A visual argument requires compositional intent, with a focus towards context and content for effective execution. Media used and audience orientation must also be a major component in crafting and analyzing a visual argument. Visual arguments persuade, engage and advocate with appeals through focused messages – messages that may be clear and concise or veiled and vague for the user, depending on the manner of persuasion. There must primarily be a claim made, proof provided to persuade, and underlying assumptions to achieve an effective visual argument, but visual arguments can be achieved with or without a linguistic component.
Take this ad for a feminine hygiene product, for example. By using a feminist rhetorical perspective to investigate visual narrative structures within, we can locate a persuasive appeal for a target market to purchase this product by attaching the sentiments of the visual narratives to the users’ own lives and desires/aspirations. The woman standing in the center of composition, positioned at the convergence of architectural vanishing points, is our narrative focal point. Her surroundings pale in comparison to her bold nature made visible through heightened colors and voluminous objects in contrast to the washed out gray and stark lines of the world around her. She can literally and metaphorically stop traffic on a city street.
Though she is surrounded by bright hues, she is dressed in the “menstrual commercial” white dress, indicative of clean innocence and Audrey Hepburn at once. Her loud magenta monochrome tights and shoes are meant to appeal to a target age demographic of the desired consumer (though the color and leading lines of the composition denote a discursive rhetorical mark given the nature of the product). The bright retro motorbike behind her induces a feeling of “a girl on the go” who leads by her own path and never forgets to stop and have fun. She is the manic pixie dream girl icon. The vivid balloons, declaring the primacy of the upper portion of the composition (the divine space), can be interpreted as ovum forms linked to fertility.
The ribbons that cascade freely are still bound, in the end, and perhaps represent the string of the tampon product advertised. The nature of the box is Pandora, a future of possibilities unfolding. After this photographic glossy narrative has worked us over visually, our eyes are lead to the linguistic element – “You stand out. Your period doesn’t.” With typographic emphasis on the first sentence while the second sentence whispers in a thinner set, the visual narrative is anchored. And the eye moves at last to the actual product being marketed, awash in packaging colors that mimic those vivid purples, yellows, and whites in the photo. The narrative argument is set and effective at convincing the consumer of the kind of girl they want to be, the kind that only this feminine hygiene product can provide.