Author Archives: Donald Jordan

Charged Hearts

Charged Hearts, a new media work by Ottawa artist Catherine Richards, uses the heart’s iconic status to materialize the waves and particles that produce electromagnetic currents – the physical but unseen substrata of the electronic age. The choice is apt, for the heart is both a metaphor for passion and the emotions and one of the most well-known parts of the body’s electromagnetic fields.

An ambitious and brilliantly conceived project bringing together a variety of scientists and technicians under the direction of the artist, Charged Hearts exists both as a gallery-based installation and a Web site game. Richards traces the interconnections of electromagnetic impulses as they occur within three systems: the weather, the body, and the new virtual worlds commonly known as cyberspace. These premises are embedded materially in three key objects. First, the Terrella, a nineteenth-century artifact first used in experiments to replicate the patterns created by the Northern lights. Second, in the anatomically correct glass hearts that glow with a gas plasma triggered by the electrical activity of charged ions. Thirdly, in a computer printer, which stands to the side of the piece but connects the installation to the World Wide Web.

The luminously charged gases in the Terrella and the hearts sit on separate raised podiums atop a Plexiglas tier. On the centre podium raised slightly higher than the two stands flanking it, is a glass cube containing the Terrella tube, sparkling with a bluish light in its simulation of the earth’s north and south magnetic pole. Technically it is the Terrella that produces the electrical charge that connects the two hearts. Located on separate platforms to the right and left of the centre podium, these hearts are in bell jars inside glass cases. The cases are open to one side so that hands may enter and hold the jars containing the hearts. Slightly larger than life, these hearts emit a pinkish purple glow when the fluorescent powders on their inside surface are bombarded with electrons.

Picking up the glass heart triggers changes in both the Terrella and in the hearts. The heart in the jar seems to pulsate in the hands, its light intensifying, weakening, moving with every torque of your wrist. There are no wires connecting the hearts to the Terrella, only a coil of copper wire on the bottom of the jars. Yet, by picking up the heart in a jar, you become a part of this loop connecting body to glass heart to Terrella – and finally of course to the Web site. If there is another participant touching the other heart, you enter into the circuit together. The interactivity is oblique and somewhat organic because there is, intentionally, no clear indication of the causal lines connecting one thing to another. In this way, the installation challenges push-button notions of interactivity, which place the user in a privileged and fictive site of agency. In Charged Hearts our bodies, like our subjectivities, are caught in a matrix of coterminous interacting elements.

Because the hearts are handheld objects Charged Hearts has a tactility that is both pleasurable and carries with it real risks. Dropping the hearts may cause them to explode into pieces. Because of the materiality of the objects, oddly cold and clinical despite the glow, the installation falls within the tradition of other media works that come out of sculpturally-based electronic arts, such as Norman White’s Hapless Robot. Giving the user the “smart card,” in reality a piece of cardboard, with your own “personalized access code,” both allows the user access to the Web site and pokes fun at the interactive promises of cyberspace, asking again, “Who is in control?” By stepping on the platform and partaking, your presence is registered – a reminder of the potential power of these systems to monitor the movements of citizens and consumers with every swipe of a charge card.

Likewise, Charged Hearts, the Web site ( is no ordinary game. Developed in collaboration with Martin Snelgrove, a computer programmer, it eschews conventional video game formats, which are mostly competitive in nature. However, it does share one feature – at its locus it is a game of survival. Created from a scanned medical image of the top valve of the heart, this pumping, pulsating little miniature greets you when you log in. You are asked to name your heart, and you are given a statistical readout on its condition. The game is not to win points but to keep your heart alive, an avatar for your very self, which you can only do by moving it around the screen and bringing it into proximity to other hearts. No heart stands alone – literally. You must request that other “hearts” come into your sphere in this virtual space, itself a simulation of the complexities of love and other forms of social interaction. Their presence may assist you, boost you, or damage you depending on the rate of their own activity, and the cumulative effect of all of the hearts gathered together. The only other way to rescue an ailing virtual heart is to recharge yourself at the gallery site, a ploy which indicates the artist’s own proclivity for the physical over the virtual.

