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Mouse pad rhetoric

For the Papa Johns customer appreciation day, I was given a free mouse pad. The images on the mouse pad suggest a very specific identity for the company. First of all, the dominant colors on the mouse pad are red and yellow. As we discussed earlier in the year, these are food colors. Even more specific, I would say that they are pizza colors. The color choices are interesting since the Papa Johns logo is green, red, and white, so the dominant scheme doesn’t match the company identifiers. I think that this was necessary to tie Papa Johns to hunger since there is not a pizza image on the mouse pad.Without the image of the food being sold, color was a good way to make customers think about the product at a glance without read the mouse pad text. Though the text is mainly contact information and a phrase that says “Just a click of the mouse, Papa’s in the house.”

The text noted brings me to the second major theme of the mouse pad: a trendy attitude towards Papa Johns pizza. The text provided tries to be hip, possible appealing to a younger crowd. A deliver vehicle is shown for the company, though rather than the standard delivery vehicle, it is a yellow Z28. Yellow again for an association with hunger, and a cool vehicle to make the image of the company cool by proxy. The founder of Papa Johns is imposed in close proximity to the car, red shirt (food) and smiles outward, his gaze towards the audience. The association here is strong. The vehicle will bring Papa Johns pizza to your home, and yet through the gaze of Papa John, he is already in your home. He is a good person to have in your home, he is associated with hunger and his car makes him seem cool. But furthermore, it seems to suggest that he is down-to-earth and will be delivering the pizza due to his proximity.

The mouse pad effectively molds the company into a place that can cure hunger, is cool and trendy, but familiar and close to its roots. Not bad for a mouse pad!

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November 25, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Sarah Palin rhetoric

There was a recent controversy over a cover for Newsweek magazine where Sarah Palin was featured in tight running clothes and has a flag draped limply from her arm. The headline reads, ” How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She’s bad news for the GOP and for everyone else.” Palin argues that this cover is sexist. The photo was originally featured in Runners World magazine as a part of their runner of the month expose. So is the photo sexist?It has not been photoshopped that we know of, so Newsweek argues argues that they just chose the photo because it was interesting. I think it  is arguably sexist, but it could also arguably be the same spirit of blasting a political figure with a photo out of context.

The photo is framed under a different context from Runner’s World. Rather than a fitting headline likely showing Palin’s example of good fitness practices, Newsweek has a headline critiquing Palin’s competence as a politician. With this framing, the photo does make Palin appear to only be a pretty face. She is posed with her hands on her hips in a provocative manner, her shirt is red (arguably a passion color) and if form fitting. Though runners frequently wear form fitting clothing, with the headline provided and the American flag on her arm, Palin appears as an irresponsible politician. She is not shown in an office, but a room with a view. This makes her appear to be at a vacation place rather than in a place of business.

I am especiall interested in the flag. Rather than hanging, the fact that she is holding it makes her seem irresponsible. Holding a flag or draping it over her person seems to carry a rhetoric of entitlement. The only ones I can think of that wear the flag are Olympic medalists or deceased soldiers in their coffins.

I would say that the picture does preposition Palin rhetorically before the audience has the chance to read the article that discusses her negative effects on the GOP and politics. The photo would likely strengthen the article because even if readers knew nothing about Palin, they would still likely begin the article with a lower opinion of her.

Funny, because this picture did not make any big buzz when it was in Runners World, but here the context is purposely upset. If it isn’t sexist, then at the very least it is definitely misleading.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | 1, Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Chapter 9 Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture

I have been thinking a lot about how parody as a postmodern tactic can cause audiences to take a critical look at some of the readily accepted norms and mores presented to them. My initial reaction in thinking about parody is that it may have outgrown its original purpose. Perhaps parody is such a common occurrence that its potency is diminished and rather than seeing the parody for the issue presented, it is instead seen as a venue for comedy rather than informative comedy.

