Visual Rhetoric in the Business Communication Classroom

Simply put, visual rhetoric is the use of visuals and visual elements (e.g., fonts and color) to communicate a message. If you are teaching your students how to create visually appealing messages, you are already incorporating visual rhetoric in your bcomm classroom. If you want to extend that discussion of visual rhetoric beyond the use of appropriate margins and headings, here are some resources that may help.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides several pages on visual rhetoric that address topics such as understanding the concept of visual rhetoric, choosing fonts, placing elements on a page, and using color theory.

My other favorite sources include the following:

    • John McWade’s books Before and After: How to Design Cool Stuff and Before and After Page Design (The information and examples on typography are particularly fantastic in Before and  After Page Design, but really, I could spend hours looking at and talking about all of the examples in both books.)

There are also quite literally hundreds of scholarly publications available on the topic. Some that you may find helpful in exploring theoretical and pedagogical perspectives on visual rhetoric and visual rhetoric in business professions include

    • Brumberger, Eva R. “Visual Rhetoric in the Curriculum: Pedagogy for a Multimodal Workplace.” Business Communication Quarterly 68 (2005): 318-333, print.
    • Campelo, Adriana, Robert Aitken and Juergen Gnoth. “Visual Rhetoric and Ethics in Marketing of Destinations.” Journal of Travel Research 50 (2011): 3-14, print.
    • Davison, Jane. “Icon, Iconography, Iconology: Visual Branding, Banking, and the Case of the Bowler Hat.” Accounting, Auditing, and Accountability Journal 22.6 (2009): 883-906, print.
    • Lauer, Claire and Christopher A. Sanchez. “Visuospatial Thinking in the Professional Writing Classroom.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 25 (2011): 184-218, print.

Discussing visual rhetoric early in your course and adding a “visual rhetoric” category to a grading rubric are great ways to reinforce the importance of visually appealing and accessible documents. If you have sources on visual rhetoric or suggestions on how to teach and assess students’ use and understanding of visual rhetoric, please share them with us.

2 thoughts on “Visual Rhetoric in the Business Communication Classroom

  1. This blog continues to be among the best in the blogosphere. This
    subject is timely with preparation for the Fall Term in the full speed ahead mode.

    For three years I have integrated Pecha-Kucha into my business
    communication course. PK (Japanese for chattering) is a unique
    and educational presentation technique that can be used individually
    or in teams. The concept is 20 X 20 = 6:40. 20 images, 20 seconds
    each for a total of six minutes and 40 seconds. No notes, just images
    and the narrative.

    I deter students form using traditional PowerPoint and to use images
    that express and complement their main points. is the main site. There is a really nice You Tube video (Training Bite) that is exemplary in outlining the concept.
    Students really like the format and for me, the concept reinforces my
    requirements to be concise and precise – no fluff.

    And, it is a lot of fun to put together to ensure that images really do complement the narrative. For best results in teams, I do not give
    teams a lot of time to build the presentation, two weeks max.

    Thanks for the blog post and the wonderful resources.

    Tom Pickering
    Pierce College


    • Hi, Tom~
      Thank you for your kind words. We’re glad you like the blog. Thank you, also, for the Pecha-Kucha link. What a concept–no notes, just pictures and narrative. I bet the students feel as though they are “flying without a net” so to speak, but what a great way to show them how to claim the rhetor’s role in a presentation and not rely on those slides to provide the notes for them.


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