Hart: Content, Structure and Relevance

In the article, Hart illustrates his idea that success equals to the combination of content, structure and relevance. I agree with his idea partly, since success depends on the combination of much more elements than that of those elements. However, those three elements, content, structure and relevance, do play an important role in the web writing.

Let’s start with content. I cannot agree with it any more that content is one of the most important elements in web design or web writing. I would like to say that the web will be a fabulous but empty package if there is no well-designed content on it. Although the package looks pretty, its nature is always a package, which will not be changed by time. A well written content is composed by expert writing skills and good content itself. That is to say, web designer or web poster should be capable to distinguish the goodness or badness of a writing resource, such as news or entertainment. Then, the web designed should be able to figure out the preference of those web viewers, who is also the audience of the website. Personally, I do not think it is very easy to figure out the preference of others, but according to the function of their website and years-long work experience, web posters are supposed to have a clue on the preference of web audience. Writing skill is the other key to well-designed content. The function of writing skill is to glorify the content they posted on the web site. The content itself may not interest audience, but it supposed to be interesting and attracting after being glorifying by skillful technical writing. After talking about content, I would like to move to structure.

We cannot ignore the function of structure, since it is also one of the necessary keys to a successful website. At the first glance of a web site, people usually focus on the structure of the website instead of its content, which need to be read carefully. That is to say, web designers are supposed to arrange the content in a pleasant way, which looks comfortable and straightforward. I still remember the website shown by Dr. Liddle on class, a non-profit organization’s website. Maybe you will say that there is no structure on that website. However, I would like to say that it does have structure, a clear and straightforward structure. But, the disadvantage of that website is that its structure is too clear and too straightforward. I will lose my interesting and give it up if I have to view it for a long time. So, what those web designers need to do is to figure out web viewers’ preference and help them load their target in the shortest time. The word I would like to conclude the function of structure is efficiency.

Then, the third part is relevance. I have to say that this concept is a little bit new to us compared with those two before. As the author mentioned in the article, relevance depends. If the content of one post is about news, its relevance depends more on its timely. But if the post is about entertainment, its relevance depends less on its timely, at the same time, its relevance may depend more on audience’s preference or on its connection with the core idea of the web site. So web designers have to figure out what those audience are looking for before they consider about relevance.

The picture I used here is a short screen of a website which illustrates 404 using Venn. I would like to say that content is attracting and useful if it is a website about computer technology, since the connection between 404 and web’s core idea is pretty close. Then the structure of the page is clear and straightforward with the use of visual rhetoric. The left part is Venn diagram and the right part is the explanation of the Venn diagram. And the button on the top right is ready to lead user to the home page.

My question: In the structure, what is the difference between clear organization or tedious organization since I always mix them together?


Foss and Visual Rhetoric

In “A Theory of Visual Rhetoric”, Foss discusses visual rhetoric and how visual imagery can affect behaviors, attitudes, or perceptions. Foss explains that many rhetoricians find it difficult to apply meaning and influence to visual imagery because the study of rhetoric has historically been almost exclusive to discourse. Visual rhetoric itself has two meanings within the discipline of rhetoric. One meaning is about the visual images themselves. The other meaning is an approach taken by rhetorical scholars as they study visual rhetoric. I personally find theory very dry and boring, so the second meaning on visual rhetoric was not my cup of tea at all. There are two approaches to studying visual rhetoric. One uses a deductive application of rhetoric on visual images as a way to study visual images in the existing realm of theory taken from the study of discourse. The other approach uses an inductive application of rhetoric in order to create new theories that apply to the unique characteristics of visual symbols. I found the second approach to be the better approach. Visual images and discourse are formed in different ways and have different characteristics, so using visual images in the context of discourse just does not make sense to me. I think it’s more fitting develop new theories to apply to a newer discipline of rhetoric: visual rhetoric.
The part of the article I like the most was when Foss discussed the three essential markers that must exist for a visual image to become visual rhetoric. The three markers are symbolic action, human intervention, and the presence of an audience. In order for an image to qualify as visual rhetoric the image must be symbolic. Foss uses a stop sign as an example, because the color and shape are completely arbitrary, but they serve a symbolic meaning for communication. Human intervention means that human action must be involved in the process of either creation or interpretation of a visual image for the image to be visual rhetoric. Last, an audience must be present so there is an act of communication involved in the visual image.




Which approach to visual rhetoric do you think is more appropriate and effective: a deductive application or an inductive application?

