A written analysis allows writers to explore the discrete parts of some thing—in this case, several visual artifacts—to better understand the whole and how it communicates its message.
We should also consider how the image(s) appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos, and why. Consider, for example, how most advertisements rely on an appeal to pathos--or emotion--to persuade consumers to buy their project. Some ads will use humor to do so. Others will evoke patriotism to persuade consumers to purchase a product (suggesting buying a certain product will make them a good American).
This particular analysis will allow students to focus on visual materials relating to their career of interest to better understand how messages related to their field are composed and presented. This project will grant students the means to evaluate qualitative and quantitative arguments in the visual artifacts as well as interpret the claims made and supporting reasons. The project also will allow students to research discipline-specific and professional visual resources.
The audience for the analysis is an audience with comparable knowledge on the topic. Students should define and explain any terminology or jargon used that may be difficult for a general audience to understand.
Begin the essay by finding at least two examples of images relating to your intended future field of study (or a field that you are interested in learning more about). Use the Visual Analysis Planning Sheet to record your observations about the images. You will describe the images in great detail.
You will also need to research and find out who made the images, when, why and for what purpose. (This is called the rhetorical situation).
The essay should also explain what the purpose and intent of the images is and if there are any implicit messages (hidden messages) as well. An ad for Coca-Cola sells soda, but it also might imply something about family values. A public service announcement about hand-washing might also imply a sense of fear about pathogens and the spread of viruses from abroad. You should explore such obvious and hidden messages in your essay.
After describing all the key components, you’ll consider whether or not the images succeed at their goal or purpose and what these images suggest about how the field communicates its messages. See the Visual Analysis Planning Sheet for more help: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HUa4_XZ84svJPJ2Ppe5TTIK20Yp7bd-h/edit
Suggested Organization of Visual Analysis Essay
I. Introduction (1 paragraph) - should contain a hook (attention-grabber), set the context for the essay, and contain your thesis statement (described below).
a. Thesis statement: State what two images are being analyzed and what your overall claim is about them. The thesis should make a claim about the images such as whether they are effective or ineffective at communicating their message.
II. Explain the Rhetorical Situation of both images: (2 paragraphs) Begin by discussing what is being advertised or displayed, who made it (company, artist, writer, etc.), who is the target audience, where and when the image was published and shared, and where the image was made (country). Provide these details for both images being discussed and analyzed.
III. Description of both images (4-8 paragraphs). Discuss each image in full detail, providing the following details about both:
a. Describe what appears in the image. Be as detailed as possible.
b. Discuss the primary color choice used and what mood these colors create.
c. Explain the overall layout and organization of each image.
d. Discuss the use of wording in the visual image. What font is used, what color, and size is the font.
e. Explain what the message in the visual actually says and what this message means/indicates/asks of viewers and readers.
F. Discuss any other relevant information (from the planning worksheet or anything you think is noteworthy.
IV. Discussion and Evaluation(2-4 paragraphs) - Synthesizing your findings,and analyze what you think the smaller details accomplish.
V. Conclusion (1 paragraph) - should contain both a recap of your response, as well as a closing statement in regards to your overall response to the chosen essay. Include a conclusion that reviews the messages the images make and offer a conclusion that combines the results of your findings and why they matter.
To write a visual analysis, you must look closely at a visual object—and translate your visual observations into written text. However, a visual analysis does not simply record your observations. It also makes a claim about the images. You will describe the images in detail and then offer an analysis of what the images communicate at the surface level. You will also highlight any implicit messages that the images communicate. (Use Visual Analysis Planning Sheet). Students should begin the project by taking detailed notes about the images. Review every component of each image. Be precise. Consider the composition, colors, textures, size, space, and other visual and material attributes of the images. Go beyond your first impressions. This should take some time—allow your eye to absorb the image. Making a sketch of the work can help you understand its visual logic.
Below are some helpful resources to aid in creating your Visual Analysis Essay.