In this concern with life, death and survival in the late twentieth century, Charged Hearts is the successful alter ego of Richard’s last major piece, Curiosity Cabinet at the End of the Millennium (1995). In Curiosity Cabinet, the spectator entered into a gigantic copper cage in an attempt to insulate the self from the cumulative charge of our present electromagnetic field. In so doing the spectator became an object on display, much like a museum piece or a curio in a nineteenth-century cabinet. Curiosity Cabinet explores the luxury of escape and the nostalgic fantasy that we can isolate and protect ourselves. In contrast Charged Hearts highlights the pleasures and dangers of life in the midst of these very real, yet invisible fields interrogating the consequences of living in an environment thoroughly penetrated by electronic gadgets. You would never consider sticking your finger in an electrical socket. Richard’s installation suggests that this is exactly our present condition. The move to more “wireless connections” only masks this environmental shift. Charged Hearts plugs us in, traces our movements, and compels us to consider our future survival within this technologically saturated life-world.

Extra related content articles: Oil Painting News

Garden of Nirvana

Garden of Nirvana equates women and flowers, with odour being the experiential link. Steele cites the writer Octave Uzanne, who compared a woman in lingerie to a flower, “whose innumerable petals become more and more beautiful and delicate as you reach the sweet depths of the innermost petals. She is like a rare orchid, who surrenders the fragrance of her mysteries only in the intimacies of love” (p. 117). Interest in the “fragrant mysteries” associated with women’s clothing is classically known as “perversion” in the sexology and psychoanalytic literature. Freud, for instance, conceded the vital connection between sexuality and olfaction in the animal kingdom, yet relegated it to an inconsequential status in humans. In the evolutionary scheme of development, humankind had risen up onto two legs, thus diminishing the role of smell; to link sex and smell again carries with it the danger of regression, of the re-emergence of the animal, in short, the threat of psychosis or neurosis. (5) Neglecting to distinguish between the proper objects of disgust and desire elicits condemning nomenclatures such as infantilism and coprophilia. Yet, as Steele and others have argued, defining conclusively what constitutes “normal” and “deviant” behaviour is an impossible task, one hopelessly compromised by ideological and other biases. Not the least of which is the sexist rhetoric used to situate and enforce gender relations: women who fail to live up to the fragrant mystery of Uzanne “are traitors to the ideal of femininity and objects of disgust.”

Historian Alain Corbin traces the contemporary intolerance towards odour back to the Enlightenment and the development of an “olfactory vigilance” in regards to bodily emanations and civic space. The project of modernity has also involved a rationalization of the senses, according to Constance Classen, David Howes and Anthony Synnott, in which vision was prioritized to such a degree that “olfactory silence” was a direct outcome. The conflation of desire and disgust promulgated in Garden of Nirvana thus taps into two centuries of odour anxiety, both in the personal and public realms. Hirakawa violates not only the assumed predominance of the visual in the ideology of the gallery, but also one’s sense of private space and identity. The enforced intimacy is confrontational – the odour is unavoidable, one cannot help but to breathe it in. In some ways the piece positions itself as a litmus test of sensitivity and sensibility: How quickly does one react? Is it prudishly or pruriently? A decision based on instinct or intellect? Regardless of the response, odour is the key element in confusing the segregated domains of the biological and the social, the sensory and the semiotic.

Besides the allusions to fetishism, one might also be inclined to reflect upon Garden of Nirvana in the context of Buddhist practices. Does the installation trivialize nirvana as a ribald “heaven” of “getting-into-women’s-pants” or does it have more subtle implications? Nirvana describes the state of final emancipation, a state beyond attachment. Literally the term means “blown out,” a combination of the Sanskrit “van” (to breathe or blow), with “nir” (the negation). It encompasses a blissful experience of knowing the absolute, which is distinct from quotidian consciousness, yet undefinable. Being “blown away” thus evokes the obliviousness of care, induced by intoxication, joy or ecstasy of the state of nirvana.

