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In the reading, Covino and Joliffe attempt to give a general overview of rhetorical theory. They discuss the historical arguments for and against rhetoric, contemporary methods for approaching rhetorical theory, and several different concepts that are important to rhetorical analysis. But while the chapter is packed with juicy quotes and statements, I ultimately found it to be a little over-stuffed with information, especially in moments where a person or text would be name-dropped with no explanation of who the person was or why the text was important.

Still, of the concepts discussed I was particularly interested in the concept of invention, which they define as “the art of generating effective material for a particular rhetorical situation” (22). The word “generating” is interesting here, because the writer isn’t actually producing any text, nor is the author “inventing” any new ideas. Instead, invention refers to the way writers generate ideas or come up with topics for writing. At the start of the section the authors focus more on the notion of “assessing the audience,” which seems to amount to the writer sitting back and reflecting on the question “now who am I writing for?” Later in the section, Covnino and Joliffe start to articulate more specific, concrete methods of invention, such as through “journalist questions” (which I assume to be Who, What, When, Where, and Why) and basic prewriting strategies.

This concept stood out to me because of its broad applicability to writing, both in terms of writing an essay and in terms of constructing a video. Part of learning to write involves learning how to think of a topic to research, and how to compile that research into a basic argument. Part of learning how to design multimedia involves learning how to brainstorm ideas and how to sketch those ideas into a basic wireframe.

Giants Ideas

That’s why I was pleased to see The School of Motion spend an entire video on “The Idea” in their recent tutorial project “The Making of Giants.” It’s easy to jump right into a program like Illustrator or After Effects or whatever and start messing around, but without a plan, the project might end up taking twice as long to complete. It’s also highly likely that the video will lack a cohesive storyline and visual aesthetic when it’s composed without developing a game plan beforehand. It makes me happy that I’ve built time into this class for “Project Checkpoints,” where I can look over the students’ sketches, listen to their ideas, and give them feedback before they jump into After Effects. Now I just need to find a place to fit this video into our course calendar 😉


When you write/design, do you usually start from a structured heuristic, like the 5 W’s of journalism, or do you usually start from a less structured method, like doodling or freewriting? What are the drawbacks to both models for getting started with a project?


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