Is Visual Rhetoric More Effective?

Guest Blogger Taylor Hill ’14

In modern society, almost every organization, establishment or global cause has a visual identification associated with it, ranging from a small emblem to a more thought provoking piece of artwork. Visual campaigns on billboards, in newspapers, magazines, and on television tend to stick with us, while their verbal and oral counterparts often get lost in the far traces of the mind. This idea of visual vs. written forms of persuasion has always interested me and recently, while researching the matter, I came across an interesting article from HP called “The Power of Visual Communication.”

In the article, the effects of visual communication are discussed and a point is made that individuals will retain information that is provided to them in a visually captivating way more productively than if they were to read a flyer, handout, or pamphlet on the subject. Evidence is also given that uncovers a direct link between pictures being stored in our long-term memory more readily than text is, therefore allowing more capacity for pictorial messages. It is true that ad campaigns are a major form of visual rhetoric, but students have been implementing aesthetically pleasing tactics into schoolwork since the creation of digital art. With this in mind, visual forms of communication are becoming more and more infused into our cultural framework and are more present now than ever before.

In the days of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, rhetoric was seen more as a written and oral art, but amenities used to create digital ads, billboards and other photographic representations have revolutionized the theory of rhetoric, expanding it past its historic roots. So, how much further do you think the field could expand?

Looking at the ad campaigns below, which do you think are more effective, the written or visual ads? Do you respond better to visual or written means of persuasion? Do you think society is headed down a more visually dominated route? What are the benefits of using either form of persuasion? Do any of these benefits overlap?

SAMU Social’s  visual ad campaign dedicated to assisting the homeless with the tagline “The longer you live on the street, the harder it is to get off it” compared with a written billboard in India advocating helping the homeless.








UNICEF’s ad campaign against child abuse with the tagline “If you don’t fight child abuse, who will?” compared with written child abuse ad.







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