Design Cases

A Semiotic Retail Strategy for Domino’s.

Increased consumer mobility has increased demand in carry out service. This cultural change has created demand for carry out service that meets consumer needs for pleasure and convenience. Domino’s anticipated this need and hired Marketing Semiotics to reinvent the carry out experience at their stores.

Semiotic research identified emergent cultural codes in the out of home dining sector that emphasized parallels between food service and entertainment. We identified a design strategy for Domino’s based on theater semiotics. Domino’s rolled out their “Pizza Theater” concept stores nationwide in 2013.

Pizza Theater at Domino’s.

We not only provided a platform for Domino’s rebranding and redesign project, but also created a new service paradigm that incorporates entertainment, visual pleasure, and convenience to carry out service. The strategy also calls for integrating the physical and digital spaces of retailing in a multi-media service experience.

To read more about theater semiotics and servicescape design, see chapter 6 of Laura Oswald’s book, .

The Domino’s business press.

Nestle Coffee-Mate™ Natural Bliss: Design Semiotics and New Product Innovation

Our findings and recommendations have been implemented in leading strategic planning projects for global brands for over fifteen years. We recently developed new product concepts and packaging designs for Coffee-Mate™ which led directly to development and design of the Natural Bliss line of coffee creamers.

Using a combination of focus group discussion and a trend study of cultural texts, Marketing Semiotics developed new product strategies based upon emerging consumer needs for flavor, fitness, and well being in the coffee creamer category. We then built design concepts for each new product idea by associating the codes for product benefits and consumer needs with design elements such as colors, symbols, words, and shapes. Results: Findings had tangible impact on current packaging for Coffee-Mate™ Natural Bliss products and contributed to on-going research and new product development at Nestlé worldwide.

Marketing Semiotics created new product concepts that led to development of the CoffeeMate™ Natural Bliss product line. We began by conducting a semiotic analysis of the codes structuring the design and function of products in the dairy category generally and the coffee creamer category in particular. Findings led to development of a menu of four new product concepts based upon their ingredients, their cultural positioning, and their benefits for consumers. We then tested these concepts in focus groups.

We also created packaging designs for the four products based upon the lexicon and visual codes associated with each product sub-category, such as “natural”.

Related PDF: .


By means of focus groups and a trend study of package designs for a broad range of products, including but not limited to boxed meals, Marketing Semiotics developed the package design strategy for Barilla’s Taste of Italy complete pasta meal by anchoring research in the semiotics of the product category, the culture of consumers, and the brand’s legacy for fresh, authentic, easy to prepare Italian American cuisine. Working with design experts, Marketing Semiotics tested and refined concepts with consumers.


Using a combination of informal in-store interviews, a trend study of retailing in general and food service in particular, and a semiotic analysis of a dozen McDonald’s restaurants, Marketing Semiotics identified barriers to acceptance of new product offerings at the level of merchandising and retail design. We made actionable recommendations for redesigning McDonald’s worldwide to clarify the brand message, improve the consumer’s overall experience, and increase trial for new menu offerings. Results: Findings led to changes in the physical design, messaging, and decorating at McDonald’s restaurants worldwide.

Design Semiotics and New Product Development

Packaging not only protects products from spoilage and improves their delivery at the point of purchase. It is a surface for communicating the brand’s perceived quality, unique message, and its relationship to consumers. Successful, appealing packaging is both functional and attractive, inviting consumers to touch, pick, and open the pack the way they open a gift. This principle is responsible for guiding our successful packaging design concepts for products ranging to the most luxurious, such as perfume, to the most mundane products, from coffee creamers to toothpaste.