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Rhetorical Analysis Paper

This assignment asks you to build a collection of visual designs and make observations about the rhetorical strategies that different designs use. In categorizing these strategies, you can start thinking about the rhetorical decisions you want to make in your own texts. While there are many steps along the way, the end product for this project is a 3-5 page rhetorical analysis paper. The details are found below.

Step 1--due 9/29 in discussion
Collect 10 designed texts from at least 3 genres of design (so 30 designs total, 10 per genre) and bring them to class. By "designed texts" I mean a mix of words and/or images on paper that are intended to stand alone and to serve some particular purpose. Consider using advertising, newspaper layouts, pages from textbooks, menus, book covers, political ads, DVD covers, menus, etc. By "genre" I mean some category of design that makes sense to you--consider things such as watch ads, soup labels, university websites, hip hop artist teeshirts, etc....

Step 2--due 9/30 in lecture
During discussion on Wednesday 9/29, you will write down your observations of the compositional strategies used in the categories you've identified. Bring this list of compositional strategies AND your designs to lecture on 10/5. Feel free to add to your list before lecture.

Step 3--due 10/5 in lecture
By the end of our second week together, you should have three genres of design, and a list of the rhetorical strategies you noticed in each genre of design. For Tuesday, 10/5, I'm asking you to have picked ONE genre from your designs. Pick the one you want to write about (see step 5 for more information). Once you pick a genre, you may discard the rest. Now, find five more designs that you consider to be part of this category. Say you're working with political websites and you've gathered 10 of them and written a list of the rhetorical strategies they have in common. Now, I want you to find 5 more websites that you feel fit--mostly--within the category you've discovered. Don't worry if there are some outlying strategies, this might prove fruitful for your paper (meaning you find a political website, but it doesn't use an image of the mountains like the rest of them, that's OK!). Bring all 15 designs to class on 10/5.

Step 4--due 10/6 peer review in discussion
Draft of paper due in discussion. See Step 5 for final paper details.

Step 5, The Final Paper--due October 12
You now have 15 designs from one genre. Draw upon the rhetorical terminology we've been using in this section (look back at our readings and your notes) and write a paper that not only explains the design similarities and differences, but more importantly explains WHY you believe these strategies are at play within your category. YOU DO NOT NEED TO CITE ALL DESIGNS. Look at your list of strategies and consider how each of these strategies function rhetorically. Do the design strategies work to create an ethical appeal (ethos)? a pathetic appeal (pathos)? or a logical appeal (logos)? (or a little of each?) HOW do they work to create this appeal? Who is the audience for these designs, what ideologies are at play for this audience, and why might these types of appeals work? Is there a particular kairotic (kairos) moment that brings forth these particular visual appeals?

It is key that you do the following:

  1. Include a clear thesis statement
  2. Explain the genre of texts you chose (consider what makes them a genre)
  3. Describe the purpose of your texts
  4. Describe the audience of your texts, thinking about what ideologies circulate for this group
  5. Describe what type of appeals are at play within your category. Do all the texts within your category use the same appeal? Why might this be? Are there outliers? Why might this be?
  6. Have a clear point and argument throughout the piece. (eg: While the McDonalds brand seemingly has little in common with natural foods, their print advertisements frequently include images of natural settings. By examining the design strategies found in four different print advertisements, this paper argues that McDonalds subtly incorporates pastoral images into their ads so as to create a pathetic appeal, thus softening their image as a purveyor of unnatural, unhealthy living.)



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