What Led You to Semiotics?

We asked our Semiofest 2017 speakers to tell us how they got started in semiotics and were thrilled to read the lovely, surprising, and incredibly relatable stories that followed. This is what they told us:

Mariane Cara

I remember my initial contact with Semiotics in 1994 and it was like love at first sight: the perfect combination to understand the dynamics of verbal, visual and sensory communication. After so many years studying and working with this method, I believe that Semiotics is the best key to get the meanings behind brands and products, taking into account specific culture-based contexts.

Mariane will be presenting “The Semiotic Layers of Instagram” at Semiofest 2017. Find Mariane online on Twitter, LinkedIn, and at comunicara.com.br.

Mark Lemon

Growing up I had a part time job as a pool lifeguard. I knew that the temperature of the pool remained largely constant, but that the interpretation of the pool’s temperature by our regular customers would vary greatly between visits, with frequent comments that the water was hot or cold today. This initial insight that the world as experienced can be somewhat different from its scientific description, fueled an interest in perception and ultimately how we create and communicate this meaningful lived existence.

Mark will be presenting “Packing in Meaning—Applying Jakobson’s Model of Communication to Pack Design” at Semiofest 2017. Find mark online on Twitter and WordPress.

Ximena Tobi

Semiotics is a treasure that I discovered during my first year at the university. Semiotics was like a key to all the doors, which allowed me to access to the “hidden” world of connotation. Mythologies, by Roland Barthes, was my initiation book. 

Ximena is presenting “The Medium is the Message…So Let’s Take Advantage of That!” at Semiofest 2017. Find Ximena online on Twitter, LinkedInximenatobi.com.ar, and semioticastudio.com.

Tim Stock

Music synthesizers and sequencers were an early obsession of mine as a kid in the 70’s which eventually led me to film school where I further developed a hybrid of theoretical skills and making skills.  Electronic music is all about the process.  The framework of cutting, duplicating and layering is great training for seeing and analyzing the world as a system that can be revealed and subtly orchestrated.  This has all grown into a passion for finding ways to visualize cultural systems and apply this to solving difficult human problems.  Now I get to collaborate with a diverse team of anthropologists, social scientists and a broad range of subject matter experts around the world. Much of our work now is centered around connecting anthropology and semiotics with data science through computational linguistics and data visualizations that help encourage a new literacy and imagination for our clients.

Tim will be presenting “Cultural Dissociation and the Semiotics of Trump” at Semiofest 2017. Find Tim online on LinkedInTwitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Medium, and timstock.net.

Dimitar Trendafilov

To me, semiotics was a rabbit-hole I was looking for to continue my career. It opened my senses for the world of communication and culture in general and for the rich and provocative area of brands, in particular. Except of being a key tool in my profession both as a lecturer and researcher, semiotics is a kind of hobby and very often it provides good topics for discussion with friends, since it can be applied to so many aspects of the world around – politics, literature, art, pop culture, etc.

Dimitar is presenting “Applying the Semiotic Nonagone in Brand Semioshere” at Semiofest 2017. Find Dimitar online on Twitter and Blogspot.

Josh Glenn

In the late 1990s, I wrote an “Americana” column — identifying emergent themes and memes in US culture — for the British magazine Preview (published by the London Observer); I also wrote regularly for another UK magazine, The Idler. My writing caught the attention of Greg Rowland and Malcolm Evans, who’d worked with pioneering commercial semiotician Virginia Valentine. As Brits have done to their colonial subjects for centuries, Greg and Malcolm press-ganged me into service. 

Josh is presenting “Semiotic Audit of Family Activity Guide Book Category—Resultin in UNBORED Franchise” at Semiofest 2017. Find Josh online on LinkedIn and semiovox.com.

Gabriela Pedranti

I got to know about semiotics at university, and it’s been an approach I always use in my different areas of expertise/work (teaching, writing, designing communication strategies…) because I think that going beyond the surface and understanding, justifying and explaining different (and hidden) layers of meaning makes you a better communication professional.

Gabriela is presenting “The Medium is the Message…So Let’s Take Advantage of That!” at Semiofest 2017. Find Gabriela online on Twitter, LinkedIngabrielapedranti.com, and semioticastudio.com.


Thank you Mariane, Mark, Ximena, Tim, Dimitar, Josh, and Gabriela for your thoughtful responses!

How did you come into semiotics? Comment below!