Seminar in

Visual Communication

J&MC 5861 Prof. Sandra Moriarty

Visual communication involves understanding a wide variety of activities central both to the perception of messages as well as to the construction of them. Serious study of the world of visuals, like the study of literature, music, and other forms of art, can contribute to the student's understanding of the world of human expression. In general terms, the primary goal of this course is to develop habits of analysis and criticism as well as techniques of mass media message development in order to better understand the contributions of visual media to human communication.

Course objectives include:

1. Developing an understanding of the basic functions of visuals in mass communication.

2. Becoming aware of imagery and visualization skills with an understanding of techniques that can be used for development of such competencies.

3. Developing an increased awareness and sensitivity to the forcefulness with which the visual media reflects and acts upon society, i.e. the impact of visuals.

4. Understanding the largely intuitive processes used to become visually literate.

5. Understanding the relevant concepts in the psychology of perception, cognition and aesthetics and how they relate to practical considerations such as photo composition and layout and design.

6. Developing a sensitivity to cross-cultural dimensions of visual communication including the impact of visual stereotypes in such areas as racial and gender images.

7. Developing an increased awareness of symbolism, visual languages and codes, and visual aesthetics.

Class Method. This is a graduate level course taught as a seminar. The topics presented and the discussion of mass media applications will be the responsibility of a student working with the instructor. Students will also be involved in class activities.

Textbooks: Your assigned textbooks are Seeing is Believing by Arthur Asa Berger, Visual Persuasion by Paul Messaris and Visual Intelligence by Ann Marie Barry. In addition there is a volume of readings on reserve in Norlin library with additional readings that are noted in the Course Outline.

About the Projects/Presentations:

Class Activities: The class session will focus on seminar reports on the readings and class activities that relate to the readings.

Class Assignments There will be three assignments that involve the class in some aspect of visual communication analysis-an evaluation of reading vs. viewing, a cultural palette, and a visual audit. (The last two are team projects.) In addition, you will also be asked to attend Roger Ebert's daily session during the World Affairs Conference and discuss what you have learned from the film deconstruction.

The Final Research Paper. You will also develop a major research paper on a topic of your own choosing. A proposal that identifies the topic you will investigate and the objectives of your study is due March 1. Turn in a draft of your fully developed research paper (with footnotes and bibliography) on Monday April 20 in Prof. Moriarty's box for comments and critique by the instructor. The final revised version is due on April 29 which is the last class period and the day you will present your work to the class. The paper should be in the 10-15 page range. You will have 10-15 minutes for your presentation.

Housekeeping All work must be turned in on the specified deadline. Any late work will be automatically reduced by one grade point. Attendance is required; missed sessions will generate a reduction in your final grade.

Evaluation. This class will invite self-grading on all of the assignments, except the final paper. Your grading should focus on the intellectual quality of the contributions you made. The final grade will also consider class participation--both the presentations and the class discussion. Obviously nonattendance or late appearances will significantly affect class participation and discussion and negatively affect the participation grade. The approximate weighting of the evaluation includes 20% of the grade on the seminar presentations, 45% on the class assignments, 20% on the final paper, and 15% on class discussion and participation in class activities.

Ideas for Final Paper Topics

All of the following topics relate to one of the in-class sessions. In other words, the intention is that your research build on some topic that we have introduced and discussed in class. If you have a different idea for a topic, consult with the instructor about its appropriateness

1. How do artists think? How do they imagine their works of art and then translate that visualization to an external form? How does the "expressive" nature of art work?

2. How does dance work? How is it expressive; how does it communicate?

3. Analyze the opening ceremonies of various Olympic games, or the Nagano games. How do they make a statement about the culture of the sponsoring country?

4. How does a documentary work visually? What makes a documentary different from other forms of film and video? Identify the documentary code.

5. Analyze the JonBenet Ramsey case in terms of what we can learn about responsible visual journalism.

6. How do advertising visuals work? How are they different from news photographs? How are complex persuasive messages communicated through the visuals?

7. How do news visual work? How are they different from persuasive messages such as advertising visuals?

8. Apply semiotics to the analysis of some complex visual. Deconstruct it and identify the levels and types of meaning.

9. Research some other topic of your own interest. Meet with the instructor early in the semester to identify the topic, research question, and research methodology.