Relevant to this installation are Buddhist spiritual practices that have deployed the outrageous to collapse dualist distinctions between the sacred and profane. A popular Zen story illustrates a method of seeking enlightenment in the most repugnant of objects: when a master was asked “What is the Buddha?,” he answered “That pile of shit in the courtyard.” There is a tradition within Buddhism of meditation on what is “disgusting” – corpses, skulls or feces – in order to cultivate dispassion. Yet at the same time, nirvana, in Tantric and Zen traditions, can be found both through the deliberate heightening of the senses as well as through the ascetic control of them. In bringing the focus to what is conventionally “disgusting,” Garden of Nirvana can be contemplated as a clash of tasteful and distasteful objects, ugly and beautiful experiences, desirable and repulsive sensations. The Buddha, reputedly, never articulated what nirvana was, only what it was not. Both underwear (by being concealed) and odour (by its ethereality) are provocative metaphors for the state of nirvana, which exists everywhere yet is invisible. Scent thus constitutes an intense sensory presence that circumvents iconographic prohibitions within Buddhist tradition.

Uncover More here Canvas Art Blog

Oil Paint Artists By Name

In the event you curious enough to present custom-made oil painting to one of your close associates then it’s good to go on the internet and locate a best artist in the market. You may as well select artisans online to create custom-made art pieces and they will deliver it to your door in 7 days. You’ll have to provide the picture of person or puppy that you’d like to be colored in acrylic and it’ll quickly reach your home.

You with thankful to know that it is very easy to alter background scenes in oil paintings. You can easily add more seasonal parts to your art to work out customized look. The art fans believe that custom-made canvas artworks are considered the smart choices for a present when they start to steer amazing charm by having an enticing appeal in the area. Your effort to paint different portrait with oil painting will definitely be loved by your good friend who is going to receive it as a gift.

turning photographs into paintings

So, you are interested to create a few terrific oil paintings? You will discover a long list of suggestions for paintings, it is likely depicting a journey regarding any existing great moment of your lifetime, a portrait of the small pet, a humorous picture of your kid doing a bit of odd activities, picture commission as well as an thought inside your soul. It does not have to matter will be the plans for your own portrait; because you will always select a guy who will give style to your wishes. Artists carry this excellent inventiveness with their blood and they have an understanding of the tact of composing masterpieces.

Actually, there are numerous points to learn about customized art along with their raising appeal. Even though the artworks demand very good care from owners when compared to the digital prints however they lead an inventive charm in the living area. They might deliver a valuable area in the heart of the individual that benefit from it as a great gift. When art receive proper care, they are exactly like brilliant memories for life-long. You can create an eye-catching effect of a person’s furry good friend and / or it can be a ingenious portrait of your personal child. Certainly, your child will cherish to view it when he grow up.

Photographs are definitely the some of the finest innovations of technology yet; somewhere in your heart, we fancy the artworks. There’s lots of crazy guys and women across the world who have been still engaged to transform their snapshot to work of art. If you are also one of those innovative personalities but aren’t willing to put the styles into correct shape then this post really is useful for you.

Offering a custom made portrait artwork to some of your close homeboys on birthday, Special occasions as well as other special event of life is definitely a wonderful idea. You could also do painting of things or sketch down the beauty of a city which is usually liked the most by the your friend. There are plenty of suggestions for making personalized oil paintings and if you hire a pro to perform your desire concepts, it is going to undeniably be a really good success.

Francoise Nielly studio

Do you really love Francoise Nielly’s paintings? Do you desire to buy a portrait painting produced by artist? I am not sure if Francoise consider commission job? But in the case she do, i bet the cost are going to be very expensive as most of her artworks are selling $10,000 to $30,000. That being said, pretty much, it is almost not possible to let Francoise Nielly paint your portrait, though, guess what, our talented artists can! We can paint your photo the same as Francoise Nielly do!

Francoise Nielly is undoubtedly an artist seen as an complicated and complicated techniques making charming and crucial energy and strength.

In Francoise Nielly’s work, she doesn’t use any modern technology and employs only oil along with palette knife. The shades are occupying roughly on the canvas and become a highly highly-effective work. Her portraits encapsulate strength of tone as a unusual method of seeing life. The belief and form are simply starting factors.

