Images convey meaning. When you use images intentionally to achieve a set of communication goals, you practice visual rhetoric.

The concepts of exceptional visual rhetoric are critical to consider because we encounter and interpret visuals daily—and we frequently produce them. Assignments that require visual rhetoric appear in courses across the curriculum at Calvin: PowerPoint slides, photographs, visually aided speeches, posters, and lab reports, amongst other assignments.

We pose four main questions to help you make choices when using images:

  • How can I arrange images and elements of complex images (e.g., posters) to convey meaning?
  • How can I find and choose—or create my own—images?
  • How can I use color to convey meaning?
  • How can I use words as part of an image design?

And you’ll need to work out how the four visual rhetorical categories work together.

Throughout these subcategories of visual rhetoric, apply the general questions to creating images:

  • What purpose do I want to accomplish by using images?
  • How can I use my knowledge of my audience to design effective visual rhetoric?
  • How can I improve my audience’s sense of my authorial expertise and character through images?
  • How can I use images to convey and emphasize a central idea?
  • What is the essential content that images can help me to convey?

Still confused?

Want to listen to two Rhetoric Center consultants break down a poster’s use of visual rhetoric? Click here!

And don't forget to stop in the Rhetoric Center for help with visual rhetoric!

Calvin communication professor Kathi Groenendyk created this general resource to use when creating visuals. It serves as a starting point for any visual rhetoric assignment and reminds the user of frequently overlooked basic visual principles.

Click on a specific question in this FAQ grid and it will take you where you need to go. To explore the resources on your own, click on one of the categories on the right side of the page.

Frequently asked questions

Specific visual rhetoric assignments

You’ll encounter various types of visual rhetoric assignments while at Calvin. We believe the main categories throughout our Visual Rhetoric page are transferable to various assignments. However, assignment specific resources are still valuable. For this reason, we’ve provided resources to guide you through these assignments.