Visual essay (order an essay inexpensively)

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Graphic Design Education

Design Pedagogy by Adjunct Professor John P Corrigan

The Visual Essay

Visual Essay

What Does Creating a Visual Essay Imply?

To begin with, a visual essay appears to stand out of the crowd. Actually, it is a totally different assignment from a classic essay. The point is that while covering this written task, you shouldn’t write anything at all except for some short informative statements!

In fact, this academic assignment requires expressing your thoughts on this or that topic using:

Moreover, to present your point of view on the required topic you may combine all above-mentioned means with some short informative statements related to the theme.

Handling Visual Assignments

Clearly, the most difficult and challenging step while fulfilling this task is finding really suitable and gripping visuals, pictures and images to use. Obviously, it presumes using creative approach and skills. In other words, ability to generate fresh ideas seems to be a determinant factor on your road to success.

Recommendations on Composing a Visual Essay

Are there any clear effective hints, which can help you to create your visual paper with ease? Of course, there are! And you shouldn’t seek for them, because they are posted below:

  • Surf the web and use camera to collect the data for your essay.
  • Incorporate thought provoking visuals, images and pictures in your paper.
  • To make your presentation more griping feel free to use graphs, various charts and bars.
  • All the data you want to use should be up-to-date and relevant.
  • Don’t forget about numerous visuals aids while defending your paper.
  • Show your paper to your relatives of friends before submitting it. They may give you favorable advice as well.

Competent Help with Visual Essays

Still feel a little bit frustrated because of these academic assignments? Don’t fall into despair! There is always a way out from any tough situation! Visual papers are not an exception.

How to Write a Visual Essay

By Marlene Inglis, eHow Contributor

Visual essays tell a story either by using text or props.

A visual essay can be a group of pictures depicting or exploring a topic without any text or it can be a combination of visuals or images plus text. Your essay can be a commentary on ideas ranging from gardening to social uprisings and can focus on political or environmental issues. Pictures used in your essay can be current pictures or ones collected over a period of time and the essay can be presented either as a word document or as a .jpeg image file format with some accompanying text.

  1. Create your visual essay by deciding which format you will be using for your essay. Remember that the purpose of your essay is to inform, persuade or enlighten your reader. Create an essay that is factual but not boring, lots of images or pictures but not enough to overwhelm, thought provoking but not thoughtless.
  2. Use charts, bars or graphs to tell your story. Select a subject such as statistical processing control (SPC), a process used in the manufacturing industry to monitor product quality, and create graphic charts, bars and graphs. Use vivid colors in your presentation so your audience can observe and compare the variations in manufacturing the product over certain times of the year. Create comparative charts and graphs to show the current year’s product quality compared to previous years. Using the appropriate visuals for your subject matter is paramount in keeping your audience interested and informed.
  3. Write your essay on a topic such as “uprisings” and use current pictures or images of an uprising in a country. Collect dozens of pictures pertinent to your subject matter and save them in a .jpeg format. Select pictures that can tell your story such as individuals looting and hauling store merchandise across their backs, people of all ages being unceremoniously dragged across roads, tanks lumbering through city streets while people run for cover and cars and buildings ablaze. Accompany the pictures with suitable background music and your visual essay would not need much text since the pictures by themselves will speak to your audience.
  4. Use visual aids or props. Purchase various fast foods such as hamburgers, fries, nachos, coke, etc. for your essay on “The obesity epidemic”. Research the fat content, the amount of sugar, salt and other ingredients contained in each food item. Prepare a power point presentation with text to accompany your visual essay and include information on the normal amount of fat, salt, sugar etc. each body requires per day compared to the amount that these items provide. Include some pictures of people in various body sizes. Your presentation should be informative but not preachy. Let your audience make their own decision.

How to Write a Picture Analysis Essay

By Tom Becker, eHow Contributor

A picture is always more than the sum of its parts.

Art moves us. Whether it makes us feel joy, sorrow or revulsion, art has the power to affect us and express ideas that transcend rational thought and language. Art communicates these primal experiences not just through an artist’s inspiration, but also through very clear, recognizable visual communication techniques. Writing a picture analysis essay requires a basic understanding of essay structure and these visual communication techniques. Excellent picture analysis essays combine both these elements while addressing the more ephemeral ideas and experiences communicated by a picture.