Francoise Nielly Gallery

Francoise draws lines to find natural splendor, emotion, while keeping focused of memories. Each portrait brings together a sense of delight and sadness. Whenever we discover this kind of sensuous, expressive and overwhelming drawing, we understand that attention can touch deeply in a look, from a gesture, in position that becomes ones methods for being. The shades are why Nielly’s paintings so realistic and natural and it is impossible not to love her subjects. Plenty of can be the inspirations, which in turn dance inside of these types of sensibility, and most is usually the interpretations which may be shown. ?Have you wondered yourselves how vital it may be to have shades? Have you ever thought of how important it will be to manage such type of colors?

Nielly displays a protective exploration toward touch and results in being an instinctive and wild goal of expressions. In the event you close your eyes, you wouldn’t normally expect a face, having colors, however if you simply give it some thought thoroughly, everything acquires a form by means of our needs and desires. The most troubled soul could have colors, which might be unseen but always alive. Lots of individuals consider that in a portrait, there’s always a equilibrium that runs away, however in my estimation, every symbolism is imprinted in their face. Eyes come across sins and passion, a smile opens peace as well as a decisive lie, and dazzling colorings reflect options without so much movement.

In her own way, Francoise Nielly gives an individual’s face in each of his works of art. And then she paints it again and again, with slashes of paint all-around their face. Moments of life that come up from her works are born by a clinch with the canvas. Color choice is formed just like a projectile.

Works of art by creator Franoise Nielly have a very good discernible strength that originate right from each composition. Having acquired palette knife art techniques, the artist uses thick strokes of oil on canvas to blend a unique abstraction in to these figurative portraits. The paintings, which have been based off relatively easy black or white photos, feature excessive light, shadow, detail, and dynamic neon colors. As per her biography on Behance, Nielly usually takes a risk: her artwork is sexual, her shades free, exuberant, stunning, also beyond expectations, the cut of her knife incisive, her colors pallete incredible.

A major difficulty of rhetorical-design analysis

A major difficulty of rhetorical-design analysis is the determination of the actual effects of design artifacts. What defines the effects of a poster, signpost, book cover, or business card? How can the effects of designed objects be described and categorized? Can the effects found in particular objects be generalized? Are there any experts for defining design effects? The determination of effects is crucial for the formulation of design rules and, fundamentally, for a rhetorical understanding of design. There is no straightforward method, given that the visual effects of design objects are manifold and highly context-sensitive.

Materially, the visual impression of an object varies according to perspective, light conditions, or position. Even more obvious are the subjective factors causing an indeterminacy of effect. How a designed object affects a viewer depends on her taste, interests, and values, on her actual disposition and needs as well as on her previous knowledge and experience. Furthermore, the socio-cultural and historical context affects people’s perception and interpretation of such elements as color, textures, and motifs. Visual trends, zeitgeist and technological developments (for example, printing press, photocopy, desktop publishing) lead to changes in visual perception and the impacts design artifacts can have. While some of the design effects are fairly constant over time and cultures, most are informed by fashion and other socio-cultural influences and will, sooner or later, be modified. What used to provoke or even shock people (for example, because it appeared pornographic or brutal) can be attenuated by habituation or a change in moral standards. Images that used to convey severity or heroism might appear awkward or exaggerated now, and what looks modern today is likely to assume an old-fashioned or nostalgic touch in the near future. The more enduring effects are presumably based in the human cognitive system and can perhaps be explained with the physiology and psychology of perception or through evolutionary biology. Darkness and the color black may always and everywhere have had a frightening effect on human beings. This unsettling effect of dark designs could perhaps be traced back to the fact that human beings are not able to orientate in darkness, which–from an evolutionary perspective–is a disadvantage. That neon colors can be used as an eye catcher or in order to warn people could be explained by the fact that the human visual apparatus is particularly sensitive to them and because we were first confronted with their warning function in conjunction with poisonous animals and plants.

The calming effect of a design in panorama format possibly originates in the imitation of an open landscape in which, according to Savanna Theory (Lidwell et al. 2003), human beings feel safe, calm, and comfortable, since here possible dangers can easily be surveyed. The question of why human observers are affected in one way or another by certain visual features is not the object of visual or design rhetoric. For the observer–as well as for the designer as practitioner–it is important to know which stylistic means are required in order to create specific effects, but not to provide explanations for the underlying modes of perception. Design rhetoric is interested in the relation between a design effect and the specific design features related to it–regardless of whether the means-effect relation is universal or context-sensitive. In the section on pinning down design rules, more will be said about the relation between formal means and effect, which can be paired in a design rule.

