Visual Rhetoric

Rhetoric can be defined as the art of discourse, through the means of effective speech or writing. Much of my knowledge on rhetoric is rather new, and something that I hadn’t delved into much prior to college. However, since I’ve been in college, rhetoric has become central in my academics, and everyday life.

The art of meaning is one that deeply fascinates me, as I have hinted at in many of my other blog posts. I spoke of Toni Morrison a few times, quoting her conclusion that “we do language”, which is very, very true. Language is a responsibility, and all words hold meaning, some even hold several. The author of this weeks reading notes this, explaining in the beginning of his piece how small differences in translation can yield completely different outcomes. Kress goes on to note that “choice of mode can have profound effects on meaning”, something which I have noticed and been fascinated with for a long time.

Rhetoric, persuasion, communication–all are now not only central in the written world, but the digital world as well. Advertisements, for example, have modes of transcription down to a science. Sometimes, I’ll even notice an advertisement psychoanalyzing me before I can even process it myself; similarly to how Kress was “seduced” upon the extra “e” in the “Grille” sign in the airport terminal.

People perceive things in different ways, and the human mind works in a colorful and complex way. Different people can perceive things differently, which is why accomplishing effective rhetoric can often be difficult to master. Aside from content, different mediums can hold different transcriptions. One thing that is said three different ways-in a song, a book, and on a website-could have three totally different translations. Kress notes, however, that written information is often more fixed than visual, which I would agree with, and fondly. I think visuals leave more up for interpretation, and that way, the viewer gets far more out of the conclusions they are able to draw. However, this can also be dangerous, as it can never fully be ensured what that viewer is going to see.

I think that visual rhetoric can be powerful because visuals often help tie together corresponding ideas, and enable people to have a sort of “starting place” for their imagination-or what they are going to get out of the visual. I definitely think that there are ways at comprehensively getting an effective visual that is widely understood, much like how the “grille” sign would appeal to many people for its lush complexity, and I think that is honestly, really cool.



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