Analyzing Visual Arguments in writing

Analyzing Visual Arguments. Visual arguments convey their messages quickly and dramatically through the use of images and text. This assignment encourages you to take a closer look at how visual arguments work by analyzing one of the most familiar historical examples of visual argument: a World War II poster. 

  The completed essay should:

  • Analyze one of the World War II posters from the homework activity (see Blackboard for the selection of posters)
  • Examine the poster’s rhetorical effectiveness, with particular emphasis on how it uses the four major design elements to convey its argument and appeal to its target audience. 
  • Demonstrate your understanding of concepts we have studied in class, specifically:
  • The four major components of visual design—use of type/text, use of space and layout, use of color, and use of images and graphics (refer to pgs. 176-86)
  • The connection between those design elements and the poster’s appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos
  • Be aimed at an audience who regularly encounters visual argument, but may not realize its impact or how it works—and give them a reason to be interested in this analysis
  • Use MLA format to cite the poster on a Works Cited page (see example on Blackboard)

Sample outline of the essay:


  • Set the context for analysis: why should readers care about visual argument?
  • Introduce and briefly describe the poster so readers can visualize it
  • Establish the poster’s rhetorical context, summarize its argument and purpose, and identify its target audience
  • Assert your thesis: your claim about how effectively the poster uses visual design elements to appeal to its audience


  • Support the thesis by analyzing the visual design strategies used by the poster to appeal to its target audience
  • Focus on one element at a time: explain how each element is used in the argument and discuss how it is intended to appeal to the target audience; this will take several paragraphs—start a new paragraph for each new element
  • Support your points by referring to specific details from the poster


  • Wrap it up; comment on the overall effectiveness of the poster’s argument or reflect on the power of visual argument.

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