NMS 504: Text and Image (Spring 2013)

Course Description

This course explores the dynamics between text and image in the digital age. We will approach these two modalities as both compositional materials, better understood with knowledge of design language and principles, and as persuasive resources, better understood with knowledge of rhetoric. The course also prepares you to responsibly work with text and image by highlighting cultural, technical, economic, and ethical concerns important to visual media in the digital age.

The work we do will be of three main sorts:

  1. Reading and class discussion, with an aim to identify vocabulary and principles that will guide your future efforts to assess, create, and distribute visual media;
  2. Tracking key issues related to text/image dynamics, to familiarize you with the state of the art and key industry conversations; and
  3. Basic digital production, to familiarize you with some common technologies and workflows for work with text and image.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, you should be better prepared to

  • Assess specific communicative or persuasive tasks, in light of audience and available technologies, and deploy text and image in controlled and appropriate ways.
  • Apply concepts from design and rhetoric to describe and assess visual texts.
  • Interact knowledgeably and productively with visual media production specialists.
  • Compose in genres that require both text and image, including slideshow presentations, handouts, and multimodal print and digital texts.
  • Systematically identify and make sense of genre models when presented with a novel visual text design challenge.


Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R. (2000). Intro­duc­tion: Excerpt from Reme­di­a­tion: Under­stand­ing new media (pp. 44–50). Cam­bridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ess, C. (2009). Excerpt from Digital media ethics (pp. 8-17). Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Foss, S.K. (1994). A rhetorical schema for the evaluation of visual imagery. Communication Studies, 45 (3-4), 213-224.

Goldsmith, K. (2011). Anticipating instability. In Uncreative writing: Managing language in the digital age (pp. 63-82). New York: Columbia UP.

Harrison, C. (2003). Visual social semiotics: How still images make meaning. Technical Communication, 50(1), 46-60.

Johnson-Eilola, J. (2004). The database and the essay: Understanding composition as articulation. In A.F. Wysocki, J. Johnson-Eilola, C.L. Selfe, and G. Sirc (Eds), Writing new media: Theory and applications for expanding the teaching of composition (pp. 201-237). Logan, UT: Utah State UP.

Kimball, M.A. & A.R. Hawkins (2008).  Principles of design. In M.A Kimball & A.R. Hawkins, Document design: A guide for technical communicators (pp. 20-36). Boston: Longman.

Kostelnick, C., & Hassett, M. (2003). What’s conventional, what’s not: A perceptual and rhetorical tour. In Shaping information: the rhetoric of visual conventions (pp. 43-80). Carbondale, IL: SIU Press.

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5-22.

Lupton, E. (2010). Thinking with type: A critical guide for designers, writers, editors, & students (2nd ed.). New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Neville, K. (2010). Designing style guidelines for brands and websites. Retrieved from Smashing Magazine website: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/07/21/designing-style-guidelines-for-brands-and-websites/

Peterson, V.V. (2001). The rhetorical criticism of visual elements: An alternative to Foss’s schema. Southern Communication Journal, 67 (1), 19-32.

Schriver, K. A. (1997). The interplay of words and pictures. In Dynamics in document design: creating text for readers (pp. 411-420 & 440-441). New York: Wiley Computer Pub.


  1. Guide to a Course Reading, which summarizes one of our readings as a 1-page, text/image handout.
  2. Report Analyzing an Organization’s Visual Media, done with a partner, which uses concepts from design and rhetoric to describe and assess the rhetorical strategy of one organization’s visual media.  
  3. Team Presentation on a popular topic related to digital age work with visual media.
  4. Visual Media Genre Analysis, in which you identify a specific genre of visual media (e.g., e-book versions of children’s print books; Pinterest pages of news organizations), collect samples of the genre, itemize the ways that text and image are used in each sample, and from this analysis isolate conventions, novelties, best practices, common problems, and future possibilities for the genre.