Monday, February 10, 2014

For this weeks blog we’ve decided to put focus on the first essay.  I never really get a chance to talk to other classmates about interesting essay topics and what we plan on writing on so now I’ll do the most interesting thing i can.  I invite you all to engage in an open forum for so we can pick each other brains.  Now you don’t have to necessarily post your thesis statements however you could post your examples of visual rhetoric and say why you find it interesting (or uninteresting).  

Option 1:
Now because we’re allowed to write about anything, I’d assume anything we chose to write about for this essay is a personal choice and perhaps gives insight into who we are (to some extent).  And really, what I’m most personally interested in, is aesthetic.  So do you think your visual is aesthetically pleasing?  Why or why not?  Provide some analysis on colors used, typeface/font, shapes, etc.  There is much opportunity in this option to use what you know and the best part is, we get to see into the minds of other students which is rare for any class.

The readings we've done in class have helped familiarize us with terminology and visual concepts. Many of these terms and techniques will be utilized in your first essays. As an alternative to going in depth into your essay's topic, cite and discuss a particular section of a reading (or an entire reading itself) and discuss why the reading helped you gain a stronger understanding of visual rhetoric. What did you consider to be very useful to you or excellent advice? What was confusing? Use this space to discuss any material you may not have understood or need some clarity with. How did having the student example essays help you think about your own essay? Was there anything these students did that you found to be effective?

A quick note from Dave to start things off:
Originally I was going to write about something different but instead I switched it to the subject of music videos, specifically one of my favorite ones.  Music videos are hard for me to write about because I wear my biases on my sleeve and of course the song is capable into persuading you to like any accompanying visuals regardless of what they are.  However I’ll apply a trick I learned from a film class and watch the video with sound and then without it. This video is more aesthetic with sound than without it.


  1. That is some of the best anti-cigarette art I've seen. Also, about the red and blue. Red is a common color of cigarette packaging and typically denotes standard full flavor cigarettes. Blue packs are usually lights but not always. Standard Gauloises cigarettes (a French cigarette) come in blue packs because of the national flag colors. Another fun fact is that their slogan is "Liberte toujours" which is French for "Freedom Forever." Ironic to say the say least. However, I think you may be right in that these colors were chosen specifically to attract your attention to certain areas of the artwork and to give a sense of darkness and despair. But I also feel that resemblances to the appearence of real cigarette boxes were used so smokers would associate this dirty pack with their cleaner pack which is well marketed. The box is dirty and gray and it looks like there are ash stains on the sign. It's squished in areas of the pack and portrays an image of a smoker being old and ugly whilst also portraying the pack (that is the smoker) as evil with pupil-less eyes and sharp carnivore like teeth.

  2. I think that, along with what David mentioned, there is a lot going on in this image. Along where the barcode is, are the numbers 666 which is often associated with the devil. Also, the image is saying, "Smoke can Kill" while the focus is on the pack of cigarettes with only a little bit of actual smoke visible. The pack is significantly larger than the smoke in the image.

  3. Hi guys. You guys probably have already seen the artifact I chose to write about in class last Tuesday, the little Buddha-candle holder. I realize this artifact is very different from the things most people in class are using, but I do feel there is a lot of visual rhetoric within this figure of the Buddha. As the three requirements for a communicative artifact are that "the image must be symbolic, must involve human intervention, and must be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience"(Sonja Foss 144), I believe this image of the Buddha meets those requirements.

    It is symbolic of the values which Buddhism promotes, as can be seen in the posture and expression of the Buddha.
    I believe this figure is presented to an audience of people who like to feel they are spiritually enlightened, much like the Buddha seems to be in the statue. Since Buddhism isn't really a mainstream religion in America, but statues like this can be found at the local Target, it's clear to me that there's a very specific target audience the people making these candle holders are trying to sell to. The function which this image performs is to sell the ideas of peace and enlightenment, and perhaps someone who sees the serene pose of the Buddha would desire to attain this same sort of peace in their own life. Maybe they don't want to practice Buddhism, but having this image within their own living space grants them a certain sense of tranquility. When I light a candle on the Buddha figure at my home, I definitely feel it adds a level of comfort to my living space. I really feel in this way the statue is appealing to people's Pathos with these emotions. There are several other rhetorical devices at work which I'll explore further in my paper, but I'm curious as to what you all think about the ideas presented above. I'm still playing with these ideas a bit, so any feedback you guys can give would be helpful!