Two Research Projects

The intersections of design and rhetoric were the subject of two research projects in the Communication Design Research Area at Bern University of the Arts. The first project, Visual Rhetoric in Commercial Graphics (2007-2009), funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), studied the visual effects of graphic design in advertising and other commercial fields of visual communication (Schneller 2009). It involved an exploration of the rhetorical view that graphic design and its modes of effect can be described by rules, that is, that for nearly any visual effect a set of stylistic means can be determined through which the intended effect can be created with some probability of success. One main result was a list of design effects and rules most commonly used in commercial graphics, such as magazine ads, posters, book and CD covers, business cards, and package designs. Each rule combines a design effect with a set of formal means (typography, form, color, technique, proportion, material, etc.) that help achieve the intended effect. The design rules were explored and determined by a rhetorical design analysis of existing graphic artifacts. After theoretical analysis, a practice-based research method was developed and applied. The validity of the design rules was tested by first creating graphic design variants according to specific design rules and by then examining the actual effects of the designed objects on observers.

The second SNSF-funded research project, Visual Rhetoric 2: Rules and Scope in Public Transport-Information Design (2010-2011), built on the first project and examined, in cooperation with Swiss Federal Railways, the rhetoric of an arguably effect-free field of visual communication: information design (for a detailed project presentation, see Schneller 2010b; Schneller and Scheuermann 2012). While the effect orientation of commercial graphics is quite obvious, pieces of information design, such as signposts or timetables, do not seem to be created with a view to influencing people; they merely inform us about directions or train departures and seem to purely convey information, without aiming at persuasion. Nevertheless, the project made it clear that even informing people has to be understood as an effect that information designers can–and should–aim at by using appropriate formal means and, in addition, that information design ideally does more than just inform people. It was shown that public transport information design typically involves a clear, reserved, simple, and clean appearance (logos), but that it should also look attractive and procure a sense of security and comfort to the traveler (ethos and pathos). Just like in the previous project, the first step was a rhetorical analysis of information-design artifacts and design manuals that resulted in a collection of design rules (intended effects and formal means to achieve them). The second step was to create and empirically test a set of design variants. The specific methods of analysis, effect-oriented creation, and empirical testing of design artifacts applied in the two research projects will be presented and scrutinized in the following sections.

Design as Rhetoric: Focus and Hypotheses

The design-rhetorical approach adopted in the Bern University of the Arts research projects can be characterized by five main hypotheses. First, it advocates the idea that effects of design artifacts can be analyzed by conceiving of design as a rhetorical process. To call a process “rhetorical” means that a piece of speech, or an artifact, is in general produced with a view to evoking certain reactions in an audience and that this is achieved by following specific rules or strategies that help bring about the intended effect. This does not mean that every design effect must be created consciously. Rather, effect orientation and (purposeful or tacit) rule application is supposed to be part of the basic ability of the designer as practitioner (Schneller 2010a). Just like speech, designed artifacts can be seen as attempts to catch the attention and goodwill of a public, to entertain, amuse, shock, or surprise, to create feelings, to influence opinions, values, or actions. However, design rules deal with the relation between the compositional structure and the immediate impulses presented in the design object. This way, they differ from effect studies in rhetoric and related fields such as advertising and consumer psychology where the primary focus is on conative effects (impact on volition, intentions, behavior, and actions) as well as long term effects such as attitude change, purchase behavior, memorization, or psychodynamic processes (Kazmi and Batra 2008; Giles 2003). Of course, some of the immediately perceptible effects of design objects can play a role in the determination of further conative and post-communicative effects. Although not sufficient for producing such secondary effects, design effects can provide “hints” pointing in their direction. A comfortable design might thus make a user or viewer feel comfortable and in doing so influence her purchasing decision, while a calm design might be suitable to provoke calming effects and consequently make viewers drowsy.

