The Secret Power of Sticker Design

by Daniel Appleton
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In this post, we’ll go a bit deeper and look at the social and psychological meanings of stickers to explain why they’re such a strong and effective marketing tool for helping you develop your business and meet your goals.  

To do this, we shall return to the early twentieth-century social sciences, when Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure created the word “semiology.” The study of “the life of signals inside society” is referred to as semiology.  

This is related to the notion that social and cultural relationships are organized by signals, which are conceptions we employ to refer to the real object. Language is the most fundamental structure of signals we use every day – picture having to carry the actual thing around all the time to communicate; that is impossible. Instead, we’ve devised a system of words (signs) that allow us to refer to such notions, allowing us to talk about things that go beyond our immediate surroundings as well as abstract thoughts.  

This diagram depicts the two halves of a sign: the signifier and the signified. The idea is the signified, such as a cat. A cat, sometimes known as a Katze, chat(te), gato, or Gatto, is a four-legged, feline domesticated mammal. The signifiers are the terms we use to refer to this animal. The relationship between signifier and signified is culturally distinctive, allowing us to construct meaningful utterances within a group of people who speak the same language.  

Roland Barthes, a French philosopher, and literary theorist provided a second layer to this process in 1976, explaining how a sign may be culturally charged and distinguished from its intrinsic meeting. The four-legged feline mammal known as a cat may symbolize a variety of things depending on the context, such as the culture in which it is used. A cat can therefore become a god-like entity, a pet, or even a witchcraft emblem. This second-level meaning is referred to as connotation by Barthes, and it evokes all of the cultural rules that are triggered when we speak about a cat or read the writing “c a t.”  

What does any of this have to do with stickers?  

It demonstrates how strong a single sign can be, and stickers enable you to tap into this power by transforming your brand into a symbol. When utilized correctly, a sticker not only conjures your brand but also allows you to tap into the cultural connections held in a culture and place your brand intentionally inside them.  

Let’s take a look at Shepard Fairey, a well-known street artist. You may not recognize his name, but you will recognize the logo he designed right away.  

For more than 20 years, Obey stickers have circulated not just to symbolize the clothing company founded in 2001, but also as a critical remark on the social and cultural establishment and the norms and regulations it has set. The sign “OBEY” plays with denotative meaning, conjuring up images of counter-culture movements and societal critique.  

Stickers provide a low-cost, effective, yet alternative media for quickly disseminating such information to a huge number of individuals. According to Fairey, “it is difficult to imagine that paper and vinyl with adhesive backing can achieve so much.”  

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