The CODE-X series catalogs a vast codex of source codes (aka “signs”) extracted from past audits.
The object of study in semiotics is not the signs but rather a general theory of signification; the goal of each “audit” is to build a model demonstrating how meaning is produced and received within a category or cultural territory. Signs on their own, therefore, only become truly revelatory and useful once we’ve sorted them into thematic complexes, and the complexes into codes, and the codes into a meaning map. We call this process “thick description”; the Code-X series is thin description.
“MOISTURIZED MERMAID” NORM: Women depicted as deeply — existentially — anxious to avoid dry skin. Like a mermaid, who is in danger of dying if she goes too long without moisturization.
“MOISTURIZED MERMAID” FORMS: Color schemes tend to be aquatic: soothing pastels, light blues and greens. Occasionally, as in the Olay ad here, the mermaid metaphor is overt.
From a 2010 audit of the Skin Protection space.