  1. Note how the picture makes you feel. Do this before you make any intellectual analysis of the picture. Immediate, unprepared and unguarded observation will often tell you more about the content communicated by the painting than rigorous analysis.
  2. Address the age of the picture. Take note of the period from which it comes, what styles dominated that era, what techniques artists used and who commissioned the work. Consider the current events going on at the time of the picture’s creation and what social or cultural elements or changes may have affected its content.
  3. Find out the dimensions of the picture. A large picture communicates very differently from a small one. Generate reasons why the picture communicates well or poorly due to its size.
  4. Look for the composition of the picture. Composition refers to the way the elements are oriented in relationship to one another. Observe if the objects seem crowded or sparse, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Consider why the objects in the picture have their specific orientation.
  5. Take note of how the picture is cropped. Cropping refers to images that only partially appear in the picture, as if someone “cropped” them out of the picture. Address how cropping focuses the viewer on certain aspects of the picture and what ideas the cropping may help communicate.
  6. Observe the levels of light in the picture. Take note of the visible and obscured objects and where the picture draws the viewer’s eye. Think of the role light and darkness play in communicating feelings or ideas in the picture.
  7. Look for color. Observe the way the picture utilizes color or lack of color. Address the effect different colors in the painting have on the ideas it communicates.
  8. Observe the form of the images in the picture. Whether an image has clearly defined lines and boundaries representing a real object, or has no defined shape can communicate very different ideas and emotions. Address the reasons why the image has or does not have a clearly defined shape.
  9. Look for texture. Pictures with completely flat surfaces may communicate differently than pictures with highly textured surfaces. Address how the texture or lack of texture conveys ideas and emotions in the picture.
  10. Take note of your gut reaction to the painting after your thorough analysis. Address how the various elements came together to help form your initial impressions and how analysis either strengthened or weakened your initial impressions.
  1. Choose a thesis. A thesis represents the main idea of your essay, the point you wish to communicate. Use your thorough analysis of the picture to make a list of opinions you wish to assert about the picture. Choose the strongest idea that most clearly communicates and unifies your assertions as your thesis.
  2. Introduce the first assertion of your essay with a topic sentence stating that assertion.
  3. Develop the assertion in the next few paragraphs by citing specific examples that back up your assertion.
  4. Conclude each assertion by restating the assertion and briefly summarizing the manner in which you have proved your assertion.
  5. Introduce your next assertion with a topic sentence and continue in this fashion until you have made all the assertions backing up your thesis.
  6. Conclude the essay with a restatement of your thesis statement, briefly restate your assertions and finish with a sentence or two stating what you have proved with the essay.

How to Start a Reflection Essay on Art

By Isaiah David, eHow Contributor

Because a reflection essay on art is your chance to go back and take an informal look at a substantial project you have completed, many people incorrectly assume that it will be the easiest part. In reality, it takes a mature perspective, a developed voice, and the ability to be simultaneously informal and articulate to write a good reflection essay on art. In this article, I assume that you are writing a reflective essay on art you have made yourself, but the instructions can be easily adapted to help you reflect on an art history unit or a report you did on an art exhibit.

