Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Tutorial: Seeing Differently – An Introduction to Semiotics


Learn core semiotics concepts and techniques that bring deeper, more meaningful human insight to research, design, strategy, and communications.


This video has been edited to protect the privacy of participants in the live tutorial.

Semiotics helps us understand culture and people more deeply by revealing how meaning is constructed, shared, and constantly changing. When we see the world as a ‘sign system’ we become aware of how culture influences everything we see, feel and do; it’s a hidden influencer. EPIC People working to create more meaningful experiences and shape more positive outcomes can use semiotics to create deeper insight and identify the most relevant and meaningful paths forward.

This tutorial will equip participants with some key frameworks, techniques and hands-on experience to begin their own semiotic research endeavors. Beginning with a grounding in semiotic theory, we will focus on building practical skills through ‘live decoding’ of a cultural theme, demonstrating how this learning can then be applied to different kinds of client and organizational challenges.

  • By the end of the session participants will:
  • Understand basic principles of commercial semiotics
  • Be introduced to two core frameworks: the Residual-Dominant-Emergent model (RDE) and Semiotic Mapping
  • Collaborate on creating your own RDE and Semiotic Map
  • Understand how these frameworks can help in answering different kinds of commercial challenges
  • Learn how to integrate these frameworks with other kinds of human insight, especially ethnographic approaches


Cato Hunt has spent the last 15 years helping clients grow their brands by understanding cultural meaning. As Director of Innovation at Space Doctors, Cato leads the way in exploring and developing new ways in which we can understand, create and measure meaning, by drawing from a wide range of disciplines—from the cognitive and behavioural sciences to design theory, anthropology and experience design.


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