Proposal and Drafts: Consider these topics, choose the one you want to develop and prepare a proposal to be turned in to the Instructor on March 1. Describe the approach you want to take, include a brief outline, and a preliminary list of at least ten references. A first draft of the paper is due in Prof. Moriarty's box on Monday, April 20 and the final version is due in class on April 29 at which time you will present your work to the rest of the class.

Presentation: You will have 15 minutes during the final exam period to summarize your work. Use any class activities and visuals that you think might make the presentation more instructive for your colleagues.



Davis and Walton, Language, Image and Media, (visual "languages" of the media)

Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing (meditation and visualization)

Morton Garchik, Creative Visual Thinking (thinking up ideas visually)

Robert McKim, Experiences in Visual Thinking (productive thinking)

Morgan and Welton, See What I Mean (an introduction to visual communication)

Parmenter, The Awakened Eye (seeing, memory, selection)

Richard Wilde, Problems: Solutions--Visual Thiking for Graphic Communicators

Rune Pettersson, Visual Information

Psychology of Visual Perception

E. H. Gombrich, The Image and the Eye, (the psychology of pictorial representation)

Gordon and Wyman, Primer of Perception (handbook for artists and teachers)

Haber and Hershenson, The Psychology of Visual Perception (psychology of perception)

Kaufman, Sight and Mind (psychology of perception)

Luckiesh, Visual Illusions (pysiological and psychological explanation of illusions)

Herschel Leibowitz, Visual Perception (introduction to visual perception)

Gerald Murch, Visual and Auditory Perception (introduction to visual perception)

Daniel Osherson, Visual Cognition and Action (seeing and knowing)

Randhawa and Coffman, Visual Learning, Thinking and Communication (language and vision, visualizing, comprehension, meaning, attention, creativity)

Spoehr and Lehmkuhle, Visual Information Processing (psychology of perception)

Robert Travers, Man's Information System (information processing)

Weintraub and Walker, Perception (basic introduction to perception)

Wyman and Gordon, Primer of Perception (surfaces and forms, organization, color)

Imagery, Visualization, and Creative Thinking

John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Ned Block, Imagery

Jacob Block, The Visionary Eye: Essays in the Arts, Literature, and Science

Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation

J. L. Marra, Advertising Creativity: Techniques for Generating Ideas

W.J.T. Mitchell, The Language of Images

John Nicholas, Images, Perception, and Knowlege

Mark Rollins, Mental Imagery: On the Limits of Cognitive Science

Anees Sheikh, Imagery: Current Theory, Research and Application

Symbols and Visual Semiotics:

Asa Berger, Signs in Contemporary Culture (introduction to semiotics),

Asa Berger, Seeing is Believing (visual semiotics)

Kenneth Boulding, The Image (behavior, as well as knowledge, depends on images)

Hugh Duncan, Symbols in Society (we form our own experience through the creation of symbols)

Gillian Dyer, Advertising as Communication (contains intro to semiotics, as well as advertising images and meanings--from a marxist perspective)

Murry Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (politics as a symbolic form)

Hodge and Kress, Social Semiotics (contains an introduction to semiotics, includes some analysis of visual forms)

Kepes, Language of Vision (language of art, semiotics, representation)

Ralph Ross, Symbols and Civilization (we perceive the world through a system of symbols)

Meyer Schapiro, Words and Pictures ("reading" a piece of art)

Jean Umiker-Sebeok, ed. Marketing and Semiotics (different aspects of symbolism of the marketplace, including advertising, product design, and product symbolism)

Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising (semiotic analysis of economic and social meanings of advertising--from a marxist perspective)

Visual Literacy:

Messaris, Paul, Visual Literacy

Curtiss, Deborah, Introduction to Visual Literacy

Dondis, Donis, A Primer of Visual Literacy

Dwyer, Francis, Strategies for Improving Visual Learning

Moore and Dwyer, Visual Literacy (a set of readings on visual literacy)

Art, Aesthetics

Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception

Arnheim, New Essays on the Psychology of Art

Clive Bell, Art

Jack Clifton, The Eye of the Artist

Frederick Franck, The Awakened Eye (spirital and aesthetic appreciation)

Joseph Kupfer, Experience as Art (aesthetics in everyday life)

Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form (a system of aesthetics)

Susanne Langer, Problems of Art (a theory of expressive form)

Joshua Taylor, Learning to Look (fine art, composition)

