Conduct a semiotic analysis

1. Print out a large copy of the content that you want to analyze.

This might be an advertisement, a logo, or a landing page.

2. Brainstorm with your team to identify the messages that people see in the text, imagery, and symbology.

For example, the advertisement below may leave people with the idea of having fun playing with friends. But it might also leave people feeling that the switch is flexible and can be used anywhere.

3. Determine the elements which you believe lead to a specific impression.

Use a content matrix or mind map to explore connections between messages, impressions, and design elements. For example, in the switch ad, it is primarily the strapline that creates a connection with the idea of having fun playing with friends. However, the images and strapline together show the flexibility of the console.

4. Create a spreadsheet with columns for Element, Message, Question, and Answers.

Enter information from your brainstorming sessions into the first two columns of the spreadsheet.

5. For each element, enter questions that you can ask your customers to find out how they perceive it, to judge if your assumptions are correct.

Ensure that you ask open-ended questions for a better insight into what your customer thinks about your message. For example, when testing assumptions about the switch advertisement, you could ask, “from looking at the switch console in the pictures, what is the one thing you take away?”

6. Survey a selection of customers with the questions you've prepared, using a survey tool like Qualaroo or Hotjar.

7. Enter answers into your spreadsheet, highlighting the most common responses.

8. Collate the highlighted responses and talk them over with your team, using the print-out you created earlier.

9. If your findings don’t align with what you want to communicate, brainstorm ways to improve your messaging and repeat the process.