The second general hypothesis asserts that there is no such thing as effect-free or non-rhetorical design (Kinross 1985; Atzmon 2010; Schneller 2010b; Schneller/Scheuermann 2012). Every design affects or stimulates people, sometimes heavily, sometimes in subtle or perhaps almost unremarkable ways. Every act of shaping a design object involves a choice of shape, color, size, and proportion, and this choice will create differences in the appearance and impact of the object.

Third, the rhetorical dimensions logos, ethos, and pathos can be used to define three categories of visual effects. Similar to speech, design artifacts influence us not only on a rational (or functional) basis (logos), but also embody a character or act on our values (ethos) and stimulate our emotions (pathos).

Fourth, the relation between specific formal means and their visual (haptic and other) effects can be described in terms of design rules. Design effects are bound to laws of perception, viewing patterns, design traditions, movements, and fashions that shape and restrict the possibilities of the designer. An example for a design rule runs as follows: if you want to create a calm effect, use sans serif or roman type, low contrast, matte surfaces, open and symmetrical arrangements, and accentuate the horizontal. These rules can be actively or passively followed by designers in order to produce the effects intended with a designed object. It might seem that in advertising, the strategy is to break the conventions of seeing in order to surprise consumers rather than to simply follow design rules. Nevertheless, the sheer possibility of deviation reinforces the idea that there are rules at work. Many ads could perhaps be attributed to the use of second-order rules such as: if you want to catch attention or surprise, then break other rules such as “Be clear” or “Show things as they are.” The specific use of formal and semantic deviations is indeed a typical rhetorical phenomenon. Visual rhetorical figures and tropes such as hyperboles, metaphors and ellipses are defined by specific deviations from the norm, for example, addition, repetition, omission, or transformation (Ehses 1986).

Fifth, there is an overall rhetorical principle that guides the range of possible deviations, called the decorum or aptum. It controls the adequacy of effects and measures rule application (or breach) relative to the context of a design artifact.

Rhetorical Design Analysis

Rhetorical design analysis is a method developed at Bern University of the Arts and has been applied and refined in the two research projects on visual rhetoric. It is based on the idea that every design artifact is created with an intention to create specific visual (haptic, olfactory, and other) effects, and that this can be achieved by choosing appropriate formal or stylistic means. The analysis proceeds through six steps: (1) formal analysis that is a description of the formal/stylistic elements of the design object, (2) plus collection of information about its context; (2) effect analysis that is a determination of the effects produced by the design object; (3) elaboration of the design rules at work (correlation of effect and formal means); (4) reconstruction (3) of the intended effects or determining them by interviewing the responsible designer; (5) identification of contra-intentional factors; (6) application of the concept of decorum (adequacy) and establishing a possible scope for action in the creation of designs.

Steps 1 through 3 involve effect ascription and the definition of design rules, both raising their own methodological problems (see the following two sections). The results of the rhetorical design analysis can be used to evaluate existing designs (“Does the design artifact have the intended effects? Are there any unwanted or inappropriate side-effects? Which formal/stylistic features are responsible for these effects?”) and to create better, more effective or more adequate new designs (“Which other means would be more appropriate for the intended effects?”). In the two research projects, the method of rhetorical design analysis itself was submitted for further testing by practice-based design. The results, especially the postulated design rules, were treated as effect hypotheses whose validity and applicability to design practice were further explored (see the section on practice-based design research).

Visual and Design Rhetoric

Rhetoric as the art of persuasion or effect-oriented communication has been specifically studied from a visual point of view since the 1960s (Schneller 2010a; Joost and Scheuermann 2006, 2008). Bonsiepe (1965) was the first one to use the term “rhetoric” in the context of visual communication. While rhetoric traditionally analyzed and taught the theory and practice of successful speech, the interest now turned to the “rhetorical” means used in visual forms of communication such as posters, book covers, magazine ads, or logotypes in order to catch attention, to surprise or to emotionally affect viewers. At the center of the first attempts to treat visual material in terms of rhetoric was the application of rhetorical figures to the visual. Rhetorical concepts such as metaphor, hyperbole, metonymy, or ellipsis were used to describe and systematize visual techniques in advertising and other forms of commercial graphics (Ibid.; Ehses 1984, 1986, 1995).