  • Consult the rubric. Generally, your teacher will provide a list of points you are expected to address. Jot down a few notes on each point. Don’t try to be comprehensive – keep it light and flowing at this stage. Think of the first things that come to your mind.
  • Look at your art project. What does it make you think about? Do you like it? Hate it? Take a closer look at the details. Was there some part that you had to struggle to complete? Was there something that came easy or hit like a burst of inspiration? Write down as much or as little as you are inspired to.
  • Think about the project as a whole. Find a moment that encapsulated the whole process of creating, refining, and finishing your work of art. It could be the first moment where you really felt engaged in the project, or it could be an obstacle that nearly stopped you dead in your tracks and that you had to overcome. That is where you should start your reflective essay.
  • Use the drama of the moment you just thought of to begin your essay. You want your essay as a whole to tell the story of your project, and your first paragraph to tell a story within that story to draw the reader in. Use vivid descriptive to make the reader feel what you felt.
  • Leave the reader hanging. Don’t tell the whole story of whatever moment you chose in your introductory paragraph – leave something for the ending. Then, you can keep the reader interested in the story within the story even as you lead them through the entire process.
  • Step back to tell the rest of the story. For example, if you start with a description of a last minute problem you had to solve in your art project, you might start the next paragraph with something like “By that point, of course, I had been working on the project for 6 weeks.” This will take you right back to the beginning of the project, allowing you to reflect on each stage in order.
  • 7 As you go through, use the details you thought about in step 2. If there are some aspects of your work that you are especially proud of, tell the reader how they came about. If there are other aspects that you don’t like, tell the reader why you don’t like them. Don’t just list them, but put them in at whatever stage of your project they occurred.
  • Make sure to hit every detail on the rubric. Try to keep it in the back of your mind as you go through. Tat way, you can integrate it into the flow of your essay and make it sound more natural.
  • For your conclusion, come back to the mini story and relate it to the project as a whole. If you found you had to trust your intuition to complete one aspect of your piece, explain what the project as a whole has taught you about intuition in art. If you had to scrap it all and start over at some stressful point, you might talk about what you learned about the need to plan, or the willingness to admit to yourself when you are wrong. Be humble. Show that there is something you had to learned, and that you learned it.

How to Write an Art Essay

By Melanie Novak, eHow Contributor

Writing an essay about a piece of art is best approached by considering two things:

  1. What did the artist set out to accomplish?
  2. How well did that artist achieve her goal?

This criterion is useful in a few ways. It’s relatively fair (you won’t be holding the work to unrealistic standards), it clearly sets up the basis for your critique, and looking at a work this way avoids a thumbs-up or thumbs-down review. You can use this approach to write about a book, movie, theatrical performance, painting, piece of music or any other creative work. The bulk of the work of writing about art is actually the time it takes to analyze the work and write the outline. There are some challenging steps in the first parts of this how-to, but if you have a strong, solid outline, the writing will be easy.

Analyzing the work

  1. Write what you think the artist was trying to achieve with this work of art. The famous Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century, is a notoriously inscrutable painting. You cannot, obviously, know exactly what da Vinci intended by painting this portrait. Many accomplished art historians have written extensively about this painting. So what can there be for you to say? Plenty. In this example, an essay on the well-known painting the Mona Lisa, you might conclude that the artist was trying to paint a portrait that told a story about a particular woman. This may seem obvious, but remember that goal is quite different from, say, an instructional painting with an obvious religious allegory or an abstract modern painting, and so the evaluation of this particular work will accordingly be different.
  2. Write what you know or feel as a result of the creative work. For instance, what do you know about the woman from looking at how she was painted by da Vinci? These needn’t be facts about her identity, but rather impressions that you have of her. Be as honest and specific about your reactions as you can. Do not worry about your own authority. You don’t need to be a professional art critic or have painted an Italian masterpiece yourself to be able to write an effective essay about the Mona Lisa.
  3. Compare your answer in Step 2 to the artist’s goal in Step 1. Is your reaction what the artist intended—is the work of art successful? Remember that it doesn’t matter whether or not you “like” whatever you are writing about. Rather you are using your own responses to write an analysis of the work itself. Remember that you can write an essay that examines how the work was unsuccessful using the same method as when writing an essay on a successful work.
  4. List the variables—all the decisions the artist or artists had to make—that went into creating the work. In the example of the Mona Lisa, the variables would be subject, composition, materials (paint and surface), color palette, brush strokes and level of detail.
  5. Write next to each variable a short description. For instance, for the Mona Lisa, you would write “subject–woman,” “composition–close-up of face, centered in the frame,” “color palette–muted,” etc.

The thesis statement and finalizing the outline

  1. Write a rough thesis statement based on all the steps above. Don’t use first person, even though your own responses have informed your thinking so far. A rough thesis statement might be “Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a visually beautiful painting using Renaissance painting techniques, but its subject remains mysterious.” Your thesis statement should not be “The Mona Lisa is good.”
  2. Organize the variables in a way that supports your thesis statement. You don’t need to include every variable you listed. You may want to write one paragraph for each variable.
  3. Note how each variable contributed to the overall success (or lack of success) of the creative work.

