Cultural Cartography

What helps us navigate our way through the complexity of life wherever we are?

Often it is our innate understanding of the messages conveyed by the things that surround us.

Cultural Cartography works with semiotics and cultural theory. Semiotics is a strategic discipline, which shows how meaning is made. lt breaks down culture - words, images, texts, music, objects etc - into systems of signs and codes and looks at how they relate to each other to create meaning. ln plotting these relationships, we illuminate the subconscious map which members of a culture use to navigate their world.


I believe that it is vital to understand the underlying cultural map
in which brands operate.

Max Leefe

Background Image: Antique World Map © Leonhard Euler • Licence: public domain

Beliefs and Offer

Brands need to navigate the hidden meanings of the world in which they operate.

Cultural Cartography uses semiotics, cultural theory and social anthropology to explore the intersection of attitudes, beliefs and rituals.

Cultural Cartography uncovers motivations and provides new perspectives for brands; It maps categories and the wider cultural environment. And in doing so, it offers access to otherwise hidden knowledge.

Cultural Cartography uses a combination of tools to build an in-depth understanding of a given sector or culture. These tools range from ethnographic diaries, to cultural analysis using experts and thought leaders to a full semiotic analysis.

Each project is tailor-made and individually designed to deliver rigorous, tangible and clear insights.


You can only understand the world
if you are part of it

Max Leefe

Background Image:  The main compass rose of the Cantino planisphere, 1502 © Foto by Joaquim Alves Gaspar • Licence: public domain


After leaving academia in 2001, I moved into international qualitative research. Since then I have worked in many areas relating to consumer insights and cultural understanding, including brand strategy, communication planning and advertising strategy.

I founded Cultural Cartography in 2008 after moving to Berlin. As a fluent German speaker with over 14 years of experience of living and working in Germany, I offer unparalleled insight into the German market with the added advantage of cultural references that non-Germans can understand.

I have lived in three different countries (UK, US and Germany) which has helped me hone my innate cultural sensitivity and worked intensively in many more, with a particular focus on South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

I am a strong believer in passing on knowledge and I have taught courses on semiotics and presentation skills in Berlin and London.

» Cultural Cartography on Facebook



Every project is its own new challenge and opportunity
to learn more about the world.

Max Leefe

Background Image:  The Baby’s own Aesop: being the fables condensed in rhyme with portable morals pictorially pointed by © Walter Crane • Licence: public domain


Paul Walton
The Artful Strategist and founder of TVE

"Max mixes up a heady blend of stimulating ideas, original insights and the whiff of Academe. She taught me more about the semiotics of drinks straws than I thought was possible."

Daniela Budach
Founder & CEO Wertikale

"Max produced an outstanding semiotic analysis which formed a perfect synergy with our cultural analysis.

Semiotics has shown us how the company presents its image today and how it has to change to fit with future changes in corporate culture. Thanks to Max's very creative and scientific approach we now have a much better picture of the corporate identity of our client."


Among others Cultural Cartography delivers semiotic analysis and cultural insight on Germany and other markets on a regular basis to the following:


Sign Salad »
Space Doctors »
Flamingo »
Point Blank International »
Sturm und Drang »
1HQ »
Truth »
Studio Semiotica »



I look forward to hearing from you


Max Leefe

00 49 174 954 6616

Boris-Pasternak-Weg 12B
13156 Berlin

Imprint, Copyright & Privacy Policy »