Visual Literacy: Your awareness of the importance of visual
communication and your ability to make meaning out of images and graphics.
Analysis: To break things down into their parts, to examine the parts carefully, to look at the relationships
among the parts, and to use this understanding to better analyze the whole (how it functions and what it means).
Rhetoric: The art/study of writing or speaking as a means of persuasion.
Rhetorical Effect: An image has a “rhetorical effect” when it moves us
emotionally or intellectually.
Images Have “Designs” On Us
They urge us to:
Alter our behavior (example: red cross advertisement, PETA)
Usually they play on our desires, fears, wants, values, and needs as consumers
Advertisements help construct our:
Sense of what is normal or ideal
Ideas about gender, race and class
Questions for discussion:
What do we value as Americans? (wealth, individuality, family, health,
spirituality, religion, technology, hard work, etc).
What is self-image?
How do advertisements shape our ideas about gender, race and class?
Products that are roughly equal in quality to their competitors and can’t be
promoted through any rational or scientific proof of superiority are called parity products.
Examples include: deodorants, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, toothpaste, jeans, etc.
Companies need to utilize clever strategies to sell parity products since they are
equal in quality. How do companies get you to purchase one toothpaste over another,
or one shampoo over another? Clever use of commercials.
People are typically loyal consumers of products. You probably use the same products
that your parents use. How do companies try to get you to break your purchasing habits?
Consider what photographs are utilized on your college’s webpage.
What type of message is the college trying to convey through these images?
Advertisers don’t just want you to buy Nike shoes, they want you to
view yourself as a Nike type of person who attributes part of your self-identity to Nikes.
Using Celebrities and Models
Many companies utilize famous celebrities to market products.
In theory, companies want consumers to aspire to “be like their favorite celebrity.”
They’re marketing the fantasy that if you purchase the product, you’ll
lead an exciting and extravagant life just like your favorite celebrity. They use
attractive people in their images to try to get us to compare ourselves with the
person in the ad. (Think about the ads for power bars, diet supplements, etc.)
In this way, advertisements play on our insecurities. If we think we’re fat,
we’ll buy a particular diet supplement, or snack food in an attempt to lose weight.