Visual Rhetoric, Feb 3rd, Late Show (with snow day make-up)
January 27, 2014
January 27, 2014
Let’s talk Logo assignment
Overview of some material from the readings
To start today, I want you to complete what is likely to
be a familiar sort of icebreaker activity. You will pair
up with someone you don’t already know, and over
the course of a few minutes you will interview that
The info you need to get is on the next slide.
1) The person’s name (obviously)
2) What he/she goes by (if it’s different)
3) His/her major and progress in the
4) Why he/she decided to take Visual
5) His/her favorite color
6) One piece of information that will help
all of us to remember him/her.
…let’s talk more specifically about what we will be doing
as a class.
At this point, please either focus on the screen or open the
website at http://www.phillalexander.com/visual
That course website, btw, will serve as our activity hub
and your syllabus.
Let’s talk about class.
And now, Tumblr
I will show you how to start a Tumblr, so
follow along if you’re not familiar with the
Please go to http://www.tumblr.com
Once you create your site, please email
the URL to me at email@example.com
Your First Tumblr
For your first Tumblr post, I want you
to give me a skills overview. On the
next slide you will find a series of
questions. Please answer them as
completely and accurately as you
How much experience do you have with:
1)Adobe InDesign? Adobe Photoshop? Dreamweaver?
3)Document design– working on a magazine, newspaper,
website, or designing any sort of paperwork?
4)Creating art? If so, what kind?
6)Any visual rhetoric-ish skills you want me to know you
Some quick Visual fun
Take a look at the next few slides and tell me what’s
going on here. Look carefully. Sometimes you might
need to squint.
These illusions depend on
intricate line work, very
specific color and contrast
choices, the mind’s desire
to complete shapes and
patterns and the fact that
our eyes jitter a bit
If you squint hard and look
at each of these images,
they WILL become still. But
not for long.
This doesn’t pulse like the last one, but I
wanted to give you another cool visual
design trick here. On the next slide, you’ll see
two dots (and a weird image, and a white
space). Stare at the dot in the middle of the
image for 30 seconds, then shift your gaze to
the other dot.
And now that logo assignment
As you know, on February 24th, you will be turning in your
first major assignment for class: a new mascot and logo
design for the Washington Redskins football team.
I want to give you some time today to think about that
assignment. But first… here’s the actual task, laid out in front
For the final submission, you should send me
a completed, colored logo with a written memo of
approximately 500 words explaining your choices.
You will also submit with this project a shorter, 200
word or less, cover letter to the team “selling” your
new logo and mascot.
…you really want to think about is why the current logo is
problematic. So here are a few looks at the main logo, the
logo in action, and some of the Redskins secondary logos.
I am sure some of you might not find the Redskins logo, or
the old Miami Redskins logo, all that problematic. What I
would urge you to do in this situation is to submerge yourself
in the rhetorical nature of the occasion. Some people will not
be offended, of course. This is almost universally true of
anything you might do; there will be some who don’t think
it’s a big deal. But when designing a mascot and logo, it’s
important to think about the ENTIRE audience. Why, then, is
the Redskin a problem?
A word on methods…
There are a number of ways to make your own logo. If
you have the artistic skills, your best bet will be to
draw or otherwise generate your own. We will talk a
bit more about that as class moves along. But another
thing you might do is collect elements from elsewhere
and sort of “kitbash” them, in the DIY sense, or
“Voltron” it, so to speak.
As funny as it is…
… making CRAP jokes, it really is a foundational premise of
design, and it’s deeply important (and thanks to our sense of
humor usually quite memorable). The letters, of course,
You read about it
So I’m going to give these to you in my words,
along with a few quick examples, so you can
get a good sense of how it works.
Basically stated, contrast means that things that are
similar look similar but things that are different look
clearly different. This keeps your reader from
becoming confused and creating relationships that
It comes, of course, from literal contrast, the light-to-dark
or black-to-white of an image. In design it often ends
up being about color values.
This image is
it is also a
hyperlink to a
contrast, if you
want to learn
Maybe the easiest of these four concepts to
define, repetition is, just as you’d guess,
repeating something– a color, a logo, a
typeface, a type style.
It unifies and organizes.
Alignment is about positioning on a page.
Nothing should be put on haphazardly. There
should be a reason and a measurement that
guides where things are placed in relation to
The image to the right links
to a post that has some cool
reflection on alignment.
And there’s all
going on with
Proximity is very similar in theory to
alignment, but it’s more about grouping and
use of white space.
Basically: similar things are grouped together,
different things require space.
… I want us to engage the readings and really sort of grapple
with them, but as you might guess, if we tried to grapple with
every part of all five of those readings we’d end up sitting here
a long, long time grappling with a big ol’ bunch of ideas.
So I’m going to suggest a strategy– pull key ideas and illustrate
how they work/see if we can convert them to a sort of tool, or
a roadmap, if you will, to understanding visual rhetoric.
Something like this:
Barthes challenges us thusly:
“Now even– and above all if– the image is in a certain manner the
limit of meaning, it permits the consideration of a veritable ontology
of the process of signification. How does meaning get into the image?
Where does it end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?”
.. Images carry meaning. But how’d the meaning GET
there, Barthes asks us to consider.
Kress tells us:
“The approach from Social Semiotics not only draws attention
to the many kinds of meanings which are at issue in design,
but the “social” in “Social Semiotics” draws attention to the
fact that meanings always relate to specific societies and their
cultures, and to the meanings of the members of those
These images have meaning…
…because we know them.
They emerge from our culture and are reinforced by our culture.
That isn’t this, is it? =
Or is it?
Benjamin, who I promise is not the bad guy from Apt Pupil even if
he looks like him, reminds us:
“In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Manmade artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were
made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing
their works, and, ﬁnally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain.”
Wysocki reminds us:
“Because we have all grown up in densely visually constructed
environments, usually with little overt instruction or awareness of
how the construction takes place, it is easy to think of the visual
elements of texts as simply happening or appearing…as though…
television sitcoms were the result of a camera crew following a
typical family through their day.”
This remind you of your friends
And these are just normal people
enjoying normal products
What Wysocki would ask us to do
..ask why. Think about why those images are chosen.
And maybe more importantly… why don’t people
think about it/why isn’t it sort of a big deal to most
Now it’s your turn
Break into five groups. That should mean 5 per group.
Once you’re grouped, from my podium going clockwise around the
Group 1: Kress
Group 2: Barthes
Group 3: Wysocki, Eyes
Group 4: Benjamin
Group 5: Wysocki, Meaning of Texts
Pick between no less than 1 and no more than 3 main ideas, support
them with source quotes, and find examples for discussion. As you
finish, email me your materials: firstname.lastname@example.org
I want us to use our new-found knowledge of
C.R.A.P.– which you will read a bit more of– to do a
little really basic Photoshop work. What I need you to
do is gather the following, quickly– let’s take no more
than 4 minutes to do this.
1. A photo of yourself
2. A movie poster you like
Is to put yourself into the movie poster. I will walk you
through one way to do it, on the overhead, but if you’re an
advanced Photoshop user, you will realize there are more
elegant alternative ways to do this. When you finish, post
whatever you managed to put together to your Tumblr. That
will require you saving as a png or jpg. I can show you how to
do that if you’re not familiar.
As you think about next week…
DO NOT FORGET THE IN-DESIGN TUTORIAL!
DON’T FORGET IT!
For next week, read:
Read for class: Golombisky & Hagen chapters 1-6
and Norman “Why Designers Go Astray” from The Design of
Everyday Things (on Niihka)