Reading Notes

Diana George, “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing”

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 54, no. 1, 2002, pp. 11-39. 

Summary: George presents a history of the ways that “visuals” were used in the classroom, and argues that the incorporation of visual literacy and visual production can be relevant and meaningful in composition courses–especially since students are living in a visual age. She argues that teachers have been using assignments that limit students’ interactions with visual texts, and seems to advocate for a more inclusive and exploratory relationship with visuals as a form of broad communication.

Keywords: composition, visual literacy, analysis, design, visual arguments, visuals


  1. “I actually believe that some tug of war between words and images or between writing and design can be productive as it brings into relief the multiple dimensions of all forms of communication” (14).
  2. ” The history of how visual literacy has entered the teaching of writing, at least as it emerges in scholarly journals and textbook assignments for more than fifty years, is not a smooth or consistent one in which writing instruction and visual literacy move seamlessly from image analysis to design… It is here that we see most clearly how visual studies has been perceived as a threat to language and literature instruction” (15).
  3. “[As early as the 1960s] Visuals (be they paintings, films, comic books, or television narratives) were to be studied in the same way as literary texts, as subjects of close analysis—a use of the visual that continues throughout the history of writing instruction” (17).
  4. “…it is important to point out that thinking of composition as design shifts attention, if only momentarily, from the product to the act of production” (18).
  5. “To talk of literacy instruction in terms of design means to ask writers to draw on available knowledge and, at the same time, transform that knowledge/those forms as we redesign” (26).
  6. “…visual arguments make a claim or assertion and attempt to sway an audience by offering reasons to accept that claim” (29).
  7. “Given an opportunity to design evaluation criteria, students turned to the same criteria we would find common for written arguments: Does the visual make an argument? How well does the visual communicate that argument? Is the argument relevant to the course and to the assignment? Is it interesting? Is it clear or focused? In other words, these students and others like them took the visual in its broadest sense as a form of communication through which they could make a sophisticated and relevant argument” (31).
  8. “For students who have grown up in a technology saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them” (32).


  1. “Instead, the question is much closer to one Anne Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola ask: ‘What are we likely to carry with us when we ask that our relationship with all technologies should be like that we have with the technology of printed words?’ (349)” (32).
  2. How can writing instructors incorporate these types of assignments when a class is predominantly full of non-traditional students who may be less familiar with digital technology/media?

Further Reading:

  1. New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review 66 (1996): 60-92.
  2. Bernhardt, Stephen. “Seeing the Text.” College Composition and Communication 37 (1986): 66–78.
  3. Trimbur, John. “Review of Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures.” College Composition and Communication 52 (2001): 659–62.
  4. Trimmer, John. “Delivering the Message: Typography and the Materiality of Writing.” Composition As Intellectual Work. Ed. Gary Olson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. 188–202.

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