GDE710 W11 | Workshop Challenge



Has the tobacco industry really changed its approach to hooking folks on tobacco early on? I don’t think so.

This week's research and challenge let me to discover how big tobacco is using new methods to apply the same old trick: Hook 'em young.

We now have candy flavored vapes and social media influencers along with age-old practices of design psychology to convince audiences of just how tasty and cool tobacco is.

I asked the class since I’m here in America and tobacco advertising is outlawed everywhere, what they see in their respective countries. Here are their responses:

Anna Robinette

Is there a difference between countries advertising recently? Here in the UK, tobacco companies aren't allowed to advertise, and in shops the cartons have to be a universal dark green and displaying warnings and hidden behind screens. Are there countries where tobacco companies are allowed to advertise freely? 

Tony Clarkson

I always remember the Silk Cut ads on the back of Sunday magazines as I was growing up, when the advertising ban came in their final ad was perfect

Stuart Tolley

This is an interesting one – As Anna says, tobacco advertising is banned in the UK. However, it is still advertised in other regions, such as Africa, Asia, Russia, China? It would also be interesting to find how brands get around the law in any clever (or deceitful) ways.

Alice Neve

Hi Kris, In France all forms of domestic and cross-border tobacco advertising and promotion are prohibited but product display is currently allowed at points of sale (this is illegal in the UK now). France is known for smoking but the number of smokers has dropped considerably with around 30% of people calling themselves smokers in 2017. I can’t find the numbers for 2019. Also, I have noticed that the cigarettes are sold in special shops as appose to supermarkets like in the UK.

Robert Schmich

Advertising for cigarettes has not been permitted on free TV and radio in Germany since 1974. At the moment, however, advertising is still permitted in cinemas, magazines and newspapers, and also on Litfaß-columns which I described earlier in this course. The only limitation is - no smoking people can be shown. Also advertising within a radius of 100 meters of kindergartens and schools is not permitted. No days it feels like tobacco companies target your emotions and the urge to be part of something...

Top row: leveraging the cool factor of associated brands like Lamborghini to design creative that literally intends to evoke “cool” with names like “Ice Volt.” Middle row: smokeless tobacco companies target youth audiences by designing packaging that resembles sweet treats and candy and fruit flavors. Bottom row: social media is the latest platform for big tobacco to target its audience paying influencers to set the stage of experience through “authentic” posts.

Top row: leveraging the cool factor of associated brands like Lamborghini to design creative that literally intends to evoke “cool” with names like “Ice Volt.” Middle row: smokeless tobacco companies target youth audiences by designing packaging that resembles sweet treats and candy and fruit flavors. Bottom row: social media is the latest platform for big tobacco to target its audience paying influencers to set the stage of experience through “authentic” posts.


My research revealed that Big Tobacco’s messaging and advertising approach varies globally based on regional laws as also confirmed by my classmates. Where advertising is permitted, it often comes with rules where the act of smoking is prohibited. Therefore, advertising targets the essence what makes smoking appealing: to be cool, be stylish, be exciting, be wild, be adventurous, be in the “it crowds.”

Some tobacco brands use brand association with other brands that are globally known for cache. Other brands use typography and design that exudes a literal sense of “cool” with names like arctic blast. And some brands are using interesting approaches to expressing “lift off” with images of people literally blasting through mid-air.

New methods include using the technological advances of smoking. Smokeless tobacco vis a vis, vaping has brought forth an entire legion of advertising and messaging that targets young people. Using packaging design that looks like candy and sweet treats as well as flavors that are far more appealing to a young audience: berry blast, pina colada.

Perhaps the most devious approach to messaging and advertising the tobacco industry has taken on is through social media influencers. Brands are paying influencers to post “authentic” images touting the coolness of smoking. This takes their messaging seemingly indirectly to where the audience are - on social platforms. There currently are not any laws that prohibit this approach to advertising leaving quite the loophole target for young audiences.  


Boseley, S., Collyns, D., Lamb, K., & Dhillon, A. (2018, March 09). How children around the world are exposed to cigarette advertising. Retrieved from

Investigation reveals tobacco companies are secretly using social media to promote smoking. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Jackler RK, Chau C, Getachew BD, Whitcomb MM, Lee-Heidenreich J, Bhatt AM, Kim-O’Sullivan SHS, Hoffman ZA, Jackler LM, Ramamurthi D. (2019, January 31). JUUL Advertising Over its First Three Years on the Market.

McGinley, L. (2018, May 01). Feds crack down on e-liquid packaging that looks like candy, juice boxes. Retrieved from

Tobacco Social Media Marketing: Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from

GDE710 W11 | Lecture Reflection & Research

Trends & Environment

Storytelling in a global environment


This week we hear from Professor Martin Hoskins on the dissemination of symbolism and theory. He defines communication as the message received, not sent. He contends that if the receiver did not receive the message as intended by the sender, then 100% communication did not occur. He references George Orwell in stating that the meaning of language is dependent on intention. Go goes on to explain that psychological images include intent, original core of process, and invisible shape or form at the heart of language is archetypes. Images carry meaning that rely on context.


Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use and interpretation. Founded by Swiss linguist, Ferdinand De Saussure in 1918, semiotics universally map the communication of meaning through different mediums.



A sign is anything that conveys a direct meaning.


Icons have a physical resemblance to the signified, for example a photograph.

Index implies some character of the object or original event.

Symbols bare no resemblance between signifier and the original signified and must be culturally understood, for examples numbers and letters. Symbols have implied meaning.


Codes act as systems of signs that we use to navigate our shared environment and underpin our sense of community.

Decode is the way by which we read and interpret the codes and their signs so that we can navigate our way through the world

Anchorage is to pin down or guide intended meaning.

Relay includes text or images standing in complementary relationships. Both interplay to build two larger signifiers of an anecdote, story, or narrative. Copy and image reinforce one another.

Meaning comes from the relationship between the signifiers (the intended message) within a system and includes differentiation of understanding within a given sign code system.


Kris from Regular Practice takes us on a guided tour of the symbolism that is the Olympics Brand.

The Olympics has expressed at least three unique approaches to semiotics and symbolism throughout its storied history.

  1. Systematic approach where the identity is built upon and executed against a set visual system.

    • Examples include: Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972

  2. Emblematic approach where the identity is built off of symbolic visuals that reinforce the essence and culture of host city in which the games took place.

    • Examples include: Tokyo 1964, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and Rio 2016

  3. Abstract approach where the identity is comprised of visual storytelling that is uniquely expressive of the location or the personality of the host city.

    • Example of abstract includes the London games of 2012


Patrick Thomas’ exhibit and experience at the London Design festival is a fluid, reflection of what is going on in the world. There is a freedom of expression, global digestion, and agnostic diffusion of news. I appreciate the simplistic approach to typography to further the transparency of the messaging.


BBC (2016) Adam Curtis: Hypernormalisation Available at
Crow, D., (2003) Visible signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. AVA, London.
Heller S., (1999) Design literacy (Continued) Understanding Graphic Design. Allworth Press, New York.