You are here: Visual Rhetoric

Module Overview
In visual society, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that utilize images to persuade us. These visual images convey powerful cultural messages. Like persuasive writing, images can be analyzed for their audience, purpose, and complex rhetorical strategies. Since students encounter advertisements so frequently, they rarely stop to consider the message, medium, or target audience associated with the advertisements or commercials they view. The visual rhetoric module challenges students to look more carefully, and analyze the images that surround them. Oftentimes advertisements play into the consumer’s (viewer’s/reader’s) hopes, fears, and dreams, in order to subtly (or blatantly) persuade. NOTE: This module contains images created by outside sources and used as teaching tools. The images provided in this module are for educational use only. They may not be used for any commercial purpose.
This teaching module is designed to provide an in-depth study of visual rhetoric that can be utilized for both developmental and traditional reading and writing courses. The module will provide students with the basic tools needed to conduct indepth analyses of the images they see in print (in magazines, billboards, etc.) as well as in television commercials.
By the end of this module, students should be able to analyze:
  • How the ad is strategically designed to target a specific audience
  • The readership of the magazine in which the ad was found
  • The camera technique/angles utilized in an ad and how it affects the reader’s perception of the advertisement
  • The props/setting of the ad and how it relates to the ad’s target audience
  • What segment(s) of the VALS system the ad appeals to.
Teaching and Learning Methodology
Students tend to be more interested in topics that are more relevant to their daily lives. Since advertisements and commercials are a popular culture topic, students tend to have a positive response to this lesson. The overall lesson plan should require approximately three to four class times.
The module includes PowerPoint lectures for visual learners, and group activities for active hands-on learners. The lectures are interactive, and are meant to assist in preparing students for intelligently discussing advertisements in both classroom and small group settings. The module addresses the needs of all learning styles.
Whether your class meets two or three times a week, the module should only take two weeks to teach (approximately three class periods). By the time the two weeks are over, students should have the ability to critically analyze the visual images around them in writing. Depending on time constraints, you may choose to add an additional computer lab day dedicated to in-class writing. Another idea is to include a writing day where students can bring their advertisements in and discuss them with you or other students.
Relevance to Academia and Industry
Students need to emerge from college with exceptional analytical and writing skills. This visual rhetoric module asks students to demonstrate both of these skills via their critiques of a visual (cultural) medium. Students need to have the ability to create a logical argument and defend the argument with evidence. This module is closely related to advertising, visual arts, business, and marketing courses.