Writing the essay

  1. Write as specifically as possible when you are describing the variables and your responses to them. It is often the description that will convince your readers of your point.
  2. Write an engaging introduction and satisfying conclusion.

The Visual Essay— collated research material

Create a Visual Essay with Ease

What Does Creating a Visual Essay Imply?

To begin with, a visual assay appears to stand out of the crowd. Actually, it is a totally different assignment from a classic essay. The point is that while covering this written task, you shouldn’t write anything at all except for some short informative statements!

In fact, this academic assignment requires to express your thoughts on this or that topic using:

Moreover, to present your point of view on the required topic you may combine all above-mentioned means with some short informative statements related to the theme.

Some Fresh Ideas on Handling Visual Assignments

Clearly, the most difficult and challenging step while fulfilling this task is finding really suitable and gripping visuals, pictures and images to use. Obviously, it presumes using creative approach and skills. In other words, ability to generate fresh ideas seems to be a determinant factor on your road to success.

In search of inspiration and great ideas we recommend you analyze the ready-made visual assignments composed by other students. Besides, you are welcome to upload free essay templates at our site.

Visual Essay Tools You May Use

Of course, introducing your ideas to the audience is one of the crucial points of getting a positive grade for this task. To make a presentation of your visual paper more eye-catching, pleasant and what is more important, – efficient, you may use the following helpful tools:

We expect these tools to be fruitful for you. Make the most out of them and you’ll be impressed by results.

Wholesome Recommendations on Composing a Visual Essay

Are there any clear effective hints, which can help you to create your visual paper with ease? Of course, there are! And you shouldn’t seek for them, because they are posted below:

  • Surf the web and use camera to collect the data for your essay.
  • Incorporate thought provoking visuals, images and pictures in your paper.
  • To make your presentation more griping feel free to use graphs, various charts and bars.
  • All the data you want to use should be up-to-date and relevant.
  • Don’t forget about numerous visuals aids while defending your paper.
  • Show your paper to your relatives of friends before submitting it. They may give you favorable advice as well.

Competent Help with Visual Essays

Still feel a little bit frustrated because of these visual assignments? Don’t fall into despair! There is always a way out from any tough situation! Visual papers are not an exception.

Me: A Visual Essay

Students build media literacy skills and become familiar with photocollage techniques as they create a visual essay to share information about themselves.

In today’s world, you need to be as good at expressing yourself with pictures as you are with writing. Sharing information visually can help you communicate with people who don’t speak the same language and show to others that are a savvy visual communicator.

Create a visual essay about yourself that will help people understand more about your personality, goals, history, and style. As you combine images and your creativity, remember artistic elements such as rhythm, color and shape.

A collage is a collection of images that tell a story. Collage comes from the French work coller, which means “to glue.” Most collages, and the ones your students may have already made, are often created by glueing photos, fabric, and newsprint together.

Software, like Wixie, makes it easy to create photocollage using the computer and image editing techniques.

Use the Web or your library to locate examples of photocollage, or even photomontage. Photomontage is a similar process, but in the montage process images are combined together to make a new object or image.

If you are working with young students, read a picture book like William Wegman’s Flo & Wendell Explore.Talk about how the author mixes photos, textures, and original artwork.

If you are working with older students, explore how artist John Heartfield used photographs to powerful political effect between the two world wars.

In either case, ask students to share what they think the artist or illustrator is trying to convey. How does the picture make them feel? How did the artist make us feel this way? What story does the picture tell?

In order to tell an effective story, even visual, students should be clear about the characteristics of the subject they are portraying. A photograph of each student will provide obvious physical characteristics like hair and eye color, but how will they share the story of their personality, strengths, and goals?

Have students brainstorm ideas and descriptive words about themselves and write them in a cluster diagram. For younger students, encourage them to share:

  • physical traits such as hair color
  • hobbies they enjoy
  • favorite foods
  • information about their home and family

Ask older students to include things like hobbies and interests, but also describe:

  • goals and dreams
  • traits like sense of humor or diligence
  • greatest strength
  • biggest fear
  • accomplishments

If you want to make writing part of this project, ask students to translate their ideas into a character essay that summarizes the information they want to share about themselves.

