Writing to the World Wide
February 12th Recap:
Thinking About Graphics
We shifted our focus from the rhetorical use of language to the rhetorical use of graphics. That is, we
began looking at how image files, icons, navigation bars, backgrounds and colors are used to appeal to the
knowledge, values, and beliefs of the audiences for which the web site is designed. When you look at a web site, I encourage you to ask yourself questions:
- What is my initial reaction or impression? What is giving me this impression? Chances are, the
impression is based on what you see, what the page looks like, including the colors used. Let's return to the Car Talk site. The cartoonish look immediately establish a sense of
- What sort of knowledge or background do I need to make sense of the graphics? Think of the The Everything Meat Homepage. The "happy American family"
picture is perhaps a cultural reference to the 1950s ideal of the ideal American nuclear family, as
portrayed on such programs as Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best.
When used in the current context, this ideal is dated and humorous. Yet the humor of using
this graphic only makes sense
if you understand its history. Chances are, someone from Japan or Moldova would have a completely
different response to the graphic.
- Where have I seen this (picture, background, icon, etc.) before? What does it remind me of?
The Carla Sinclair Channel? The graphics are "retro", reminiscent of late Sixties or early Seventies
cartoons and clothing designs.
- What are my eyes drawn toward? What captures my attention? Are there multiple images
competing for my attention? Where are my eyes directed? Look again at the e-land site.
The multiple images around the periphery of the page compete with the text and the underlying
And look at The Everything Meat Homepage again.
While the "happy American family" graphic attracts your attention initially, the "ribbon" graphics
lead your eyes through the text and down the page.
In summary, by asking yourself these questions, I hope you get a sense of my main point: the use of
graphics is governed by cultural knowledge and cognitive factors. We discuss cognition and the use
of graphics on February 26th.
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