Visible Rhetoric (Eng 350)

Visible Rhetoric, at Illinois State University, is part of a set of upper-level, required electives (i.e., choose 2 of 3) for the English department’s undergraduate sequence in publishing studies and track in technical writing. As a 300-level class, it is also open to masters and PhD students who want to take a course that is part theory, part hands-on. Students learn theories of visual rhetoric (i.e., typefaces, color, materiality of a document) and learn to apply those theories to print documents using Adobe InDesign (among other programs). As of Fall 2009, I have taught this course once.

semesters & syllabi

  • Fall 2007 (paper syllabus not currently available; lost in a hard-drive crash)
  • Enrollment: 18 students (16 undergraduates, 1 Masters, 1 PhD student)

In my first semester at Illinois State, I taught English 350, modeling it on previous publications classes I taught, with the modification that this class didn’t need to focus on pre-press issues because the intro course in the publishing sequence does that. Students started by focusing on how the design of written text, including use of fonts, makes meaning for audiences/readers and designing small documents (flyers) in Microsoft Word. Then transferring that knowledge to larger projects and more complicated software programs (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop). Projects included collateral material (résumés, business cards, letterhead) and final projects of their choosing, which included chapbooks, children’s books, sets of print advertising material, etc.

teaching challenge
The challenge for me was two-fold: figuring out how to adapt a service-learning syllabus focusing on a single class project (i.e., a literary magazine) to individual projects, and accommodating learning needs at the undergraduate through PhD-level in one class. I didn’t feel very successful in doing this, and although I love teaching print design and visual rhetoric, I asked to be taken off the rotation for this course until I could figure out a better strategy. Another faculty member is teaching that course regularly now (and with seeming great success), so if I need to teach it again, I will sit in on her class to borrow some of her teaching strategies. Despite my hesitancy about the way I taught this class, I won a Sigma Tau Delta Teaching Award after undergraduates in that class nominated me.

accompanying materials

  • none available

see also