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About Visual Rhetoric

Visual rhetoric is a way to examine the content of a page beyond its textual meaning. A document conveys meaning through text and language, but the arrangement of text on the page, along with visual elements like images and graphics, also impact its meaning and effectiveness. Visual rhetoric explores the relationships between these elements and the way they affect meaning. A document's visual arrangement is important because readers analyze relationships at a glance. In contrast, readers must take the time to interpret the language and text. As Catherine Hobbs summarizes Condillac's view on the difference between visual and verbal communication: "The visual world is holistic and is seen instantaneously as a picture. Verbal language is linear, occurring sequentially in units over time" (65).  The quality of a document’s visual arrangement can, in an instant, determine its success or failure. Visual rhetoric, including design elements (such as white space), Gestalt theory, and visual literacy help us examine the way readers understand the meaning of a document beyond its textual meaning.