Begin the creation process by having students collect images of things that represent their goals, passions, and experiences.Use a digital camera to capture original photographs of objects they own and high-quality images of artwork they create by hand.

Use a tool like Pixie ® or Wixie ® to create the montage.

For younger students, you may want to start by capturing their image with a web cam through the Library and then finding stickers in the Clip Art library.

Teach students how to use the “Glue” and “Convert to Sticker” options to move between the paint layer to object layer for a true montage effect. Show them how to order objects, like photographs, that they have added from the library.

Working with the selection tools, like the eyedropper and lasso will also help students select the parts of an image they want to keep or delete.

Print the images to display them as an art exhibit in your classroom or school. You could also collect them into one file and run as a slide show for a digital art installation.

Reach out to a local coffee shop or even small business to see if they might be interested in showcasing student work in their office.

You may also want to experiment with size and shape to turn each visual essay into a banner students can use at the top of their personal web page, blog, resume, or classroom journal.


The final image is a useful summative assessment for each student’s overall skill communicating in a visual medium. During the process, you can assess their progress in their personal character sketch as well as the files they collect for their montage.

Bring students into the assessment process by pairing them up for evaluation. Ask students to share their work with two other students, one who knows them well and one who doesn’t. Have them evaluate each other’s visual essays using the following questions:

  • How well can they “read” the work?
  • If the image did (or doesn’t) contain the students photo, can you still tell who it represents? Why?

You may also want to reach out to your local graphic design community and see if someone would be willing to come in and evaluate student work.

Lynne Perella. Alphabetica: An A-Z Creativity Guide for Collage and Book Artists. ISBN: 1592531768

William Wegman. Flo & Wendell Explore. ISBN: 0803739303

National Art Education Standards

1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes. Students:

a. select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices

b. intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of *art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas

Common Core Anchor Standards for English Language Arts

Writing: Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

ISTE NETS for Students 2016:

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:

a. choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

b. create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

c. communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.

d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Creative Arts Toolkit

What is it?

A visual essay is a sequence of photographs or other images which are either:

  • original, taken and/or created by yourself, or
  • found, and significantly processed (e.g. using Photoshop, Illustrator)

Taken together, the images provide a critical commentary of some kind on a defined topic, working as a kind of argument, explanation, discussion. The topic will have been either given to you (e.g. as an essay question) or developed by you in consultation with your tutor.

Usually the ‘reading’ of the images in a visual essay is directed by such elements as:

  • the sequence of images and how they relate to each other, the juxtaposition of one to the next and how it stands in a series
  • the layout of the page in which the image(s) is placed, and the layout of following and preceding pages
  • captions, including brief analyses, quotations, key words, provocative questions or statements;
  • text integrated within the image or as part of the image (e.g. playing with typographic elements, the visual aspects of text);
  • • a short text at the beginning (prologue, scene setting) and/or end (epilogue, codicil, reflection).

Sounds easy…?

The visual essay is not a soft option. To produce a good visual essay is as demanding as writing a good academic text, and in some ways may be considerably harder to do. Never opt to do a visual essay because you think it will be easier than a ‘normal’ or ‘proper’ essay: this will inevitably lead to poor work. Apart from anything else, the traditional essay – love it or loathe it – is ‘the devil you know’. A visual essay is always something of a risk – but also an exciting possibility, rich with potential. Think carefully about how you will approach it and what you want it to say, do, achieve.

What form should it take?

The visual essay will usually take the form of a bound sequence but might be a series of unbound cards (perhaps ‘shuffled’, with a fixed start- and end-point) if that works better with the ideas being expressed. It may possibly take the form of a PowerPoint slideshow that runs automatically, combining image and text in a meaningful, essay-style sequence.

Remember, visual design and communication are key to the success (or otherwise) of a visual essay: they work as the equivalents of correct layout, accurate spelling, clear sentence construction, and so on, in a traditional academic essay.

