Can You Picture It? Visual Rhetorics and Argument

Work to have achieved:

  • A final-for-now version of your soundscape narratives
  • Write and post reflection on same
  • Download and install GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program

Plan for the day:

  1. Visual unit overview and assignment
  2. Introduction to GIMP
  3. Practice time

Visual unit overview and assignment

As I explained in the syllabus, your second project is to make a rhetorical claim through the juxtaposition of images and text. It’s kind of a collage, but a collage with an argument to make. In assigning this, I have two main goals for you:

  1. to learn how to capture images and arrange them using digital tools, and
  2. to explore the affordances of still images as a medium, and especially their ability to direct attention and help make ideas memorable.
To read the full assignment – and make a copy for yourself – go to

Let’s read through this together.


I’ve started pinning some examples of the kinds of collages and collisions I have in mind, but don’t take this as expressing some absolute sense of range:

Our Tool of Choice: GIMP

(It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program.)

I’ll demo, using Beverly & Pack. “Fly Me to the Moon, by Way of a Hot Air Balloon.”” 7 Sept. 2009. Flickr,

Points to hit:

  • Single window mode
  • Lots of selection tools
    • Quick Mask to help see what’s currently selected
  • Pay attention to the tiny text at the bottom
  • Layers! Of course layers
If you get stuck: Chapter 4: Getting Unstuck (and other resources on the resources page
  • Clone tool; tool settings window
  • Scale effects. Rasters vs. vectors

Your turn!

Take the image you posted way back in week 1, as part of our greetings and salutations, and change something: change eye or hair (or fur) color, add a silly hat, insert loltext, etc. Have fun with it!

Take the time now to practice adding and subtracting to a selection using the various tools, because that’s what you’ll need before you can use any of the other effects.

To fill with color, try the Bucket tool.

EXT: Google Image’s Advanced Search Tools

Not everything is just available for any use – even if you can find it on a public website. See my FAQ from last year at

Homework for next time:

  • Read the following short lessons on graphic design, by independent designer Julie Thompson: positive and negative space; dominance and hierarchy; rhythm and movement.
  • Find and photograph at least one example of a visual or graphic design out in “the wild” that makes some sort of claim, or argument.
    • By “in the wild,” I mean that I expect you to come across some in the course of your daily routine. That said, if you need to search more actively, so be it.
    • The claim or argument could be explicit or implicit.
  • Write a short blog post, sharing your visual argument example. Examine it through the lenses of positive/negative, dominance/hierarchy, and rhythm/movement: what does that help you see? Would you say this is effectively designed for making its argument? (NB: If the argument is implicit, please try to articulate what you think it’s claiming.)