Rhetorical Analysis–Image

How do images convey a message? How should students and scholars alike evaluate the effectiveness of a visual text? As a composer and analyzer of texts, it is important to keep in mind that authors often choose to use visual images to convey ideas. Whether composing or analyzing an image, consider how each of these elements contributes to the overall effectiveness of the message of the visual text.

When analyzing an image, it is imperative not to simply list what is in the image. Example: “There is a sad looking puppy in a cage.” Anyone can make this observation. Instead, use the following questions/prompts to analyze rather than describe the image.

  • What is the genre of the visual text? Example: comic strip, painting, digital image
  • What is the function, or purpose of the image? (to persuade, inform, entertain,etc)
  • Who is the intended audience of the image? How does the image work to address the specific audience or audiences?
  • Does the visual text contain one image or a series of images? If there is more than one image, how has the author arranged the images? How does the image (or set of images) convey the author’s message?
  • What is the emphasis, or focal point, of the image? What are some of the things that you first notice about the image? What requires a closer look before becoming apparent?
  • How does the design of the image convey the message? Think about the picture(s) itself, shapes, colors, size, etc.
  • Is there text in the image? If so, what does the text say? How does the text relate (or not relate) to the content of the image? What is the font, size, and style of the text? How does the written text enhance (or take away from) the overall effectiveness of the author’s message?
  • What rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) does the author use in the image? How does the author portray these appeals (image, text, design elements, etc)?
  • What is the overall effectiveness of the image? What is the combined effect of all of the visual text’s elements on the portrayal of the author’s message?

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