How many images should I include? And how many words?

A visual essay needs to be equivalent in study effort, time, and so on, to a piece of traditional academic writing at the same level. This means that there is no ‘cutting corners’ on research/enquiry, organisation, thinking, drafting, ‘writing up’ and managing references and citation.

  • Typically, to be equivalent to a 1500 word written essay, a visual essay should comprise 10-12 images, with around 500-700 words of text.
  • To be equivalent to a 2000 word written essay, it should include 12-15 images, with around 600-800 words of text.
  • To be equivalent to a 4000 word written essay, think in terms of 15-20 images, with 1200-1500 words of text.

Does a visual essay need to be referenced? Does it need a bibliography?

The visual essay must include – or be accompanied by – an annotated bibliography which uses the Harvard or Author-Date system; ‘annotation’ means ‘added notes of comment, evaluation or explanation’.

A visual essay – depending on overall design and how you are using the textual elements – might not formally cite sources, so the annotated bibliography is an absolutely vital part of the academic apparatus. (If you feel that in-text citations are not appropriate to your visual essay, you must get this agreed by your tutor in advance.)

The annotated bibliography has, for each directly relevant source, an entry in the Harvard/Author-Date format, followed by two short commentaries:

  • How and why this text was useful to you in carrying out the assignment, what it contributed to your understanding and knowledge,
  • How you used it, where in the work it belongs or is used (indicate this in some way)

Some examples and further guidance

Many interesting visual essays have been published in the journal Visual Communication (Sage), which available online through Voyager. Here are three examples to get you started:

  • Roxburgh, M. (2010) ‘Design and the aesthetics of research’. Visual Communication. 9:425.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. (2007) ‘Sound and Vision’. Visual Communication. 6:136.
  • Yagou, A. (2011) ‘Walls of Lisbon: A Visual Essay’. Visual Communication. 10:187.

Suggested further reading

Not about Visual Essays as such, but about visual (and physical) thinking:

How to Make a Visual Essay

VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

A Visual Essay

Uses images along with words in order to:

Tell a personal story

Explain a literary text

Illustrate a social problem

This Article Includes:

1. Types of visual essays

2. Step-by-step instructions

3. Student samples

4. Links for free use images

5. Help in finding quotes, graphs, and clip art

6. Instructions for how to use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie

Example: Depression Slideshow

Why Make a Visual Essay?

More Interesting

Sometimes this kind of essay is an assignment for a class, but it might also be an option your instructor gives you. If you have the choice, you might find making a visual presentation more interesting and more powerful than just writing a regular essay.

Emotional Impact

Why? By using music, video, quotes and powerful images, you can have a more powerful emotional effect on an audience than any written essay.

Bigger Audience

Better yet, these sorts of essays can be shared online to make your argument to a larger audience. For example, not too many people will read your essay on homelessness, but many people might want to see your essay on the lives of homeless people in your town and the people who help the homeless in a soup kitchen (see “Depression Slideshow” or “My Photo Memory: Helping Others” Video).

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

This old saying is true. A great example is the “Texting and Driving” video. The audience will understand the author’s strong stand against texting when they see this essay that includes pictures of the author’s high school friends who died because someone was texting while driving.

Example: Texting and Driving

Choosing a Topic

Thinking about moving personal experiences can help you choose a topic. The student who created “Texting and Driving” experienced the grief of losing 5 friends because of texting. He used his own emotions to help him craft a moving visual argument and included the story of his friends as part of his essay.

What to Include

Like an argument paper, visual essays can use written words and quotes, but they also can include:

  • Photos
  • Professional video
  • Personally filmed video
  • Artwork
  • Graphic Images
  • Tables, charts and graphs
  • Spoken words
  • Music
  • Sounds

Step One: You need to brainstorm, plan and research for your essay. Follow my steps below to plan your essay. I also give you links on where to find images to put in your essay and quotes to use.

Step Two: Gather your images and video. You can make your own videos and pictures, or use those available from the sites I give below. I also give you a link for software that lets you download YouTube videos that you can splice into your own essays.

Step Three: Put your essay together using iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or other video software. You can include music, your own voice, captions, and quotes.