  4. I think it was really smart to focus on the colors and the connotations they have. I especially liked how you were able to relate the colors back to the topic of smoking and the way you were able to associate them with health risks and problems that come with smoking.
    I also chose an anti-smoking campaign to analyze and the differences between this image and the one I chose is numerous; however, they both get across the same message about smoking and the detrimental health risks that cigarettes increase.
    Clearly, there is a lot going on in your image, it is full of symbolism and signs pointing to the evils of cigarettes; it is literally depicted as a monster. On the other hand, there is not much going on in my image at all.
    I found that in the image I chose, the simplicity was what made the ad so powerful.
    By comparing the two, I am able to see how different rhetorical devices can be employed to get the same message across.

    Do you think your image appeals to the emotions? Which ones? I found that the image I chose revolved around evoking emotion in people, fear in particular, in order to prompt them to either stop smoking or to not pick up the habit in the first place.

    The image you chose clearly states that "smoke can kill." Although my image does not include text, are you able to contrive the same message and meaning from it that you were able to find in your artifact?

  5. Hey Brett,
    The artifact you chose for this paper is really refreshing to see. It is nice to see you picked an object that is very uplifting, I wish I was able to read your rough draft in class the other day. The Buddha is most certainly iconic even to those does bring a sense of tranquility to those who are not particularly religious. Do you think the figure itself radiates positivity or maybe the idea of obtaining such positive energy comes from within oneself? Also, does the message of Buddha change when it is commercialized and placed on department store shelves?

  6. Hello everyone! Although it sounds like an excuse, I've had a tough time posting here, so hopefully this one makes it. If anyone did read my original idea or see my image (the Watchmen thing), I decided to change it, as my new topic is much more relevant.

    Stemming from the anti-gay protesting surrounding the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, I stumbled upon an image by Maxine Young, which is a recreation of a drawing by Kazimir Malevich titled "Three Heads". In the image, three figures in a rigid frame have their mouths covered by a piece of red cloth in what looks like snow. While the purpose here (with the protesting in mind) is to show how Russia's laws are preventing people from discussing homosexuality (and in turn taking away their freedom), I believe that without knowing that and seeing just this image, that it takes away from the message, giving it a separate meaning entirely.

    What do you think? What are your initial thoughts looking at this image by itself?

  7. For my visual rhetoric I chose an ad series called Women Should. It's used by UN Women (United Nations Women) to show sexism is still present around the world.

    One aspect I'm focusing on in my paper is size and shape. This advertisement includes a google search bar spread across the center of the ad, which also covers her mouth. It's a medium size compared to the woman's face. The search bar is a size where the text is readable and where the message of the ad can be clearly read. The size of the woman's head is large, but instead of this suggesting one woman, the sheer size of her head can symbolize a whole gender. That sexism is not just against one woman that anyone talks about, but instead a whole group of people.

    How do you guys think this ad compares to others that are also making similar statements? There is a series of ads like this one about transgender people and men. Is there anything you guys would like to add about the advertisement I chose? Let me know!

  8. I think this ad is very interesting, especially how the google bar acts as a censor so the woman cannot defend herself from the stereotypes being told to her. Why do you think they chose an Indian woman's face? Do you think it is saying something about cultural stereotypes as well as female ones?

