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Rhetorical Analysis of a Visual

Include a clear and precise thesis, in the form of an analytical claim with supporting reasons for how the details of the visual operates in service of the commercial purpose;
Explain and analyze the main idea that’s being suggested to the audience;
Explain and analyze impressions that the image makes on the audience;
Explain and analyze emotional appeals the ad is making;
Demonstrate an understanding of how the assorted visual elements are working in relation to one another.
The purpose will be to clarify not only what they show but also how and why they convey a particular message, or argument.
provide a quality color version of the image.


Paper Guidelines


In 1000-1250 words, you will analyze a visual “text”: an advertisement from either a print magazine or online source.  A magazine ad is preferred. That is where you will find the better material.

Choose one that has some people in it, as well as some kind of narrative drama implied in the images.  The purpose will be to clarify not only what they show but also how and why they convey a particular message, or argument.

I would spend some time making the selection.  The ad should have something in it that appeals to you: after all, you have to write an analysis essay on it, so don’t pick an ad that you don’t conceivably have “anything to say” about.  You will also want to make sure that you are seeing enough things “going on” in the ad to lend itself to essay-length analysis. 

One starting point will be the image itself.  You should get a quality color version of the image to include in your essay, so that your reader can refer to the actual visuals as necessary for following your discussion.  Make sure it is of sufficient size: the details you’re calling our attention to need to be clear and discernible.

When it comes to the details, you may choose to also include portions of the ad blown up to a bigger size so we can view them better. If, for instance, you are discussing some part of the ad that is hard to see in the “overall” image, you should provide a blown-up sized view of the detail.

At minimum, provide a quality color version of the image. The presentation for this aspect of your paper is critical. You will be graded down for not taking the care and time for a quality presentation.

Since you cannot give an exhaustive account of a visual image in words, you need to select the most important aspects of the image. Having done that, call your reader’s attention to them.

One thing you will want to assume, in terms of the ad’s purpose, is that it was created to sell a product and to make money.  If your ad was not designed to do that, you need to go back to square one and choose another one to examine. With a proper selection, much of the design and structure is devoted to doing things like catching our attention, making a certain impression, implying a coherent story with a still image, etc.  Your essay will clarify what “idea” the image is setting forth, and how it goes about doing this.

You will want to consider, in connection with these commercial purposes, the audience that the image is intended for.  Your discussion should clarify as specifically as possible the target audience.  For example, most beer ads are directed toward males of college age; mattress ads that promise “better sleep” are pitched toward middle-aged suburban people with higher-than-average income, etc.  Identifying the target audience will be critical to your discussion, and no end of help to you as you write it.

The paper should be organized and built around those details that you select from the larger image to focus upon and analyze.  Describe the impression these details make, both on their own terms and in service of the overall effect.  Point out and explore connections among these details: how do they cluster together to “mean” something, or work against one another to suggest contrasts?  One of the first strategies we can use in reading advertisements critically is deconstructing them, taking them apart to see what makes them work.  Perhaps the most important and helpful insight you can provide for us will be what the ad tells us about our culture: what we believe in; what we don’t believe in; what we cherish; what we overlook and fail to appreciate; etc. If you can push the discussion to this level, you will be doing an excellent job.

Your analysis should also do the following:

            Include a clear and precise thesis, in the form of an analytical claim with supporting reasons for how the details of the visual operates in service of the commercial purpose;

            Explain and analyze the main idea that’s being suggested to the audience;

            Explain and analyze impressions that the image makes on the audience;

            Explain and analyze emotional appeals the ad is making;

            Demonstrate an understanding of how the assorted visual elements are working in relation to one another.

Your audience for this paper should be your classmates and me.  As stated earlier, you will need to provide a clear and quality copy of the image for us, but we will need your help to understand the ad better.  Most importantly, we need your interpretation to show us how the ad that you chose works.

You do not need to worry about citation issues for this assignment.  Simply provide us with a copy of the image so readers can refer to it as necessary.

Finally, review pages 256-261 for more instruction on visual analyses. Remember to provide context for the images. If the ad includes any text, pay close attention to the wording, and how it connects to what we see. Never lose sight of your goal: to provide us with insight as to what the visual, so to speak, “says” to its audience, and how it goes about achieving this effect.

  

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