Visual-verbal rhetoric

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Visual-verbal rhetoric

classical rhetoric persuasion moods and feelings the interaction of speech and picture the semiotic approach the cognitive function of rhetoric rhetorical figures

Literary rhetoric Rhetoric is one of the scarcely researched areas of design, although the designer is confronted with rhetorical phenomena in his daily work. Owing to its origin in classical Antiquity, rhetoric is encumbered with tradition. At first it does not appear suitable for the study of modern communications, which is primarily based on retinal space, and the interplay of text and picture, sound and music. Seduction Rhetoric can be called a set of seductive heuristics, used to influence feelings and moods in the person to whom the message is addressed. Humberto Maturana defines feelings in this way: “Biologically, feelings are physical dispositions through which domains of action are determined or characterized. Feelings are bodily processes through which the areas of action are specified within which we move.” 1 Feelings, moods, attitudes Feelings are phenomena of short duration, which interrupt the flow of everyday actions. For instance, when a car suddenly skids on an icy road,


are generally of longer duration. In Antiquity rhetoric was practised as an art of speaking mainly in three areas: politics. Rhetorics covered the structure. That can be explained as due to the lack of an analytical. moods and attitudes of the user by employing visual means assigned to formal and semantic categories to convey messages. practice is much more advanced than theory. visual distinctions. insofar as they tried to induce certain moods in their listeners and bring about decisions using language and gesture. compared with the maturity of literary rhetoric. It can be divided into two areas. Three areas of rhetoric Rhetoric is the domain of logomachy. on the other hand. in legal proceedings and on solemn occasions. rhetorica docens. sign systems. maps. In the design field. interfaces for computer programmes) bypass the essential in that they treat the visual components as a secondary element. Persons in political. and infodesign (diagrams. Gui Bonsiepe . firstly persuasive means. the stylistic formulation. among other things. He influences the feelings.fright passes as soon as the danger is over. Any means that would contribute to the desired end was deemed appropriate. They are concerned with an approach to future possibilities of action. scientific illustrations. Visual differentiation The designer is a specialist in. advertising. Visual rhetoric is in a rudimentary state. depending on the policy and strategy the company is using to present itself. descriptive set of instruments. The language-based rhetorical analyses of mass media. law and religious discourse. Moods. legal and religious life were most adept at rhetoric. the method of delivery (diction) and the gestures of speakers at public assemblies. A depression is a mood characterized by the fact that there seem to be no future prospects. Specialists in advertising and corporate identity direct their rhetorical techniques to creating certain attitudes in the public or breaking them down. rhetorica utens.Interface 70 . and everyday cultural semantics. the battle with words. video clips. and secondly the description and analysis of persuasive means.

.When people are forced to do something rhetoric is superfluous. insult and offence. rhetoric is the right place for “.. but the terminology is based in Ancient Greek and Latin languages. A situation with a low density of information has been replaced by a situation with high density.. making it difficult to work with these definitions..As K.” 2 The purpose of rhetoric Rhetoric is generally defined as the art of persuasion. Information anxiety and the cognitive function of rhetoric The flood of verbal and visual messages produced and distributed in industrial societies creates what Richard S. Burke said. Wurman has termed ‘information anxiety’. or the study of the means of persuasion that are available for a given situation. Where there is coercion. It must be asked whether we need a new approach to rhetoric that would take into account modern semiotics. rhetoric is not even possible. particularly for underlying cunning and deliberate lies. The purpose of rhetoric is the efficient use of language in order to shape attitudes in others and influence their behaviour. who says rhetoric is directed to a person who is free: “. With such conditions. for quarrelsomeness and conflict. it was never a concern in classical rhetoric. rhetoric is not necessary. 71 Visual-verbal rhetoric . for cunning and lies. ” 3 Semiotics The textbooks on rhetoric offer a wide range of subtle classifications. cognitive function to rhetoric. Again we can quote Burke. Since the combination of text and picture available in modern communications was technically impossible in antiquity. Where there is constraint. one could ascribe a new. where rhetorical means are used to clarify contexts and reduce cognitive entropy. Persuasion presupposes the possibility of choosing.

. They are defined as “. related to the meaning of a word. Figures of speech can be divided into two classes: • • word figures. the shape and the words a new meaning or a new use. These possibilities. more lively and more penetrating. or the position of the words in the sentence thought figures. namely. especially to trace arguments heuristics on the classification of the material collected prescriptions and recommendations on the stylistic formulation of the structured material heuristics for learning texts by heart recommendations on diction and gesture The techniques in the third point that include the stylistic properties of texts are the most important for an analysis of advertising messages. in order to make speech more pleasing. Proceeding from the fact that one can distinguish between two aspects of a sign. Semiotic terminology enables the figures of speech to be clearly classified.” 5 Rhetorical figures of speech In the traditional view a rhetorical figure of speech is one that differs from normal usage to make the communication more effective. inherent in language.Interface 72 .Five distinctions Classical rhetoric is divided into five main areas: • • • • • heuristics.. to collect materials. one can identify two types of rhetorical figures..the art of saying something in a new way” 4 and as “.. related to the formation and arrangement of the information. A rhetorical figure can be based on: • • an operation with the shape of a sign (syntactic figure) or an operation with the meaning of the sign (semantic figure). have always made rhetoric appear Gui Bonsiepe . These stylistic properties are expressed mainly in the form of rhetorical figures or tropes.

