Lecture on Writing a Visual Analysis Essay
With this essay, you will be basically writing a rhetorical analysis on a visual text – a photo/ad (printed
advertisement from a magazine, etc.) or a short commercial (video). If using a video, the video should be
30 seconds or less. I thought it would be helpful to give you a few notes on analyzing a visual format.
We do this every day, but mostly subconsciously. On a daily basis, you are probably analyzing websites,
photos, brochures, and advertisements. In this course, you will analyze both written and visual texts, but
in addition to analyzing audience, purpose, and context, you will also need to discuss these by focusing
on the visual elements of the work.
• Consider the ad’s rhetorical situation, which is its intended audience, purpose, and context or
Who is this ad for?
What message is the company or organization trying to send?
How might people see this ad?
Where and when will they see it?
• Think about how the visual elements achieve their goal for the intended audience, purpose, and
context. Visual elements might include the following:
Colors and shading
Objects and shapes
People and places
Composition and arrangement of elements on the page or screen
The focus of the camera (for both still or video)
Foreground and background
• The Introduction
Include the name of the ad: “The Mean Joe Green” Coca-Cola ad or “Lyndon B. Johnson
Daisy Girl” campaign ad.
Include an overview of the ad and the desired purpose or goal of the ad.
Thoughts or feelings evoked.
Actions suggested by the ad.
Your thesis should argue how the ad achieves the response it desires from viewers and
guide the structure of your essay, based on some of the above elements. Ex: “The Mean
Joe Green” Coca-Cola advertisement uses rhetorical appeals and visual aspects to
convey that drinking their product can bring people together and provide happiness to
consumers. Your thesis could be more prescriptive and have three elements to set up a
five-paragraph essay, but a somewhat open-ended thesis like the one above will work.
• The Body
Based on my example above, I could then do a number of things in the body paragraphs.
For example A body paragraph on the appeal to pathos (emotion). A body paragraph on
perspective or point of view (from the kid’s point of view). A body paragraph on the
music and graphics at the end (an appeal to logos or pathos). A body paragraph on the
symbolism of the jersey being tossed to the kid and all that it implies (bringing people
• These are just some examples. You do not want to try and cover everything. Choose one
the point that the ad is trying to make and use your body paragraphs to support your claim, and be
sure to transition between paragraphs.
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