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More Resources for Poster Analysis

posted: 9.23.09 by Traci Gardner

Earlier this week, I shared 16 War Poster Sites for Persuasive Analysis, but I know you need some additional resources before you can ask students to work through a poster independently. That’s today’s focus.

First, for a general overview of how visual documents work, visit the Purdue OWL’s Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Visual Documents. The site focuses on how to write an analytical essay, but the general information will work for analytical class discussion as well.

To practice in class, use the visual analysis exercises at Bedford/St. Martin’s Re: Writing site. The Preview Exercises on Proximity from the ix visual exercises CD-ROM discusses how grouping and spacing elements in a visual design contribute to the overall message that a text communicates.

If you’d like a structured list of questions, you have several options. You can try the Document Analysis Questions from ReadWriteThink, the War Poster Analysis from the Truman Presidential Library, or the Poster Analysis Worksheet from the National Archive. All three sites outline questions that students can use or their own or that you could use to lead class analysis.

For classroom discussion, I find the analysis questions can make things a bit too stiff and scripted. I devised a mnemonic to guide our conversations. Once we’ve worked through all five letters, I know we’ve touched on all the aspects of a basic analysis:

Mnemonic Example Discussion Questions
W: Words What words are there? What is their tone? How do they relate to the other information on the poster?
I: Images How do the photos and illustrations contribute to the message? Are they polished? Formal? Informal?
L: Layout How does the arrangement of the words and images work? How are the components grouped? How do they coordinate or contrast?
C: Color What colors are used on the poster? How do the colors affect the message?
O: Overall What is the overall impression of the poster? How do the different parts combine to communicate a message? How effective is the poster at its purpose?

In addition to working for more informal discussion scenarios, these areas that the mnemonic covers, like the Preview Exercises on Proximity, are more general than the structured lists. You can work through the different areas of WILCO with any poster (not just war posters) as well as with other visual documents like PowerPoint slides, billboards, or Web pages.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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