In any case. This is to cast a shadow on the work of the neo-positivists in semiotics. 6 Note on the catalogue of visual/verbal figures The following is a list of visual/verbal rhetorical figures that was originally drawn up in 1964 for a seminar at the Institute of Design in Ulm (hochschule für gestaltung. Influenced by French semiotics. They brand rhetoric as a source of misunderstandings. pure information is an abstraction for the graphic designer. of sloppy speech and falsification. which in turn was oriented to Peirce and Morris.dubious.but that is a moot point. It was based on the semiotic work of Tomás Maldonado.” 7 This essay was probably the first attempt systematically to apply the terminological distinctions of verbal rhetoric to visual communication. About this Maldonado said: “Occasionally certain histories of semiotics of a structuralist kind give the impression that only de Saussure and Hjelmslev have worked in the field that separates Peirce from Barthes and Greimas. leads to the breakdown of communication. ulm). influence against informing/teaching. seems to them to be a defect. On the other hand. The advocates of a purified language of scholarship see rhetoric as no more than a compendium of verbal tricks. In language philosophy. Communication without rhetoric. In this view rhetoric is only a decorative adjunct of the information conveyed. the general field of semiotics has become rooted in language and lost a good part of its analytical potential. but it remained an isolated undertaking. which completely ignores all the work of Peirce and Morris. the everyday language against the language of scholarship. The flexibility of language expressed in metaphor. for example. if not actually criminal. A 73 Visual-verbal rhetoric . the process of rhetorical infiltration starts. That argument assumes that human communication is possible without rhetoric . persuasion is played off against information. aseptic com-munication as it were. and also to create new distinctions. advocates of rhetoric argue that the many layers of meaning of spoken language inevitably result from the dynamic of language and are an essential means of human communication. The moment the information is shaped or made sensually perceptible.

taking it literally. instrument instead of result. one is selected in order to illustrate the ideas associated with it (associative context). e. typogram: the meaning of the typographic signs is illustrated by these signs. synecdoche (pars pro toto): a part indicating the whole.rhetorical approach can still lead to a deeper understanding of the phenomena that a graphic designer confronts daily. the contents of which go beyond the usual measure. specification: a visual sign is accompanied by a minimum of text in order to make it clear and narrow it down semantically. cause instead of effect. List of visual/verbal figures analogy: a verbal comparison is transferred to the visual sphere with equivalent semantic signs. parallelism: visual and verbal signs relate to the same meaning. visual-verbal negation: the meaning of a sequence of words is illustrated by a visual opposite. understatement: verbal understatement is made visual. The syntactic linking suggests a semantic connection.Interface . metonym: a meaning indicated verbally is set in relation to another meaning. exaggeration: meaning is visualized through signs. 74 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Gui Bonsiepe . (Often the name of the firm making the product is used). producer instead of product.g. associative transfer (link) or mediation: from a number of verbal signs. visual-verbal comparison: two meanings are compared visually through the mediation of language. so to speak. exemplification: meaning indicated verbally is illustrated visually. The text is. fusion: a visual sign is incorporated in a supersign owing to its formal qualities. so to speak. based on a thematic connection. short-circuited with the typographic signs. metaphoric reversal: the tension between primary and secondary meaning is utilized so that the visual signs show the original meaning.

That would bring us closer to what Donald Schön has called ‘the reflective practitioner’. pp. Milano: Feltrinelli 1992. Quintilian. This is a revised and shortened version of the article first published in the periodical of the hfg ulm (Institute of Design Ulm) 14/15/16 (1965). 12. Richards. this rough outline of static visual/verbal rhetoric needs to be supplemented by the dynamic rhetoric found in computer graphics (animation. 19. their translation to other languages is limited. What can be a rhetorical figure in English may not be so in German. London: Marion Boyars 1978. cit. Kenneth. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. p. New York 1955. but also to understand what they are doing. Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik. Emociones y lenguaje en educación y politica. 50. K. the practitioner who thinks about what he is doing. New York 1950. p. Decoding Advertisements. Santiago: La Hachette 1990. The work of Judith Williamson. Tomás. I. not only to improve what they are doing. 63n. loc. A Rhetoric of Motives. p.. that is. deals with a higher contextual interpretation.. 75 Visual-verbal rhetoric .A. Burke. Munich 1949. p. p. It should help designers. Moreover. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Maturana. Lausberg. Reale e virtuale. and vice versa. 40. This is a large field for design research. Humberto. The study presented here deals with the lowest level of rhetorical figures.Open questions Since rhetorical figures are part of everyday language. picture sequences and their transitions).. 15 and 88. Maldonado.

