Visual arguments use images to engage viewers and persuade them to accept a particular idea or point of view.

The visual Rhetorical argument


Instructor Howard Cuadros

Rhetoric 1302.003


What are Visual Rhetorical Arguments?

Visual arguments use images to engage viewers and persuade them to accept a particular idea or point of view.


How do we analyze Photographs?

Reading Photographs,

Is a scene or situation depicted?

Identify the figures in the photos

What details of scene or person(s) carry significance?

How does the photographs make you feel?

(Gooch and Seyler 155)

Political Cartoon

Published: 4/20/17

How do we analyze Political Cartoons?

What scene is depicted?

Identify each of the figures in the cartoon

Who speaks the lines in the cartoon?

What is the cartoon’s general subject?

( Gooch and Seyler 156) The Schusev State Museum of Architecture reveals the secrets of Moscow’s monuments. For the project “Discover the Full Story” the creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi has developed an ad campaign for the Schusev State Museum of Architecture. The goal of the campaign is to promote this amazing museum that holds a collection reflecting the thousand-year architectural heritage of Russia. Front and center in this project are key historical buildings that stand as true symbols of the city: the main building of Moscow State University, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and the Bolshoi Theater. This initiative demonstrates that beneath the facade of every building lies an entire history. What most people know about this history is just the tip of the iceberg. The project focuses the attentions of Muscovites and tourists alike on the history of Moscow and the city’s architectural heritage, inviting visitors to the museum to learn the full story of our city’s buildings. The images for the campaign are widely used in the press, in outdoor advertising and on stickers in the metro.

How do we analyze Advertisements?

What product or service is being advertised?

Who seems to be the targeted audience?

What is the ad’s primary strategy?

To provide information?

To reinforce the product’s or company’s image?

To appeal to needs and desires?

Does this ad use specific rhetorical strategies such as humor, understatement, or irony?

What is the relationship between the visual and text in the ad?

What is the ad’s overall visual impression?

( Gooch and Seyler 157)

Graphics: How do we analyze them?

Study Graphics in tandem with the text.

Read the title or heading of the graphic.

Read any notes etc

Study the labels and the information.

Draw conclusions

What does the author accomplish by including these figures?

How are they significant (to the argument)?

( Gooch and Seyler 162)

How do you judge the authority of statistics?

Is the authority an expert in the field?

Is the work current?

Is the individual in possession of credible credentials?

Do other experts generally agree?

( Gooch and Seyler 161)

The Visual Essay

The Visual Rhetorical Analysis assignment asks you to select a photograph, print advertisement, and/or work of art and analyze its features to discover a deeper meaning. Just like a written text, a visual communicates meaning on a deeper level beyond merely the literal. Your essay will illuminate this meaning thereby helping your audience understand your interpretation of the image.


You will want to describe the image and/or give background to the visual you choose.

For example:

The Crisis relief is an organization that provides help to Asian countries in times of crisis. They train volunteers, raise awareness, and partner with other organizations to better help those in need. They produced an image that raises awareness about a present issue. In just black and white, a young distressed child is in the arms of a motherly figure. Even though the motherly figure’s face is covered, the emotion of the child’s pain is very apparent. The background looks unsanitary, as do the tattered clothes the young boy is wearing. The women’s body language is very nurturing, even with the pain the boy is in, the women seems collected. Around them are hands with thumbs up, along with the text, “Liking isn’t helping” and “Be a volunteer, Change a life”. This image targets users of social media through ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade them to change a life by volunteering.

Thesis statement

In thinking about your thesis statement, you may want to figure what type of rhetorical devices were used to evoke a response from the viewer.

An easy suggestion would be to use each paragraph to explain how logos, pathos, and ethos are used in your image.

Sample thesis statements

The series of photographs effectively invites contemporary viewers to reconsider their assumptions about the relationship between humans and the environment. In particular, the photographer’s use of scale, contrast, and composition work together seamlessly to disrupt viewers’ expectations, thereby providing an alternative perspective on the current state of our natural resources.

*Author is explicit about the three points for the body paragraphs

*Readers can expect to read about all three in order.

Sample thesis statements

On its surface, The Social Network entertains viewers with a story about the origins of Facebook. Embedded within this larger narrative, however, is an argument about class relations, as Fincher’s film utilizes key rhetorical strategies to invite viewers to share in the critique of college students’ perspectives on what it means to be successful in the 21st Century.

*Though we know that the focus is on rhetorical strategies, it is unclear which ones.

*This is an excellent start, but specificity is needed.

Sample Body Paragraph

The rhetorical tool of pathos is a complex one as it relates to the emotions a human can feel when he/she reads certain words or sees certain things and sadness or despair is one of the strongest emotions that can be felt. The characters in the image are woman and a kid lying unconscious in her arms and this evokes a keen sense of despair from the viewers as this image has the power to mirror the relationship between a mother and her child—one of the most meaningful relationships for a human being. This image is particularly effective at using the tool of pathos because of the human ability to empathize—after viewing the image the audience likely place themselves in the shoes of the mother or child in order to truly understand the terrible plight of humans in disaster torn countries. Furthermore, the image caption “liking isn’t helping” effectively targets the human ability to feel shame as this image speaks out to the privileged and capable humans of the world in order to get them to make tangible efforts to help the underprivileged; it is implied by the caption that sitting in front of the computer on social media (i.e. Facebook) and “liking/commenting” on pictures is inherently useless to the needy as they cannot improve their lives on the basis of the amount of “likes” their situation receives. According to the image, every “like” or “share” that a picture receives serves to only highlight the egregious indolence that modern humans display in times where action and cooperation is required.


Do not spend most of your paper describing the ad. Remember, you must do so in a cursory manner so that your audience understands what you are referencing, but your purpose is to explain what strategies the ad employs to evoke a response.

Do not talk about if you disagree or agree. Your purpose is to explain how the ad does what it does.

Visual Analysis paper

Must be in MLA format

12-point font; Times New Roman

Pagination (last name included)

Works Cited page (if you use outside sources)

Outline due September 16th

Rough Draft (introduction/thesis/first body paragraph) due September 23rd

Final Draft due September 30th

Next week

MLA Format

Finding Sources

Thesis statement writing

Outlining Workshop

Works Cited

Gooch, John, and Dorothy Seyler. Argument!. Second edition. McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2015.

Liking isn’t helping