I think there could be some ground to this. For example, I doubt that many people watch the Colbert Report to gain actually useful insights into the political world. Colbert (though very funny) promotes such a strong character that parodies a right-wing pundit, that the valuse in watching seems to be seeing him be overtly ridiculous. But the more I got to thinking about it (and in doing some reading for my 467 class) we take lessons from parody in more places that political news shows. South Park went through a huge revamp after season 4, moving plot line focus from Kenny dieing in every episode to the protagonists engaging current social and political issues. Their heavy parodying of issues such as scientology and the aftermath of the Obama/McCain election enable audiences to look at issues in a reframed context. I suppose that that is important too in parody, that what is presented isn’t a single counterpoint, but rather a single one that can be shown. Either way, I think that post-modern attitude that parody tries to convey is creating an informed and questioning audience member.

I also thought hyperreality was kind of interesting because I didn’t realize that I too would more readily accept something as reality if it is presented with amateurish reporting and camera motion. I think though that even if we could assume that what we were seeing was “real,” what is being shown would still be subjective to the bias of the videographer and the reporter who frame the event through their words, tone, and portrayal of the event taking place. I am reminded of a report of Bush telling a foreign leader that God wanted him to fight the war in Iraq. A photo was provided of Bush cupping his ear and looking into space. The report framed Bush as insane, when they could have framed him completely different. I do not recall which leader Bush spoke to, but in some cultures, it is customary to fight a battle as a part of God’s work or at the behest of God. Bush could merely have been appealing to that leader and their culture. The photo was also likely placed out of context and supported the illusion that the reporter wanted to impress upon the audience.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Modules in video games

I tried to sit down and think about video games and how modules affect them. Immediately I came up with the pixel, which makes up everything we see in video games, from the text to the characters. Each pixel is a module. This was more apparent in the earlier days of video games. While we could go as far back as Pong, I like to think of the original Mario Bros. game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The image of Mario as composed by these pixels has actually become relatively well-known. In fact, most video gamers would recognize the pixellated Mario on the same level as they would the Mario in the newest Mario games. Really, these pixels end up representing not only Mario, but nostalgia, a classic, and history in video games.
Another well-known game that revolves around modules is Sim City for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game revolves around city planning, specifying zones as residential, commercial, and industrial, and helping them flourish. Each zone makes up a module, but is composed of nine modules (not counting the pixels making up the picture). The modules, when grown can fuse together to make a greater module with larger population and economic capacities. It is essential to understand how each module affects one another to make a successful city. For example, a residential module right next to an industrial zone will not be able to fuse together and maximize the limited space for building, and will also cause citizens to complain about pollution.

Eight modules placed together in a ring are referred to as a donut. Donuts are seen as individual modules as well since the even number allows for maximum growth potential if similar zones are placed. And the empty module in the middle can be occupied with a fire or police department, to protect the modules circling it from crime and fire.

It is a game made up of modules and about modules!

November 9, 2009 Posted by | 1, Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Weather channel

I was watching the weather channel the other day (because I apparently have that kind of time) and noticed how the image presented incorporated a lot of the design elements that we have discusses lately. Watching the storm tracker, the entire screen is framed by my TV set. Within that frame is another frame which contains a box to show the area of the world we are viewing. The image shown uses color to represent the type to geographic landscape. For example, green is used for forested or relatively flat terrain, while brown us used for mountainous terrain. Layers have a strong presence here. The bottom most layer would be a map of the United States and the ocean. Super imposed over that is a layer showing topography and lines dividing up the individual states. Imposed over this layer is the images of storms and their movements. My showing all of these layers, we can see how the terrain is affecting the movement of the storms as they accumulate, disperse, and traverse the country.

 

Even when the map zooms out and shows the globe, a grid divides the map and the storm systems by latitude and longitude. Withing each section of the grid is essentially a module, so we can measure the speed and size of a storm system. It is easier to measure by module or at least to comprehend rather than do it by sight in a close up view. Over the ocean this would be particularly difficult to do since it is all blue and does not have any specific topographic identifiers except for lighter shades of blue near the land. Working together, this mixture or layers, colors, grids, and modules is able to help us understand the weather. I guess this is a good example of data layers and how much they can show without the audience having to heavily think about it.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Figure/ground, framing, and grids

For this reading, I will focus on framing and will also jump back a little bit to hierarchy as it relates to framing. If we think of Web interfaces as a type of frame, than we have another dynamic to consider when designing for the Web. The Web has changed the way we must think of framing. Where print publications have their most rudimentary frame in the page itself (granted the page is framed on more than one way) the Web complicates the way that information is framed. Designers cannot guarantee that all of their audience will be working with a certain sized monitor, which frames the page. Even if the page was viewed on the same sized monitor, the audience have the option to scroll, essentially reframing the information shown. The reframing has hierarchy to it. Viewers expect that the designer put the most important information within the frame that will be viewed first.