” The quality of the tape is set in analogy to a current of air flowing from the loudspeaker. The ideas are shown through a means with which they can be recorded on paper. a metonym. Analogy and exaggeration “After 500 plays our high fidelity tape still delivers high fidelity.Interface 76 . Analogy and metaphor “Announcing The Birth of a New PublicationEnvironment Quality Magazine. Exaggeration and specification “It also sticks handles to teapots” The ‘it’ is specified as a glue.” The publication of a new magazine is set as an analogy like a chicken emerging from its shell. Moreover. and its strength is visualized by an automobile stuck to a poster on a wall. Average advertising is visualized by unsharpened pencils. another rhetorical figure is included here.Examples Analogy “We sell sharp ideas” The sharpened pencil corresponds to the ‘sharp’ ideas. It is so strong that the listener has to cling to his chair. Gui Bonsiepe .

is visualized by the instrument used to tickle the laugh . exaggeration and rhetorical question “How many reasons do you need to cut out blades?” Cuts are shown verbally through the word ‘blades’.” is concluded visually (by showing a plug and a socket that do not match. 77 Visual-verbal rhetoric . Metonymy.. and the word ‘cut’ also suggests doing without them. but what is in it. The rows of hats visualize the different kinds of holiday on offer. The comparison that starts verbally: “.better informed than.. so the information channel will not function). Synecdoche combined with a comparison and a rhetorical question “Have you ever wished you were better informed?” The television or radio cable represents a channel of information.” The headgear stands for what is in the head. List combined with metonym “For ‘Me Too’ Holidaymakers it is not what is on your head that counts.Metonym “Guaranteed to make you laugh” The effect of being tickled ..

Interface 78 .” The primary meaning of the expression ‘attitude’ is visualized in an exaggeration. Exaggeration and metonym “Temptation beyond endurance.” The impossibility of resisting the temptation of the peanuts is visualized in the broken shop window. Gui Bonsiepe . Visual-verbal comparison and metonym “Many people drink König-Pilsener. Or something that is just as good.Gouda cheese.Visual-verbal comparison.” The historical masterpiece by Vermeer is compared with a contemporary Dutch masterpiece . Comparison with metaphoric reversal “For quality colour prints you need the right attitude.” The quality of the drink is visualized in a metonym (the cap of the beer bottle) and visualized through the comparison with the champagne cork. combined with a ‘quotation’ “Contemporary Dutch Masterpiece.

the transition from full to empty. metaphoric reversal and rhetorical question “Are just two sides of the question enough?” The question is visualized through the question mark.Parallelism “You never run out of air” The air that is always available is visualized through a homogeneous. Typogram “Full? . Metaphoric reversal and rhetorical question “Is just the top of the news enough?” The primary meaning of the word sequence ‘top of the news’ is taken literally in the visualization (top of the letters). The primary meaning of the ‘two sides of the question’ is taken literally in the reversed question marks arranged symmetrically. 79 Visual-verbal rhetoric . Synecdoche. light-grey surface.Empty?” The letters illustrate the verbal contents .

here the cards are bent into a collar in a literal illustration of the metaphor. Fusion “Baumann Light Metal Shutters Robust and Durable. Analogy and exaggeration “It’s the most exciting fashion change in liquor industry” The change in fashion that includes the product is illustrated by the primary attribute of fashion .Interface 80 . Specification “Elizabeth Stewart Swimwear” The beach scene with two people is narrowed down from its semantic breadth to the producer. Gui Bonsiepe .” The illustration of the shutter has been integrated into a suit of armour that visualizes the verbal message.Metaphoric reversal “Geizkragen (lit.the mannequin and the rolls of fabric. tight collar = tight-fisted).” The advertisement is for information provision and punch cards.

Metaphoric reversal “The Point of a Screwdriver is Smirnoff. a cocktail. The statement that anthropometric standard values exist is negated by the illustration. the green of the traffic light “Go” and the first two letters of the name of the gin Gordon’s.” The verbal suggestion that the soap is transparent is visualized.72m high and have arms 96 cm long”.” The secondary meaning of the word ‘screwdriver’. 81 Visual-verbal rhetoric . Exemplification “Our soap has nothing to hide. is shown by illustrating the primary meaning in the picture of a screwdriver. Visual-verbal negation “All our fork lifts are 1. Associative link “It’s got to be Gordon’s” Link between the green of the bottle.

Specification. Rhetorical question.Rhetorical question and visual analogy “Are just two shades of opinion enough?” The two shades of one opinion are set in analogy to the contrast between black and white. comparison and exaggeration “Is this how YOU want to be treated by your first bank?” Gui Bonsiepe .” The primary meaning of the verbalmetaphoric word ‘peak’ is illustrated by the pyramid of chocolate. Parallelism and fusion “We just put Jaffa for short. Fusion and metaphoric reversal “The Peak of Enjoyment. the different people who are drawn together are illustrated by the different arms and hands (a workman and a manager). Understatement and specification “That’s all we have to sell. is visualized.” Word and image both refer to the same content. which is put as a concession. The typographic signs are integrated with the surface of the fruit. synecdoche and visual comparison “That’s something we Germans have in common” The ‘something’ is shown to be brandy.” The statement.Interface 82 .

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