Semiotics is an investigation into how meaning is created and how meaning is communicated. Its origins lie in the academic study of how signs and symbols (visual and linguistic) create meaning.
It is a way of seeing the world, and of understanding how the landscape and culture in which we live has a massive impact on all of us unconsciously.
Our actions and thoughts – what we do automatically – are often governed by a complex set of cultural messages and conventions, and dependent upon our ability to interpret them instinctively and instantly.
For instance, when we see the different colours of a traffic light, we automatically know how to react to them. We know this without even thinking about it. But this is a sign which has been established by cultural convention over a long period of time and which we learn as children, and requires a deal of unconscious cultural knowledge to understand its meaning.
Viewing and interpreting (or decoding) this sign enables us to navigate the landscape of our streets and society.