Typography as symbol

October 15, 2009

berryland Typography — all of it — has symbolic value, a symbolic power. Most type is meant to be read, however; it is a medium, mediating communication for and to us. Type that screams, “Look at me! Look at me!” rarely is a good type choice. Readers should rarely even notice the type, like referees or umpires, instead interacting immediately with the message the type is carrying or delivering.

So, for Monday, 10 Visual Rhetoric students will do one of two typography mini-projects, five each. Half of the class in each section will imagine themselves a part of one of the following two scenarios:

1. You are running for election for president/emperor/empress/czar of BerryLand, a fictitious wonderland of 28,000 (really noisy) acres in NW Georgia. Develop or choose a typography you will use in your campaign, just as Obama chose Gotham, a type designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

1. Type up and submit a paragraph explaining why you chose what you did, and how it symbolizes or communicates your values or qualities as a candidate. Think of key words, like “trust,” “transparency,” “stability” or “change.” Spend some time thinking about what qualities you would want associated with your campaign. Spend some time researching type sets. Include a sample of your type choice with your submission.


2. You have just been put in charge of Google’s Android phone project, a handheld phone made to compete with the iPhone. You have to choose or develop a type the phone will exclusively use. This is type, then, for a very small display space. Type up and submit a paragraph explaining why you chose what you did, and how the type is appropriate if not ideal for the phone’s display. Include a sample of your type choice with your submission.

Where to find type sets:

Due: Bring in to class Monday, March 22 (after Spring Break)

Persuasion in advertising

October 9, 2009

bc_tvFor our next safari in Visual Rhetoric, half of us will be looking for print ads, specifically one that uses stereotype and one that conspicuously avoids stereotype.

For the latter, this should be an ad that could have used a stereotype but that did not, or one that turns a stereotype on its head (overweight or “thick” or eldlerly fashion models, for example, or objectifying men). Don’t simply clip an ad that doesn’t have a stereotype in it, like an ad with simply a photo of a bottle of Coke.  You want an ad that goes out of its way to avoid stereotype or to counter stereotype.

For your reports to class, clip or copy the ad and type up a statement identifying the stereotype or counter-stereotype.

The other half of us will be viewing an hour of national network programming, either during primetime or during a live, prominent sports event, and charting the ads for their persuasive methodologies. This means viewing the ad and noting what of the Aristotelian model of persuasion the advertiser is employing. This model offers three components to persuasion:

  • Ethos: credibility of the source (look for celeb endorsers)
  • Logos: the logical arguments used to persuade (good luck finding this one)
  • Pathos: emotional appeals used to persuade (this is mostly what you will see)

As you’re viewing, ask yourselves: What did I learn about financial planning in this ad (or insurance, or cars or trucks)? What did I learn about anything? How much of the appeal is pure emotion, an experience. (In terms of emotions used or stirred by advertisers, aspiration or hope, belonging and fear are the favorites.) Where is there logos? Where does the ethos come from? The brand? A celebrity? Or the mere fact that it’s on TV, which is a circular logic.

But for your report to the class, simply chart the product being sold and what was used to attempt to persuade (ethos, logos and/or pathos). The emphasize here is the exercise of thinking about what we’re viewing and how we’re being persuaded.