Foss on Visual Rhetoric

This article starts with how rhetoric defined for the past centuries, which concluded by author as “the study of the use of symbols to communicate”, in my opinion, this is a not bad definition, I think author in this part is trying to not conflict with the main idea that visual rhetoric is part even main part of the whole study of rhetoric. As a matter of fact, author did spend a fair amount of paragraphs to state that how visual rhetoric changed for the recent century, not limited to discourse.

The part that talked about what kind of visual object can be defined as visual rhetoric. First of the element is the image must be symbolic, this means an image must go beyond serving as a sign. A red sign has STOP in it does not only exist as a sign, it means you must fully stop at that point and give out the priority to the cars that done this before you, and then you can continue driving. A check mark that has funny curve is not only a mark now, it is world’s biggest sport brand that every country from any ages knows that is called NIKE. The second element of visual rhetoric is involving human action. There must have people to create visual rhetoric or make a new concept of something that already exist. Apple is not only longer Isaac Newton’s gravity, but also Steve Jobs’ company that change every ones’ life. And there must be people who understand the visual rhetoric. There must be people spend thousands of dollars on Apple’s product to create that one of the world’s biggest company. This is the last element of visual rhetoric that author points out, visual rhetoric needs audiences.

Shi Xinning, Duchamp Retrospective Exhibition in China, 2000-2001 (Photo: Courtesy of Sigg Collection)


This picture is Mao appreciating one of the world’s most famous toilet called “Fountain” produced by Marcel Duchamp, one of the replicas of “Fountain” for $1.7 million at Sotheby’s in November 1999. It is just a toilet that manufactured by some factory, however when Duchamp pull that out, it is a piece of art and people pays it.

Question: Isn’t that the presence of audience is what makes a visual rhetoric most valuable?

Foss – Theory to Visual Rhetoric

My last post followed a gentleman with the last name Blair who arguably hated the idea of visual rhetoric and how it is lumped in with other forms of rhetorical analysis. Foss, on the other hand, takes a rather subjective unbiased approach to the idea of Visual Rhetoric and concludes it can be used in a couple effective ways.  To begin, I want to talk about Foss’ criteria for what images can be called visual rhetoric. The most simple of the 3 is the idea that the picture must have an audience. To me this is similar to the idea of “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?”. If a picture is formed with no one to interpret there’s no message being sent or received, thus it’s no rhetoric. The second thing Foss concludes an image needs is a form of symbolic action. The visual element needs to have some sort of visual communicative mechanic. For this he uses the example of a Stop Sign. These red octagons with a white boarder and white letters are easily recalled by anyone who has ever driven on a road in America. Its shape, color, and the symbols across the center of the sign all indicate a STOP is necessary. Lastly, a visual must have some form of human intervention, that is to say that either during the creation of the visual or during the receiving of the visual image there needs to be some form of action taken by the person whether that is forming a response or accepting the message.

I enjoyed this article much more than the prior reads. Foss didn’t have a very clear opinion out of the gates and as you read you can see him drift more and more towards the acceptance of Visual Rhetoric. And he explains how and why every step of the way. It seemed less emotionally driven than Blair’s article which helped out the credibility tremendously. It also seemed a lot more current than Blair’s, which was my biggest gripe, I couldn’t find a date for when it was published, but sources and ideas seem a lot more up to date.


A Banksy piece of aerosol art on the streets of London.


My question for the class is this, what are some of your most memorable or effective visual rhetoric you’ve viewed in your lifetime? From ads, media pictures, or what have you.

Foss and Visual Rhetoric

In his article, Foss begins by stating objections that rhetorical scholars had with adding visual images into the field of rhetoric. Some common issues were that rhetoric is meant to be a verbal exchange, it would call their work in theoretical distinction into question, and that it would taint their field. He goes on to explain that adding visual images to the field of rhetoric gives insight into human experiences that an analysis of verbal communication leaves behind. Foss also explains that the objects studied under visual rhetoric are very broad and include everything from art to furniture to advertisements and more. He claims that visually rhetoric as a communicative artifact requires that an object be symbolic, involve human intervention, and be presented to an audience for the sake of communicating with the audience. Foss also states that visual rhetoric can be a perspective. This refers to the perspective a scholar must take on a visual image or visual data. Visual rhetoric as a perspective is a tool used by scholars to approach visual images in terms of their use as a communicative device. In order to gain a perspective on a piece of visual imagery, attention must be given to one or more of three aspects of visual images, their nature, function, and evaluation. Foss concludes with how deduction and induction can lead to the rhetorical analysis of visual images.

