Semiotics – Serious Sign Science


Semiotics – the Science of Signs 


Its a sign right? But it is also ‘a sign’



Signs. Not road signs, but signs. Signs are parts of any text, and convey meaning to responders. We are bombarded with signs, and automatically interpret them as part of a natural response  to the text. Semiotics is the study of signs, and has a few important rules

  • Every sign is made up of a signifier and signified –


  • The signifier is the ‘trigger’, in the case of an image, the subject of the image would be the signifier.
  • The signified is the ‘reaction’ that one has to the signifier.
  • The relationship between the signifier and signified is arbitrary – meaning that everyone’s reaction to the signifier will be different, due to context
  • This means that everyone interprets signs differently


Lets break down this advert for ‘Master Trap‘ insect control –

master trap

Signifiers –  Triggers

There is a dark background, with a centred, neon blue sign glowing that the eye is drawn to first. It has the word ‘CASINO’, and a depiction of a mosquito surrounded by cards, dice and chips. A vector/reading line, following typical western reading patterns, moves from the middle of the image to the bottom right, where the text ‘FATAL ATTRACTION’, and a bug zapper sit. The bug zapper has the label ‘Master Trap’. The vector line is strong, as the image only contains these few elements among the darkness, minimising ways to read it.

Signifieds –  Reactions

(These are my personal signifieds, remember, everyone reads signifiers differently. If you see something else, please enlighten us in the comments!)

The darkness implies nighttime, while the neon sign suggests a night out.  It is suggested that this is a casino, by the obvious text ‘CASINO’, and the gambling paraphernalia. The insect looks like its having a good time. In the corner, the blue neon of the bug zapper draws to mind the zapping sound of a mislead insect.

Connotations – Meanings

The sign implies the casino is for insects, that they will ‘have fun’ there, however the punchline ‘FATAL ATTRACTION’, combined with the bug zapper (which is the same blue as the sign, drawing a parallel) suggests that they will be attracted to the zapper and killed. This is humorous as it draws a similarity between insects/people, and fits with the cultural ideology that  casinos are attractive, but punters will always be left worse off.

Personally I think this is a clever ad, but semiotics dictates that everyone sees things differently. The question to ask yourself is –

What do you think?


2 Replies to “Semiotics – Serious Sign Science”

  1. Hey Sunny,
    “Yeeehaaa!” for the alliteration in the title – It was catchy and clever (see what I did there?). The accessible layout and language you used broke down a complex idea really well, clearing up my own understanding of semiotics. Even though I found myself agreeing with your interpretation of the “master trap” ad, I appreciated that you emphasised how different people can interpret signifiers differently. Quite often, especially in HSC English, I feel we were told what to “get” from a text instead of allowing us to make our own analysis and come to our own conclusions. A text should welcome new interpretations and readings, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the emphasis you instilled in the notion that different people tend to interpret signs in their own way. The complexity of your post, exhibiting your deep understanding of the way signs, signifiers and signifieds interrelate and work together to produce a text, allowed me to further understand the relationship. I have to say I totally agree with one of your ideas, as when first looking at the image – Master Trap Ad – the message I thought was being communicated, was the similarity between the insects and us people, only in the sense that casinos are an enjoyable and rather fascinating place, but players will always be left worse off.


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