 

The way that the audience views the page will be different as well. While the traditional z pattern reading will still be employed, audiences on the Web typically scan the page in general, looking for a link or a headline that seems interesting or important. It is less likely that the readers will read everything on a page than it would be on a print document. Headlines and good labels to establish hierarchy and modules of information will be of utmost importance to increase the readability of a Web site. But headlines and labels also a form of framing too. In Graphic Design several methods of combining image and text are shown, each ending with a different framing of the image. But what about bodies of text? Can words not also frame text? True, the GD says that an image on its own is open to interpretation, but can words also be open to interpretation? Wouldn’t a picture also serve as framing for another picture? If I displayed two images of Hiroshima, the day before the bomb was dropped and the day after, wouldn’t I be framing the context of each picture? Something to consider.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Grids, layers, hierarchy, transparency, modularity, patterns

I think that this reading illustrated how many elements of design can be broken down into these exact elements. I know that I could not think of one single publication produced at University Marketing and Communications that did not have several, if not all of these elements as building blocks that resulted in a final product. For example, most projects are completed in InDesign with work in Photoshop as well. Each of these programs utilizes grids for layout and making changes. Often, the grids are turned off, but even in InDesign, the element of the grid is still there in the form of guides at the top and bottom of the page. The document is laid out in modules, specified within the grid. Boxes are created for text and images, so that items can be moved as one unit if the structure of the document needs to be reevaluated or new material is provided. Transparency and patterns can be used as imagery to contribute to the identity of the piece. For example, on the viewbook, the University seal is prominent on the front but is transparent in contrast to the text that is placed above it. Hierarchy takes many forms in each of the publications. In the transparency example placed above, the transparency of the seal may suggest that the text which is over it is the first thing viewed, and it might be, but the size of the seal, though transparent, identifies the publication as an Illinois State publication. Kind of a changing hierarchy at play. The size of the text is an obvious way to establish hierarchy. Major headlines might be large, and sub categories within that headline might be smaller than the main headline but larger than the body text. Bolding an item might suggest that it is of more importance in a document. I suppose in conclusion my point is that each of the principles/elements are present in document design, whether is something we create in Word, InDesign, or write with a pen.

 

Now that I said pen, let me give a coupe of examples of the above elements. If it is a letter on loose leaf paper, the lines are a grid of sorts, but also serve as individual modules. Also, indenting for a paragraph can mark modules. The page has a specific hierarchy too. Users know that in the Western world that they are using a Z scan on the page, and will begin and end where the Dear XXXXX, and Sincerely XXXXX are respectively.

Understanding that these principles permeate all design allow us to consider the audience more and make responsible design decisions.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Rhetoric of Walls

For this post I am actually drawing on Francesca Bray’s Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China. This book was one of the readings for my Eng 467 class. In this book, Bray discusses how gender is constructed in Imperial China, specifically during the Song Dynasty. Bray discusses how a space can serve as the identity for gender. I was interested in that a wall around the home of a family’s home had a lot more to it then keeping unwanted persons out. In a sense, it marked the domain of the wife, not that she held dominant power within the walls, but that the affairs within the walls, even the husbands concubines, were her responsibility. Beyond the wall was the domain of the husband. The wall also served as a status marker for the family. Bray alludes to the idea that one family sees the wall from the inside, but two families see the wall from the outside (92). Ornate gates and high walls were symbolic of a prosperous family.

 

The physical design and layout of the wall can also be ritualistic. Imperial Chinese not only believed that the walls would keep out unwanted strangers, but also ghosts and spirits. The paths through the wall twisted and turned because of the belief that ghosts and spirits had to travel in a straight line.

