Semiotics 101


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines semiotics as a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages ad comprises syntactic, semantics and pragmatics. What a mouthful right?

To break it down in layman’s terms, semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and how they’re used together to communicate ideas. The human brains works so quickly and efficiently that in almost a minute we can look at an image and know exactly what it means, and what the creators were trying to show the viewers.

Now I will dissect an image into three messages by denotation, connotation, and explaining the linguistics.

Denotation: What are we seeing? Literally.

The image show three individuals, one being a man and two babies, all of which are Caucasian skin complexion. The man wears a grey shirt and blue jeans and carries a baby with diapers on and nothing more. The right hand of the man has a thumb in his jean pocket. The other baby is on a box with a white shirt and diapers holding onto a chair.  Aside from the individuals, we also see a light blue back ground in which the individuals are in front of, as well as, red letters. At the bottom of the image we see white letters on a red background, and at the top left there are dark blue letters against a white background. Lastly, on the box there is a lock. Boom and we’re done.

Connotation: What symbols do we see in the image?

Two smiling babies, depicting happiness, joy and possibly comfort. There is a man, who is probably the dad, standing up right with a smirk on his face. A look of confidence is displayed by his whole gesture and body language. The bright blue background, can possibly be symbolized as a masculine color – because as it would appear all individuals look male. We also see all bold lettering screaming, pay attention! The lock on the box in the image, which appears to be diaper box, portrays something of like a latch. Let’s move on.

Linguistics: What are the textual words?

The words we see are “Huggies, Snug & Dry diapers stop leaks BETTER than Pampers Baby Dry diapers.” At the bottom of the ad we see “Put Leak Lock to the ultimate test Dad! Visit to learn more.”, and at the top right we see “NEW”.

After breaking this ad down we clearly see that this ad is not only intended to promote Huggies new snug and dry diapers, but it is also taking a punch at their competitor’s product, Pampers Baby Dry. By placing a proud looking father and happy looking baby it shows that unlike Pampers the product works well. The ad implies that this product is a good choice as well because of the look of assurance on the fathers face. Placing a lock on the Huggies box also gives the appearance of security with the new pampers product, almost as if its saying not only will it keep the baby dry but there is no possibility of any leakage or droopy diapers!

And there you have it folks, a nice crash course on semiotics!



    1. Now that I think about it, it’s probably because (and correct me if I’m wrong) but women are usually the ones that take care of the babies and diapers and cleaning them up and what not. So, by placing a man on the ad and stating that a Dad is the ultimate test, is kind of like saying it’s so easy that Dad’s can do it, without the help of moms.

    2. Oh and to answer your last question, to determine whether it’s an insult or a compliment would really depend on who’s viewing it. I’m going to say insult. Men may see it as insult, like “so your trying to say men can’t change diapers correctly?”.

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