Step Four: Publish your essay by uploading it to YouTube or showing it to your classmates and instructor.

How to Start

Visual essays are a different format from a written ones, but they require many of the same processes to make. Just like when you write, you will need to decide what you want to explain or argue.

Choose a topic and then decide what kind of essay you are writing. Here is a list of types:

1. Explaining: when you want to describe and paint a picture of something but not argue a point.

2. Analysis and Evaluation: when you want to take something apart and analyze the different parts. Often used for literature, songs or movies. Part of your analysis will be evaluating whether this is effective for the audience.

3. Argument: when you want to prove a point or move your audience to think or do something. There are several types of argument claims.Typically, argument essays make a claim which answers one of the following questions:

  • Fact: Is it true or not? Does it really exist? Did it really happen? (example: Is climate change Real? Does domestic violence happen in my community?)
  • Definition: How should we define it? What is it really? (example: What is love? or What was the great depression really like?)
  • Cause: What is the cause? What are the effects? How are these related? (example: What causes homelessness? What are the effects of teens texting and driving?)
  • Value: How important is this? How should we value it? (example: How important is Family for college students? or What is the value of a college education?)
  • Policy: What should we do about it? How can we solve the problem? (example: How can we help friends with eating disorders? How can we solve the problem of child labor?)

You may need to do some research to find the answer to your argument question. You can Google to find out some information on your topic, or look at YouTube videos. Once you find your claim answer, try to write it in a single sentence. That sentence is the thesis for your essay.

What is your Visual Essay about?

Finding Images

When you are looking for images on the Internet, you need to understand that there is a difference from just viewing those images and using them yourself. Luckily, there are many great sites with images which are offered free for anyone to use. Here are some of the best free use sites:

  1. Wikimedia Commons: All of the images on Wikimedia are available for free use and don’t have copyright. Moreover, they have a lot of interesting historical images and famous pictures and art which can really make your visual essay unique. The link lands you on the “Topic” page, but you can also use the search engine to find photos.
  2. Flickr: includes many categories of photos, including “The Commons” which are photos uploaded from collections, as well as personal photos uploaded by people around the world.
  3. Open Clip Art:a gallery of graphic clip art which is free to use. You can search for many objects here that can help you convey your story. Also includes humorous images and cartoons.
  4. Pixabay: professional photography images which are often quite stunning. These free use images can be explored by topic, by the photographer, or by searching for a term. This site also includes clip art.
  5. Slideshare: contains many PowerPoint presentations on lots of different topics. You can get ideas for your own essay as well as look for graphics and quotes you could use. This site gets many uploads from companies, professors, and businesses, so it is a great resource for charts and graphs.

Wordle Graphic Images

Finding Quotes

Need a great quote to make a point in your essay? Or maybe you remember a quote but don’t know who said it. Use one of these sites to help you out:

  • Brainy Quote: Get quotes on many topics like love, friendship, wisdom, or quotes by author. A good quote can be an excellent way to end your essay.
  • Good Reads Quotes: Another source for quotes from famous people. You type in the topic and many different quotes appear along with a picture of the person who said it.
  • Wordle:Create a beautiful design of words that are important for your topic. This can be a great graphic for an introduction or conclusion. All images you make are your own to use in any way you want.

Visual Essays and Humor

As “America Needs Nerds” demonstrates, you don’t have to be serious. Humor, satire and irony can be a great way to convince your audience about your ideas. In the case of this essay, the humor comes from the pictures and contrasts with the seriousness of the voiceover. The pictures help the audience accept the claim of the essay that “geeks” and “nerds” should be valued rather than shunned.

America Needs Nerds


Before you gather images, video, music and other research, you will need to think about what you want to say and how you want to present it. Start by writing down your main point or your claim question and answer. Then answer the following to help you develop your ideas and think about what sort of materials you need to gather for your project.