 

Also, placement of paper or announcements above gates celebrated or mourned various occasions. A white paper above the main gate with a name on it would signal that that person had died. Remember from my Japan lecture (though another Asian culture it has strong ties to China) that white signified death or the world beyond or a red paper (signaling joy and celebration) for the new year or birth of a son.

 

There is quite a bit more that I could say on how a wall, a seemingly simple construct in our society, meant much more to this culture. But let me conclude by pointing out that by studying a wall, we are able to examine the religion, class, and social practices of families in the Song Dynasty. There is a lot of culture deliberately tied to this construct, and where there is culture, there is strong deliberate rhetoric which creates it.

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Monopoly at McDonalds

I look forward every year to Monopoly at McDonald’s. It is a lot of fun to me that I cna buy fast food which I enjoy and have the chance to walk away rich. Of course I enter the codes on the Web site for more chances to win. But this really had me thinking about the rhetoric of the site and how the campaign was presented. Using Monopoly in itself is a rhetorical strategy in that it is a game associated with money and has a family context. Images for the game show working class people who have won money, looking like working class people. The slogan for the game too this year is something to the effect of “We know the money will not change you, just some of your stuff.” The campaign is able to interpellate it audience by presenting people that most can identify with and expose the consumerist desires of its audience to want the better material possessions, and thus buy more McDonald’s food for the chance to win it.

 

As a spectator, our relationship with the person in the ad (many different people are portrayed) might be one of envy. We see them as someone who has instantly acquired a vast amount of wealth, yet they are still working or middle class, but seem happier for it. The money is not viewed by the spectator as undeserved since we can identify with the person in the ad.

 

The music on the Web site is geared around creating a feeling of excitement. I could compare it to hip music that might be played in a convertible while going somewhere fun. Each time the dice are rolled, the potential prize is shown despite whether or not it is won. In this way, the spectator yearns more for the prize and feels excitement that their life would change if the money was won, though the odds of winning are astronomically high.

October 29, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Document design

I found that document design is highly related to the C.R.A.P. principles that we discussed earlier in the semester. It seems that the field has a challenge in what they term the field. For example, a term such as information architecture might seem ambiguous to some, and might also refer more to digital documents. I would be surprised if any sort of consensus was ever reached on an appropriate term for the position, but what the author does in explaining the nuances of why certain terms are effective and ineffective is demonstrate that document design is a deeply involved process requiring a skill set that relies on understanding the principles of what makes a good design.

I will mention that one issue I had with the reading was regarding the difference between document design, termed more as ethical and geared towards helping the reader to find what they want, and advertising, which focuses on driving the reader towards a certain end goal such as consumption. Though it is acknowledges that advertising requires well thought out design choices to be made, I feel that terming document design as ethical and advertising as not is an unfair assumption.

We see the same sort of assumption with rhetorical discourse, where rhetoric is sometimes defined as the ethical use of persuasion. However, we know that persuasion that is not ethical is still persuasion none-the-less. Perhaps the author would like to steer document design towards an ethical practice, but some of the same principles that makes document design an effective way to allow the reader to find information are utilized in a similar fashion.

I also appreciated the reading on socially responsible document design. I know that this is something that University Marketing and Communications takes seriously. Standardized on each of our publications is an accommodation statement. Documents are also printed on recycled paper. There are other ways to be socially responsible too. Using fonts that consume less ink can be environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. Also, using local printers can support the community, rather than farming out the job to a distant vendor. In the reading, making sure that the job is even warranted is a way to conserve costs and the environment. Of course, the author notes that most firms will not want to turn away jobs that can provide much needed income. However, this can be solved by suggesting a different size for the publication or even changing the medium. Rather than a billboard for the Bone Student Center, we have a changing electronic marquee. Although this may be expensive, it cuts down on wasted materials and can feature multiple ads at a time. Materials can also be placed on the Web, where unlimited space is available. Or perhaps rather than inviting guests to an event with a formal invitation and envelope, a postcard or e-mail relay are better options. In these ways, designers do not necessarily have to turn away work, and the designer can be socially responsible at the same time.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment