Denotative Meaning

A monogram is a motif of two or more letters that are usually interwoven or otherwise combined in a decorative design to form a logo. 1 Just as monograms were historically used as signatures by artists, monograms are currently used on high-end luxurious products—such as clothing, perfume and handbags—to indicate that a product was skillfully designed by an expert craftsperson or artist (e.g. LV for Louis Vuitton, YSL for Yves Saint Laurent). As recognized by American Tobacco in the 1990s, the use of a monogram underscores quality: “A nice, clear, crisp, uniform monogram is an implied value of workmanship and attention to detail.” 2

Typography, colour, finishes, and embossing and debossing, and other visual features can affect the interpretation of the monogram. The monogram can also interact with the lexical items it abbreviates, usually the brand family name.


Placing the initials of the producer on a cigarette pack helps underscore the product’s fine craftsmanship and quality, a point recognized by American Tobacco in the 1990s: “A nice, clear, crisp, uniform monogram is an implied value of workmanship and attention to detail.” 3


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour Monogram –> Artisan’s signature –> Workmanship and attention to detail, 4 quality –> LuxuryMonograms typically incorporate hot foil stamping and/or embossing/debossing –>Additional printing costs; appearance of precious metals and jewelry –> Display of wealth
Lifestyle Gender Monograms have associations with masculinity:

  • Used as identifying symbol for coinage, guilds, artists, monarchies –> Traditionally masculine domains
  • Typically used for tobacco family brands named after men (e.g. Benson & Hedges, John Player, du Maurier) –> Masculine legacy

    DuM monogram

However, depending on how the monogram is used, it can offer connotations of gender neutrality or even femininity.

  • Embossed metallic gold in center of pack –> Women’s pendant / jewelry

    John Player's monogram

  • Bulbous shapes –> Feminine curves
  • Context of repeated checkered pattern –> Repetition of monograms on high fashion purses (e.g. Louis Vuitton) –> Women’s fashion accessory

    RBH superslims monogram



  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Monogram. Available at: Accessed August 16, 2011.
  2. The American Tobacco Company. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. San Francisco, CA: University of California; 1991. Available at: Accessed August 16, 2011.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.