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Visual Rhetoric: Making Arguments Visually Using Elements of Visual Grammar

When designing visuals, we often neglect to identify a purpose beyond simply representing data. But visuals – particularly data visuals and infographics – are most effective when they are designed with a clear purpose in mind, particularly if they contribute to an argument. Melissa Clarkson’s earlier post on The Elements of Visual Communication provided a good starting point for a discussion of how to use visual elements to communicate types of relationships: this post expands on those concepts in explaining how  visual grammar can contribute to making an argument.

What is Visual Grammar?

Understanding visual grammar – the components and relationships that contribute to meaning – in visual language – is key to developing effective visuals. As in linguistic grammar, we rely on a shared, often culturally specific, set of patterns and expectations in building and interpreting visual texts. We can start to understand this term by examining something we are  already familiar with: linguistic grammar. This is the set of rules or principles that govern the composition of language in order to make shared meaning. In other words, grammar involves: (1) the components of language (letters, words, clauses, phrases) and (2) their relationships that contribute to meaning.

Visual grammar is the same, except that we are working with different components and relationships, alongside less well defined rules about how they go together. [Continue reading]

Infographic Errors: How People Err in Designing Visuals

As news organizations, governments, and corporations struggle to communicate more complex information to multiple audiences, they increasingly rely on visual representations.  Quite a number of prominent failures in visual design that have played out … [Continue reading]

3Q17 Issue of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

The September 2017 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication has recently been published online. If you are a paper subscriber, you will receive this issue, printed together with the December issue, in December. The issue … [Continue reading]

Thank you, Jayne Cerone!

At ProComm 2017, we thanked Jayne Cerone (pictured above, left, with AdCom member Helen Grady) for her long-time support of our society.  Jayne is a Senior Director of Volunteer eEngagement at IEEE Technical Activities, and a member of the … [Continue reading]

2017 Conference Recap and Awards!

Thanks for an amazing conference Madison! We had wonderful keynotes anchoring our conference sessions. Michael Gleischer's keynote on Shakespeare and Data Visualization got us thinking about how data visualization techniques might be able to … [Continue reading]

Wiley-IEEE PCS Series Book Nominated for CCCC Award

Teaching and Training for Global Engineering: Perspectives on Culture and Professional Communication Practices, edited by Kirk St. Amant and Madelyn Flammia, has been nominated for the 2018 College Composition and Communication Award in the Best … [Continue reading]

President’s Message, July 2017

Dear Members, We are pleased to share with you the launch of the first edition of our renewed e-newsletter—featuring research-based guidelines and principles for writing and communication that engineering professionals and technical communicators … [Continue reading]

Pitching Yourself, Part 2: Energize your Resume

  In a previous post, I wrote about your job application as an argument, and showed how we could use a rhetorical framework established by Stephen Toulmin to help your cover letters do a more effective job of connecting your evidence to the … [Continue reading]

SIGDOC ’17 Registration is Now Open

We are happy to announce that registration for SIGDOC '17 -- the ACM SIGDOC 2017 annual conference -- is now open!  To register for the conference go to​ ​ SIGDOC '17 will be … [Continue reading]

June 2017 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication now published online

If you are a paper subscriber, you will receive the issue, printed together with the March issue, within the next week or two. This issue contains the following articles: Research Article—Diagrams in Contracts: Fostering Understanding in Global … [Continue reading]