Robert Jay Wolff, On Art and Learning (learning to do art)

Design, Layout and Composition:

Ames, Elements of Newspaper Design, (the total page concept),

Bohle, Publication Design for Editors, (design that adds meaning)

Bud Donahue, The Language of Layout (first chapter is on layout)

Hanks, Belliston and Edwards, Design Yourself! (basic shapes, perception, visual thinking, design)

Allen Hurlburt, Publication Design (layout and design principles)

Allen Hurlburt, Layout: The Design of the Printed Page (publication design)

John Laing, Do-it-Yourself Graphic Design (first chapters talk about theory of design)

Litzel, On Photographic Composition (composition and design)

J.M. Parramon, Composition (theories and techniques)

Sutnar, Visual Design in Action (visual interest, design, corporate image)

F. H. Wills, Fundamentals of Layout (see chapter 5)

Media Forms: Advertising, Documentaries

John Corner, Documentary and the Mass Media

Katherine Frith, Undressing the Ad

Hecker and Stewart, Nonverbal Communication in Advertising

Stewart and Furse, Effective Television Advertising

Graphics: Charts, Diagrams, Cartoons, Comics, InfoGraphics

Fineberg and Itule, Visual Editing (graphics and illustrations for journalists)

Nigel Holmes, Designers Guide to Creating Charts & Diagrams,

Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (how to design statistical graphics)


Hurley and McDougall, Visual Impact in Print (photographs, sequencing, words and

pictures, design principles)

Estelle Jussim, Visual Communication and the Graphic Arts (photographic codes, history, impact of photographic images)

Freeman Patterson, Photography and the Art of Seeing (seeing, thinking, design principles)

Richard D. Zakia, Perception and Photography (how gestalt psychology guides photography)

Video, Film:

Joseph Boggs, The Art of Watching Films (video forms, conventions, and aesthetics)

Zettl, Sight, Sound and Motion (film and video aesthetics and production techniques)


Steven C. Dubin, Arresting Images

Paul Lester, Images That Injure

Visual Communication Schedule

Topic Readings


Visual Literacy: Intro

Seels: Visual Literacy: The Definition Problem

(M&D Ch. 6)


How We See and Think

Lester, ch. 1 & 2, 3

Berger, Ch. 1

Barry, Ch. 1



Pettersson: Perception( Ch. 2)

Stern & Robinson: Perception (M&D Ch. 2)

Lester: Ch. 5


Imagery: Pictures and Words

Berger, Intro

Barry, Ch 2

Braden, "Visual Verbal Relationships"

Burgin, "Seeing Sense"


Pictorial Elements; The Photograph

and Composition

Dondis, Ch. 1-3

Lester, Ch. 4

Berger, Ch. 3-4


Visual Rhetoric and Semiotics

Barry, Ch. 3

Morgan & Welton, Ch. 5

Berger: Ch. 2; Visual Semiology

Moriarty/Sayre: Visual Semiotics,




Sewell, Visual Symbols (M&D Ch. 8)

Morgan & Welton, Ch. 6

Berger, Ch. 8

Panofsky, Studies in Iconology

Dubin, AIDs: Bearing Witness


Visual Persuasion

Messaris, Introduction, Ch. 4, 6

Barry, Ch. 6-7



Muffoletto: "Representations: You, Me, and Them"

Lucy Ganje: "Native American Stereotypes

Ray Chavez, "The Mexican Americans"


Visual Design: Layout

Thompson: "Design Considerations of

Visuals" (M&D Ch. 10)

Saunders: "Graphics and How They

Communicate" (M&D Ch. 11)


Narratives and Video Images

Barry, Ch. 4-5

Berger, Ch. 5-6

Messaris, Ch. 5

4/8 [week of]

Attend Roger Ebert's "Interruptus"

Macky Auditorium, 4:00

Barbatsis: Seeing Stories: Representational Communication in

Pictorial Terms



Petterssson: Ch. 8

Berger, Ch. 9


Ethics: Privacy and Manipulation

Barry, ch. 8

Manipulation and Taste Articles

Privacy Articles

Messaris, Epilogue


Visual Literacy: Summary

Presentation of Individual Research


Messaris, Visual "Literacy": A

Theoretical Synthesis; "Visual Literacy vs.

Visual Manipulation"

Final Week Individual Consultation

[possible final presentations]

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