Effective Visual Argument and How is It Used
A visual argument is a method of making a statement or advocating an idea in a nonverbal way. While some text may be used, the key elements of the idea are communicated with images. Visual argument is used in photo journalism, advertising, fine art, graphic arts, posters and even performances.
Visual argument is strongest when your focus is clear and direct. You do not want your point to be misunderstood nor do you want the viewer to have to decipher your message.
If your issue is protecting animals from abuse and neglect you might use photographs or posters of abused animals and a person in handcuffs. If your issue is about animal adoption you may want to use images of animals interacting positively with humans. If you wish to convey both issues as part of a broader campaign then you should make separate visual arguments.
Who is your audience? Identify the age, gender, occupation, socio-economic group and any other information about the people you want to reach. This information will drive your presentation and help you choose images, colors, composition and other elements that will resonate for your particular audience.
A picture of a skateboarder on a half pipe will resonate for teenagers but will not likely interest a new mother with an infant. However, a mother of teenagers might respond to the image if it is a visual argument for safety gear.
The medium that will be most effective in presenting your visual argument will largely depend on your audience.
The painting “Guernica” by Picasso shows the carnage of war and a copy of it hangs at the United Nations. The audience is clear and the message is clear.
Norman Rockwell illustrations are visual arguments that resonate with Middle America. His illustrations were often seen in magazines and advertisements depicting America and “apple pie” scenes. This image is called "A Red Cross Man in the Making" The visual argument is made for helping the helpless.
A television commercial showing shocking successive photographs of a methamphetamine user from childhood through her addiction is a powerful visual argument aimed at a generation of television watching teenagers.
How, when and where a work is presented, will have an impact on the effectiveness of visual argument.
A permanent installation will be seen for many years by many generations. A permanent installation is an appropriate venue for a timeless message.
A one time illustration on the cover of a magazine will impact people during a specific segment of time and will be directed toward a transient issue.
A dramatic tableaux is a one time display of actors in frozen positions. It is staged generally at an event. This form of visual argument will impact only the people at that event.
Topic Ideas for Visual Arguments
- Culture of Death
- Issues at the Border
- Health and Side Effects
- Bi-partisan efforts
- Party Ideology
- The Benefits of War
- The Morality of War
- The Horrors of War
- Safety in the Home
- Strong Marriages
- Benefits of Religion
- Benefits of Family Recreation
- Education and Income
- Education and Status
- Drop Outs
- Career Choices
- Results of Unionization
- English as a Second Language
- Early Reading
- Success in School
Almost any topic or subject can be addressed as a visual argument. Visual argument can be more effective than verbal or written communication in many cases. Careers in art, photography, photo-journalism, graphic arts and advertising are heavily invested in visual argument technique.