Synopsis

Our semiotic analysis of indulgence began its life as part of an innovation project, specifically investigating the visual language which different innovations could tap into in order to harness different 'indulgent' occasions in American women's lives. We looked at how brands communicated around indulgence cross-category, from fashion to food, and identified several different 'kinds' of indulgence, each with an associated visual language and set of design tropes.

These types of indulgence were split along fascinating axes. Some forms of indulgence, for example, relied on a sense that indulgence was fundamentally maximalist – that it involved adding richness and stimulus to life. Some, on the other hand, were fundamentally minimalist in tone – they gave us ways of stripping away the chaos and clutter of life. Some were rooted in imagination and fantasy – giving us an opportunity to escape our everyday – whereas some were rooted in reality, inviting us to rediscover and reimagine our everyday through a more 'authentic' connection with it. These indulgence 'spaces' – ways of conceptualising what indulgence can mean to us, communicated through a particular set of visual, narrative and imaginative landscapes – were therefore responding to a set of culturally-rooted tensions and needs.