A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Visual rhetoric is the study of how document design (including the use of illustrations, charts and graphs, typography and layout) communicate, as opposed to aural or verbal messages. Visual rhetoric examines also the relationship between images and writing.



A Visual and Social Analysis of Optometric Record-Keeping Practices   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article investigates the contribution visual rhetoric and rhetorical genre studies (RGS) can make to health care education and communication genres. Through a visual rhetorical analysis of a patient record used in an optometry teaching clinic, this article illustrates that a genre's visual representations provide significant insights into the social action of that genre. These insights are deepened by an insider analysis of the patient record that highlights how content analyses of visual designs need to be elaborated by contextual considerations. A combined visual rhetoric and RGS analysis shows that clinical novices learn to interpret the record's visual cues to safely traverse the complex requirements of this apprenticeship genre. The article demonstrates that visual rhetoric research can meaningfully contribute to the understanding of genres by presenting an enriched contextual analysis achieved by consulting with context insiders.

Varpio, Lara, Marlee M. Spafford, Catherine F. Schryer and Lorelei Lingard. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Blogs

Native to the Internet and personal in approach, weblogs deliver bite-sized portions of information on a daily basis to an ever expanding audience. Weblogs are the conjunctions of the Internet: the ands, the buts the ors – they add to online conversations, refute them, or provide new perspectives altogether.

Badger, Meredith. Into the Blogosphere (2004). Articles>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>Blogging


Visual Communication and Web Application Design

In order for a Web application to be "usable", it must be understandable. It needs to communicate, and communicate effectively. When a user interacts with a Web application they have only the visual presentation (the interface) to "tell" them what the application has to offer, and how they can make use of it. As a result, designers must rely on visual communication principles to tell our audience: about the behavior, structure, and purpose of our Web applications. The better at communicating we are, the easier it is for our audience to understand our messages and intentions, and the easier it is for them to use and appreciate our Web applications.

Wroblewski, Luke. Functioning Form (2005). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Communication Stem Overview   (PDF)

The field of Visual Communication is in the midst of a powerful transition driven by changing technology and a changing marketplace. Communicators are struggling with ambiguous definitions and expectations. Although visual communication has come to occupy a co-equal place with verbal communication in our field, those who identify themselves primarily as visual communicators are still a distinct minority in STC.

Brock, Cynthia J. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Communication Stem Overview   (PDF)

A glance through the proceedings of the last several STC annual conferences strikingly reveals how rapidly the field of visual communication is evolving. Even more striking than the yearly growth in the number of sessions is the expanding range of topics. This growth reflects the explosion of methods and technologies over the past few years that have impacted our work as visual communicators. The World Wide Web is revolutionizing the field of technical communication, and advances in technology in the areas of multimedia, video, and shared working environments present a set of diverse challenges to visual communicators.

Bayer, Nancy L. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Communication Stem Overview   (PDF)

The visual practices of technical communication-the special use of graphics, page design, and typography, as well as the increasing reliance upon graphics software, multimedia technology, and data bases of various kindï¿distinguish the work we do from related forms of professional and academic communication. Though Visual Communication (VC) remains one of the smallest stems of the ITCC, it has traditionally offered some of the most innovative and best attended sessions of the conference. With a special emphasis on problem of design and technological change, this yearï¿s sessions should be no exception.

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Communication: Crossing International Boundaries   (PDF)

Technical communicators often produce documents that are then translated into another language. Much has been written about creating a text that is “translatable” by eliminating analogies and metaphors; using short, clear sentences; organizing information according to the cultural preference for order; and eliminating jargon. whenever possible. Because technical communicators often provide both text and graphics, such attention to the translatability of graphics is essential to producing documents that fit the cultural conventions of the country in which the document is to be used.

Bosley, Deborah S. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Language>Localization>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Communication: The Expanding Role of Technical Communicators   (PDF)

Visual communication no longer refers only to illustrating verbal information but to all aspects of designing documents. To be effective as information architects, technical communicators must understand the opportunties and limitations of developing technologies, the basics of communication in general and of visual communication in particular, especially the principles of selection, design, positioning, production, and cost of graphics.

