we instantly have an impression in our mind either good or bad. We base our impressions off of personal past experiences and also word of mouth publicity.

There is no landscape, no simplicity to life, no natural beauty anymore. We took a good idea and ruined our world by mass over production. We cannot get away from it because we drilled it into our everyday lives.




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