Simply seeing two people talk on television does not immediately constitute visual rhetoric. Visual rhetoric in television shows relies on context from the situation being depicted in order to be analyzed. In the image below, watching the show on television would make the audience assume the man on the left is attacking the man on the right, but in reality the roles are reversed. Without context, the image being depicted is misleading and, therefore, has a misleading visual rhetoric, if any at all. The image itself is visually rhetoric in that it conveys the idea that you should not trust everything on television because there is always someone behind the scenes influencing what you see and what you should believe.

Question: What other forms of media rely on context to be visually rhetoric?

There's always two sides to the story.


The Qualifications For A Visual Image To Become Visual Rhetoric According To Foss

This article, written by Foss, is his attempt to make sense of the images are not arguments and therefore do not qualify as visual rhetoric position. In his article Foss makes it clear that he believes there are three things that a visual image must have in order to qualify as visual rhetoric. He also makes note that he believes that he is including anything visual in this explanation, from paintings to building architecture to advertisements. According to Foss the three things that a visual image must have in order to qualify as visual rhetoric are symbolic action, human intervention, and the presence of an audience. Symbolic action as he describes it is that an image must use symbols in order to try to communicate with an audience. He uses a stop sign here as an example in which the color and shape of a stop sign have no relation to the process of stopping a car but are purely meant to communicate the importance of stopping to the people driving. For human intervention Foss states that in order for something to qualify as visual rhetoric is must have human action either when the piece is created or interpreted. The last qualification is fairly simple, visual rhetoric must have an audience it is trying to appeal to. This can, however, be an actual or ideal audience.

I personally feel that Foss’s definition of what qualifies as visual rhetoric is a much better fit than how Blair viewed visual rhetoric. Blair made the argument that there were no visual arguments and no such thing really as visual rhetoric in regards to images. I didn’t really agree with this because you have images like this now:


This is an advertisement for contact lenses. As someone who has poor eyesight and uses contacts I feel like I am in the potential audience for this ad and it does seem effective to me. This is also a really good example of an image that is trying to communicate to an audience, it uses symbols to get its point across, and it has human intervention because it was created by someone as an advertisement. I do believe that this image makes the argument that contacts are better for your vision than not wearing them.

Question: With this new definition given to us by Foss it seems, to me at least, that just plain old photography still doesn’t qualify as visual rhetoric. Is that something that you agree with?

A Response to Foss

Foss’s article was a great 180 from the more negative thoughts about visuals coming from Blair in the previous reading. Foss spent the article writing about the possibilities of visual rhetoric from the perspective of an artifact and as a perspective. As a visual artifact, Foss expressed that there were three requirements for consideration. The first was that the visual must be symbolic in nature, and that it is indirectly tied to whatever idea or text it was trying to express. The second requirement was that there must be some kind of human intervention that intentionally made this image symbolize something else. I think the human intervention is the most important step, because this is what decides how a visual is created and how it is interpreted. In this step, there must be a conscious desire to communicate something. The third step is that there must be the presence of an audience. The visual created to be symbolic in a set was must be made with an author’s style to be adapted to an audience. This means the human intervention step has to take into account whether the symbols will be used for general public, a niche group, or a wide audience as a presentation. Foss states that in order for these visual symbols to be successful, the author has to focus on the rhetorical response that people will have to an image, and not just aesthetics.

One example of visual rhetoric presented by Foss in the article was a stop sign. Foss explains that this meets the communicative artifact requirements of visual rhetoric because a stop sign is a symbol created from human intervention. The specific audience is the general public – mostly those who operate motor vehicles (and abide by traffic laws) as well as pedestrians. The stop sign uses the color red and the shape of a octagon to get across the text meaning of “STOP”. This example fits into the meaning of visual rhetoric because the color red and the octagon shape originally did not mean “stop”, but through human intervention and audience targeting, it has become a world-wide meaning for “stop”.

Mickey Mouse

This is a huge example of how shapes and color can be made into a world-wide symbol of visual rhetoric. Obviously, these are just three circles, but everyone knows that arranged like this, they make Disney’s Mickey Mouse.

I really liked the clarity and walk-through of Foss’s stop sign example of visual rhetoric. Can you think of any other symbols we see in everyday life that were originally nothing more than shapes and color but now help us run our lives?