Rainey, Kenneth T. STC Proceedings (1995). Presentations>Graphic Design>Visual>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Culture and the "Alice" Books

Illustrations were and are integral to the "Alice in Wonderland" series of books. John Tenniel (the illustrator of the definitive editions) changed how people read the "Alice" books.

Frost, Erin. Xchanges (2010). Presentations>Publishing>Visual Rhetoric>Case Studies


Visual Decision Making

User interface experts are often suspicious of the role of visual aesthetics in user interfaces—and of designers who insist that graphic emotive impact and careful attention to a site’s visual framework really contribute to measurable success. Underneath the arguments, I see a fundamental culture clash.

Lynch, Patrick. List Apart, A (2009). Articles>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>User Experience


Visual Design for the Non-Designer

What can a non-designer do to harness the power of visual design without calling professional help? Quite a lot, says internationally-regarded visual designer Dan Rubin. We called Dan to talk about what design techniques are accessible to mere mortals.

Spool, Jared M. and Dan Rubin. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Podcasts


Visual Factors in Constructing Authenticity in Weblogs

Authenticity is something which must be constructed rather than simply accruing to verbal content, and visual and other design features are an inherent, but often overlooked, factor in this construction.

Thompson, Gary. Saginaw Valley State University (2003). Articles>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>Blogging


Visual Literacy Alternative Perspectives   (PDF)

With the rush to adopt new methods of preparing graphics and the recognition that properly-prepared graphics cannot only enhance a document but may in some cases be the entire backbone of it, we need to recognize that special audiences may need extra attention when information is developed for their use. In this session, two speakers will discuss the challenges of preparing illustrated documents for pre-technological cultures and for audiences whose sight is impaired or absent. We invite you to explore these two challenges in communicating technical information.

Ausburn, Lynna J., Brea Barthel and Dart G. Peterson, Jr. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Literacy Bibliography

The study of visual communication is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional effort. People who write on this topic come from mass communication (including photography, advertising, and news editorial areas), film and cinema studies, education, art and aesthetics, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, semiotics, architecture and even archaeology. This rich melange of viewpoints is an asset because of the insights that come from cross-fertilization, however it causes some problems academically for those of us who teach visual communication because of a lack of any sense of common theory. This is not to suggest that there is or should be a central of core theory that organizes the field, however, it would be easier to order a curriculum, as well as a graduate program of study, if there were some notion of at least the important theories and scholars from the various disciplines that need to be covered. This project looks at the body of literature and the categories that emerge from the writings to develop a taxonomy of topics and some sense of the location of the most important, or at least the most frequently written about, areas of study. The objective is to collect the scholarly writing on the most central visual communication topics (mental imagery, visual thinking, the language metaphor, psychology), as well as peripheral topics that interweave with visual communication, such as sociology, anthropology, archaeology and architecture.

Moriarty, Sandra and Keith Kenney. International Visual Literacy Association. Resources>Bibliographies>Information Design>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Literacy Crash Course   (PDF)

Today, communication requires more than just pages of printed words. Producing effective documents and training requires the ability to understand, think, and communicate graphically-to be visually literate. This demonstration shows how to communicate almost anything graphically. Through creative brainstorming you will start to think visually and to translate text into graphics. By looking at numerous examples of what works and what doesn’t, you are going to learn valuable principles that you can use back on the job to refine your own graphics.

Horton, William K. III. STC Proceedings (1997). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Metadiscourse: Designing the Considerate Text   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Visual metadiscourse can provide design criteria for authors when considering the needs and expectations of readers. The linguistic concept of meta-discourse is expanded from the textual realm to the visual realm, where authors have many necessary design considerations as they attempt to help readers navigate through and understand documents. These considerations, both textual and visual, also help construct the ethos of authors, as design features reveal awareness of visual literacy and of the communication context. Visual metadiscourse complements textual metadiscourse in emphasizing the necessity of rhetoric in technical communication.

