Three Expressive Modes of Visual Language: Practical, Poetic, Persuasive


Laryssa Tervail, 3Ps_force

Sara Aube, 3Ps_work

Mariel Feldman, 3Ps_consume

Sam Peckham, 3Ps_work

Lucy Glover, 3Ps_exercise

Level: ,
Duration: 2 weeks
Category: , , ,
Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Bookmark Project

Project Brief

The assignment is to develop three 11" x 17" posters exploring the meaningful differences when your ‘word’ is combined with three different images posed to suggest or convey the following:

Practical—used to communicate information with singleness of meaning, characteristic of clarity for direct information (as opposed to metaphor and emotional devices).

Poetic—used to communicate with experience through the senses and by stimulating imagination and intelligence. A desire for the richness of meaning. (metaphor).

Persuasive—used to communicate with encouragement or the council of persuasion (often with ulterior motives). It argues from a single point of view.


The use of symbolism, analogy, metaphor, or pun may further expand your vocabulary.

Symbolism—the art or practice of using symbols. A symbol is a thing standing for or representing something else, especially a material thing taken to represent an immaterial or abstract thing. For example, the American flag is a symbol of our country.

Analogy—a description derived from a process of reasoning from parallel or similar cases. What unlike things share in common. For example, a hand that feels as smooth as silk.

Metaphor—a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as if it was another. For example, All the world's a stage. Or in visual terms, one image is used to suggest another usually in collaboration with words or other images. For example, an image of butterflies on fire as they fall from the sky to express the horrors of war.

Pun—A humorous use of words or images to suggest different meanings. For example, an illustration of a chess piece given human attributes playing a game of chess.



Size: 11" x 17" horizontal or vertical (all 3 need to be the same)

Media: Photography, Collage, Drawing, Painting, Illustration

Copy: selected word only.

Learning Objectives

The objective is to explore how the different modes of expressive language can shape meaning in design.


Week 1
Select one of the following words below and pair it with three different images to convey the three expressive modes of practical, poetic, persuasive: consume, organize, work, exercise, force, culture. Create three full-size color layouts for feedback and discussion.

Week 2
Based on the feedback you received on your first drafts, revise/redo the three posters for feedback and discussion. Turn in three posters for grading with the process folder.

Tips: To fully understand the possible multiple meanings of your selected word, first, use a dictionary and write down the definitions. Second, make a list of all the ideas, both verbal and visual, that are brought to mind by the definitions. Third, make a second list comprised of opposite meanings of the word. Use a Thesaurus for reference.


Students find this assignment very challenging. For most students, this is their first introduction to the expressive mode "theory" in visual language: that images have a 'voice' and their meaning can be altered or enhanced by the addition of a word. To help students visualize how to effectively work with word and image integration, I suggest that 1 + 1 = 3. Consider that a word conveys meaning; an image implies a meaning, and when you combine or juxtapose the word and the image, a third meaning emerges.

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