In 1985, Buchanan radicalized the idea of a rhetoric of visual objects by completely leaving out the verbal aspects that had previously played a substantial role in sketching the rhetoric of visual communication. His concept of “design argument” puts forward the idea that even industrial design objects such as lamps, bookshelves, or coffee machines incorporate quasi-rhetorical modes of influence. According to Buchanan, the impact on viewers and users is exerted by the technological (logos), characteristic (ethos), or emotional (pathos) features of designed objects. Doubts may be raised about the appropriateness of his application of the term “argument” to design artifacts (Schneller 2010a; Blair 2004), but his concept underlines an important insight, namely that not just the represented content, but also the formal aspects of design are capable of influencing people and can be systematically put to the purpose. The rhetoric of design reaches beyond the semantic levels of persuasion. In the past, visual rhetoric mostly focused on the representational content of images and the possibility of transferring rhetorical figures from text and speech to the visual field. But persuasive means and strategies can be described not only on the level of content (what you say), but also on the level of structure or form (how you say it). In the rhetoric of objects, formal aspects are of utmost importance, whereas semantic features become less important–and are clearly less explicit than in speech. Although it has become popular to talk of “product semantics” or “product semiotics” in industrial design (Krippendorff and Butter 1984; Vihma 1995; Steffen 1997; Krippendorff 2006), the fundamental difference in explicitness must be kept in mind. While there is an explicit content to any normal uttered sentence, the “content” of an armchair or lemon squeezer is of a rather implicit nature. What is more, spoken and written language usually have a linear and temporal structure, which is why rhetorical effects can be created by contrasting, stressing, or repeating linguistic elements over time. The “reading” process of designed objects is guided to a lesser extent than that of a printed text. Designed things mostly generate effects of contrast, stress, or repetition within the spatial arrangement of a formal whole present at one time; graphic design, however, is a special case, since it uses a combination of verbal text, image, and visual form where linear, temporal, and compositional aspects of effects are interwoven. And for time-based visual media such as film and video, the temporal effect dimension is actually as eminent as in speech and text. In any event, effects of content and form can never be strictly separated. The font, size, color, and placement of a written text (which in fact is a design object, too, as is the speed, loudness, and timbre of a spoken text) always have an impact on their overall perception.

Design rhetoric could be defined as the attempt to explain–in terms of the concepts and strategies known from rhetorical theory and practice–how and by which formal means designed things influence us. Although visual effects are probably the most important, a comprehensive understanding of design rhetoric will certainly have to consider other sensory impact levels, that is, the haptic, acoustic, and olfactory effects of designed things; nevertheless, the two research projects presented in this paper focus mainly on the visual rhetoric of designed objects.


Rhetoric is commonly understood as the art of persuasion or effect-oriented communication. Since the 1960s, there have been various attempts to extend rhetoric from speech to visual communication and to design in general. Design rhetoric addresses the effects of artifacts and especially the techniques by which they can be generated and controlled in the design process. The central problems of this approach are the identification of effects and the validation of rules linking design aspects to specific effects. The goal of this article is to demonstrate how these problems can be dealt with by means of a triangulation of analysis, expert judgments, practice-based research, and laboratory experiments. The suggestions made are based on the results and methods developed over the course of two Bern University of the Arts research projects on visual rhetoric in commercial graphics and public-transport information design. While advertising and mass communication theory as well as the psychology and sociology of media are generally more interested in the macrostructural and postcommunicative effects of their objects of investigation (that is, how they affect actions, purchase decisions, quality of life, social structures, or mental equilibrium of users and receivers), the design-theoretical approach presented here is concerned with the micro-structural impact levels: the immediately detectable effects resulting from the formal composition of designed objects, effects that are grounded in the appearance, and sometimes even in the intrinsic properties of things (that is, what kind of primary impression they make on the viewer). In the first two sections, a short introduction to design rhetoric is provided–particularly for readers not yet familiar with the topic–and the main focus and hypotheses of the approach are presented. In the remaining sections, the methods of ascribing effects to design artifacts applied in the two projects are outlined and the arising difficulties and possible ways of overcoming these difficulties are discussed.