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Personal branding: ‘Encoding a personal brand through semiotics: a case study.’

A Book Chapter by Carl Jones, published by Semiotics and Visual Communication III

Semiotics is usually used to decode, whether it is images, words, or concepts. However, this research through practice explores how to ‘encode,’ and specifically encoding visual messaging using semiotics, by appropriating the theories used in semiotics and applying them to ‘advertising tools and techniques’ to encode branded messaging. Some of the thoughts from the following theorists are applied to the tools and techniques used in advertising: Roland Barthes and his views on popular culture; Kress and Van Leeuwens’s theories on the grammar of visual design; Canadian Marcel Danesi’s semiotic interpretation of advertising and branding, along with Stuart Hall’s observations on encoding/decoding, and Eco’s perspective on sign production. This case study deals with a personal brand named El Crayolas that was created and encoded from 2005 to 2013 in Mexico City.

For this case study, the personal brand was encoded using both digital and analogue methods. El Crayolas was encoded using specific signs, codes, and emergent codes which were placed into various visual communications. This branding was broadcast as content on: social media, exhibited through contemporary art practice, and broadcast on advertising billboards.

This ‘research through practice’ presents the process used to ‘encode’ using signs, codes and emergent codes to create a personal brand named El Crayolas, and asks the question ‘Can semiotics be used to encode a personal brand by appropriating advertising tools and techniques? ‘ The case study also explores the concept that designers can be empowered to create more effective design if they apply semiotic theory to encode their design projects.



KEYWORDS: Brand, advertising, encoding, tools, techniques, design, capitalism.

Carl Jones


Carl W. Jones is a Senior Lecturer in PR & Advertising at the University of Westminster, and is recognized globally as an authority on advertising, being invited to 12 countries to give seminars: Clio’s Asia, Marketing Magazine Toronto, El Ojo Buenos Aires, and recently at Syracuse University USA, & El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City. In total he has won over 500 awards and recognitions for his creative work including Cannes Lions. The mass media such as BBC; The Telegraph; BBC Mundo: Periodico Reforma, interview Jones on publicity and its effects on society. His newspaper articles on Racism & Classism in Mexican advertising have had over 7,000 shares on Facebook alone. Carl is also a founding member of the research group @LASAWw Latin American Studies At Westminster, and issue editor for the WPCC media journal on Advertising for the Human Good.


1 December 2019
Published By
Semiotics and Visual Communication III
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