  9. Well we hear that some (or a vast majority) of Indian women are oppressed, so yes I do think that the text that is over the mouth has something to do with the fact that she is Indian. Since the words that are in the search bar are opinions, you could argue that they are widely accepted opinions in the Indian culture. Also, it does not seem common that women are not allowed to speak against the men in their life. So, essentially I do think that the cultural stereotypes are at play here. The series also includes other cultures with different text. Do you think that the text of the other images says something about the cultural stereotypes that are commonly applied to the women in those ads?

  10. Justin--that is a very close read of each and every color. Overall, what do you think the colors evoke from an audience? What kind of audience? Do colors set the tone? Convey the argument? Prompt fear (as Erika asks)?
    I think the function --or action communicated by this ad--would differ based on the audience. For a child who sees this I think, yes, those colors would evoke fear. The image prompts a viewer to associate monsters with cigarettes and fear what they can destroy. For an audience of smokers, I am not sure. If I smoked, I might be insulted that this image associates me with junkies. It provides no logical information about why I should quit. . .(playing devil's advocate here). . .

  11. Alexia,

    I think you are right that the purpose of this image (and Justin's) is to communicate "the detrimental health risks that cigarettes increase." Your image is much more subtle. Who do you think the audience is? Who would understand the argument that this image is making? Who might not get it?

  12. Interesting artifact Kaylen! I actually used this search as an example of ongoing issues with sexism in my Writing about Women class last fall. I recommend everyone try this. . .type "women should" into Google and wait to see what pops up as suggestions. Then, try it with "men should."
    This phenomenon was made public months ago and I believe the UN caught on and it using it to bring wider attention to ongoing gender issues. Am I right Kaylen?
    Considering the cultural background of the image, I think the choice of subject reflects an attempt to be inclusive and reject always and only representing "women" as white women (a problem that has been documented across waves of feminist movements). I have heard plenty of these comments directed at women of different ethnicities.

  13. I agree that my image is much more subtle than Justin's, but that they are able to communicate the same message.
    In this day and age, with more and more anti-smoking campaigns being broadcast on television and all of the health risks that people are now aware of, most people would probably understand the argument that my image is making- that smoking is detrimental to a person's health and can cause diseases, such as cancer, that can lead to death. In particular, I feel smokers would make a more personal connection with the image and would take the message to heart more than someone who does not smoke. I'm not sure there are really too many people who would not understand the message because of the amount of information about cigarettes that is out there, perhaps with the exception of younger children.

  14. Good evening! Hope everyone has enjoyed their snow day! The artifact for essay 1 that I have chosen to write about is a billboard based in Chicago that is advertising a part for an AR-15 Rifle to give the gun more of a rapid fire bullet release. This advertisement initially caught my eye because I am into guns but the more I looked at it, the more I realized how much visual rhetoric was clearly apparent. As I mention in my paper, I talk about the images that are present on the billboard. There is a baseball glove, an apple pie, and a rifle with the words "Pure American" underneath these images, implying that guns are as American as baseball and apple pie. I talked about the circular glove and pie and how Durkin and Gerrard believe that the line of a circle suggests movement and the rifle in a horizontal position, suggesting calmness. I also noted the color choices on the billboard, which was dominantly white, with some brown, black, and green. I believe this billboard is a perfect example of successful advertisement because it got viewers to talk about it, whether they were pro-guns or anti-guns.

  15. I also want to note the left corner, which has an American flag and the symbol 2A for the 2nd Amendment, and the right corner, which ha the Christian fish and the Statue of Liberty.

  16. With no context, the meaning of the image is unclear. The gagged figures may represent some group being silenced, but who they are, what their message is, and who is silencing them is unknown. This image could be about almost any group that is being persecuted. With no prior knowledge, the message the image is trying to send becomes lost. However, knowing that the image is about the intolerance of homosexuality in Russia, the image becomes much more meaningful, making the image itself interdependent with the purpose.

  17. Hi Max and Cole,

    When I first saw the image, I also thought of speech censorship. In the photo, the group's speech is impaired, as thick red ties cover their mouths. Additionally, the three figures convey a mixture of angry, confused, and frightened expressions, implying a social dilemma. However, without the artwork's context or background, its meaning is ambiguous. With only the figures, snowfall, and red ties, the artwork is encompassed in indeterminacy. An audience viewing the photo could ask, "What type of speech is being censored in this photo? Who is censoring the figure's speech? Is that snowfall or popcorn?"