Kumpf, Eric P. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Design>Graphic Design>Rhetoric


Visual Metonymy and Synecdoche: Rhetoric For Stage-Setting Images   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The recent trend of incorporating more visuals into communication challenges technical communicators, who must now possess both verbal and visual literacy. Despite all the recent scholarship on visual aspects of technical communication, technical communicators lack thorough guidelines for selecting and composing effective images that convey thematic and conceptual information, or what Schriver calls "stage-setting" images. This article reviews existing literature in visual communication and reports results of a study that assessed readers' opinions of themes conveyed by specific example images. It then suggests that the rhetorical tropes of metonymy and synecdoche can be used to identify images for conveying certain themes, and that successful stage-setting images will show intrinsic, not extrinsic, relationships to their thematic subject matter.

Willerton, Russell. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2005). Articles>TC>Visual Rhetoric>Tropes


Visual Proofreading

We hear a lot about proofreading. And, although it is a vital part of any publication, there's another kind of proofreading that can make as much (if not more) difference in the success of your publication. Note: This is part four in a continuing series about the creative processes involved in designing a publication. I was prompted to begin this series by the discussions and questions asked by attendees of my Newsletter Design workshop recently in Dallas.

Design, Typography and Graphics (2000). Design>Graphic Design>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Repairables: Analysing the Work of Repair in Human–Computer Interaction   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article reports some (video-recorded) instances of `visual culture' in action, namely the use of a new software tool designed for the visualization of scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth in a classroom context. By considering whether or how far conversation analysis (CA) can be extended from natural conversation to cases of collaborative work in front of a computer, the article addresses the methodological question of how to study instances of visual communication. We take as an exemplar the phenomenon of remedial action and discuss how Schegloff, Jefferson and Sacks's (1977) canonical study of repair in ordinary conversation can be used to highlight aspects of `visual repair' (the identification and remedying of items on the screen). Our attempts to apply the original CA model of repair of ordinary conversation highlight the differences of this setting, which constitutes an example of collaborative work.

Greiffenhagen, Christian and Rod Watson. Visual Communication (2009). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Rhetoric

This course focuses on articulating rhetorical opportunities present in the visual turn; the role of perceptual processes, time, movement, and memory in the act of seeing; the interanimation of the verbal and the visual in representation; the circumstances of visual culture and art; visual communication in print and on the Web; and identification as a visual/rhetorical process. Is there potential to create critical verbo-visual literacy? The course explores what such definitions of literacy mean for communication, argumentation, persuasion and narration.

Salvo, Michael J. Purdue University (2004). Academic>Courses>Graduate>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Rhetoric Portal

A collection of online resources for visual rhetoric, based at York College of Pennsylvania.

Propen, Amy. York College of Pennsylvania. Resources>Directories>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Rhetoric Tutorial

This interactive tutorial is designed to supplement your use of TCTC, and provides new information and activities that will enhance your understanding of visual rhetoric. This tutorial has five main sections, Visual Rhetoric, Use of Visuals, Types of Visuals, Color, and Design. With only a few variations, each section is divided into smaller three- to five-page chapters, all arranged using three basic types of pages.

Dobrin, Sidney I., Christopher J. Keller and Christian R. Weisser. TCTC. Academic>Course Materials>Visual Rhetoric


The Visual Rhetoric Web

This page serves as a gateway for an exploration of visual rhetoric. It includes links to course materials, student projects, supplementary resources, exempla, and other web-based material.

Blakesley, David. Purdue University (2000). Resources>Directories>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Rhetoric: Literacy by Design   (PDF)

The keynote speech presented at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing 1998 Conference, 'Technology and Literacy in a Wired Academy.'

Faigley, Lester. University of Minnesota (1998). Presentations>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Visual Social Semiotics: Understanding How Still Images Make Meaning   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Presents a framework for analyzing imagery in multi-modal print documents and Web sites. Demonstrates how images and text work together to make meaning for readers/users. Provides analytical tools and tips to help choose still images to enhance textual messages.

Harrison, Claire. Technical Communication Online (2003). Articles>Rhetoric>Visual>Visual Rhetoric



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