    When learning the origin of the artwork, the color choices and snowfall are readily perceptible. The snowfall becomes representative of Russian speech censorship, as the 2014 Winter Olympics take place in Sochi. Through understanding the artifact's context, the color choices also become clear. The Pride flag is often associated with the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green blue, and purple. In Young's visual, there are only traces of red, black, and white. By using so few colors, Young subsequently emphasizes the restrictions on homosexuality.

    Do you think the artwork's message would change if a Russian flag were tied around the figure's mouths? I remember how, in Julian Assange's image, the use of the American flag around the man's mouth was symbolic for the United States' speech censorship.


    The Julian Assange image was taken from last week's blog entry, "Applying Scott McCloud's "Show & Tell" to a Modern Image."
    Here's the direct link to the photo:

  18. Prompt #1:

    For my essay, I chose the "Choose Your Ride" billboard from the Texas Department of Transportation and Yellow Cab San Antonio. The campaign encourages drinkers to consider the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. This vehicle's design in the billboard really stood out to me, as the front half is a police cruiser and the backseat is modeled after a taxicab.

    In my essay, I talk about how "Choose Your Ride" conveys its cautionary message predominantly through the use of color. The focal colors of the billboard are black and white, colors that are known for creating "perceptions of weight and seriousness" (Colour-Affects). By utilizing black and white for the slogans and police cruiser, the billboard emphasizes the importance of choosing not to drive while intoxicated. With the slogan, "Choose your ride" in black, the audience will readily understand the magnitude of their decision to drive or hail a taxicab. Additionally, the bright yellow color of the taxicab also conveys a message. In this entirely black and white color scheme, yellow is an eye-catching color that commands attention. The bright yellow half of the car lures in viewers, as if the taxicab were saying, "choose me instead of the police cruiser." This use of a bright color strategically brings attention to the taxicab and the billboard's main cause: convincing drinkers to choose taxicabs and avoid the ramifications of drunk driving.

    How do you think this advertisement compares to others promoting safe drinking and driving practices? Do you think "Choose Your Ride" does a good job of conveying the consequences of drunk driving?


    "Choose Your Ride" Image:

  19. A Russian flag would certainly clarify the meaning of the image. I think associating Russia with the image by using a Russian flag would immediately convey what the image is trying to say without having to look deeper into the meaning of the image.

  20. Eric van den TerrellFebruary 14, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    I think you have great descriptions for the color and general feel of this image. One thing I would add is the idea of the blue background potentially representing cold in contrast to the heat of the orange in the "throat" of the pack. Many states are banning smoking indoors and smoking also decreases blood flow to the extremities making it harder for them to warm up so a feeling of cold is fitting for the image. I think that while it may be geared toward young potential smokers, as a former smoker I think it does a fantastic job of capturing how I felt after a long night of smoking in bars or even just after work. I can see how a smoker might be insulted by the image, but I would argue it is because the overall message hits a bit too close to home.

  21. Well this image has a lot on it and I personally don't even know where to begin on analyzing it. i guess I'll have to make the first note that the words "pure american" are big, bold and in caps lock which makes the statement louder I suppose. Also the use of images of things related to baseball (america's pastime), apple pie (also apparently American) with the AR-15 reenforces a view of the American Identity. The Jesus Fish next to the Statue of Liberty is what really takes the cake for me though. From a design standpoint (and with all politics aside) I wouldn't have chosen to include the images in the corner with the exception of the American Flag. The statement itself is controversial enough without bringing religion into it however I do think you're right in that the image was successful in generating discussion. You were right to reference Durkin and Gerrard but I would also take note that the gun takes up quite a lot of the image ands it a black color that stands out with the white background. It is clearly intentional and arguably effective.