  1. What are the reasons for believing your thesis?
  2. What are some examples to back up those reasons?
  3. What are the other views on this topic?
  4. What objections would people have to your ideas?
  5. What are your most convincing arguments to refute those objections?
  6. What images would you like to find to illustrate your thesis?
  7. What quotations or phrases could you use that would be memorable?
  8. Are there any familiar sayings that you can reuse or repurpose to get your meaning across?
  9. What music (if any) could help you convey your message?
  10. Do you want to use long sequences of pictures with music, sounds or silence?
  11. Do you want to write a script that you speak over the visual images?
  12. Will you include video? If so, will you take it yourself or use clips of other videos?

Creating a Plan

Looking at your answers to your pre-writing questions, you can start to plan how you will put together your piece. Just like a written essay, you will need and introduction, body, and conclusion. You may want to think of this as a story with a beginning, middle and end. Before you start to gather images, you might want to make a rough outline of how you want your essay to come together.

Title: Often your claim question can be your title, or you may want a single word or short phrase title that tells your subject and use your question in the opening. The font, animation and color will set the tone of your piece, so spend some time trying out different styles to see what you like best.

Introduction: How will you interest your viewer? Your first few images need to tell the viewer the subject and the question and grab their attention.

Body: How will you present your thesis? Will you tell it in a voice over? Write it on a picture or on a screen by itself? Would it be more effective to tell your main reasons first and then put your main idea at the end in the conclusion?

What types of images could help you to prove your main reasons for your claim? Remember that it is usually important to order your ideas from least to most important, so put your best reasons last. You might want to make a list of the types of images you want. Be sure to indicate any images you already have.

Conclusion: What do you want your audience to think, do, or believe after they have watched your essay? How will you draw the audience with you to believe your claim at the end? Will you use a specific image? A repeated idea? A quote? A challenge? A question?

Using Images to Create an Argument

In “Religion Essay” the images about children are the argument. The arrangement of the pictures, along with the repetition of so many instances of children being exploited is a powerful argument which implies the thesis that we need to do something to stop it.

Sometimes pictures without text can be more powerful. Consider having some part of your essay being images alone.

Literature Response

Some essay assignments ask you to respond or explain some work of literature, or a quote or scene. The student making the video below was responding to an assignment to take a scene from Hamlet and explain the importance of that scene in the play. She chose Act 5, Scene 1, the suicide of Ophelia and her presentation shows how Ophelia’s death leads to much of the actions and violence in the rest of the play.

Visual Essay Assignment

Julie Hawk

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Transcript of Visual Essay Assignment

Project 4 Assignment:

Researched Visual Essay

You might think of approaching this assignment in terms of a search string. That is, think of it as a simple equation:

a standard research paper. Simply plunking pictures down into an essay in a Microsoft Word document with little thought to layout might technically fulfill the assignment’s parameters, but in order for this project to be truly successful, the visual mode needs to be engaged as an important conveyor of your argument.

So what do I mean by "visual essay?"

In your final project, you will be required to compose a visually engaging essay, informed by research, on an aspect of your own choosing of

So what do I mean by "researched essay?"

Your essay should offer a

—an argument of your own about the aspect you’ve chosen to explore, and you should use ample textual evidence to support your claims. Note that your argument needs to be more than simply something like this: “David Foster Wallace uses

to explore addiction.” Such a claim is more of a fact than an argument, and it is far too broad. Always keep in mind the “so what factor,” meaning that you need to make sure your claim can answer the question “So what?” In other words, why is your claim important? Also keep in mind how large this novel is and how deeply Wallace explores some of these broad topics. Though you should start with broad ideas to begin fruitful research, do

down so that you focus in on something manageable for a project of this size.

, regardless of the number of visuals. All external sources—images, videos, audio files, text, etc—must be appropriately cited and referenced on an

. You must use at least

3 scholarly sources

, 1 of which may be the Stephen J. Burn book you bought for this class. In fact, that would be a great place to start reading to get a sense of the kinds of thinking I am asking of you here. The overall argument, remember, must be your own. So think of your sources as supporting pillars for your argumentative structure. Think about what things about this text interest you the most. What parts of it have challenged your thinking or shifted the way you perceive something? In short, what aspects of the novel have been speaking to you? The most fruitful research comes out of the things we find ourselves thinking about rather than what we make ourselves think about.

The project will be evaluated based on how well you make and support your argument and on how you use design and layout to help you achieve that purpose. Because this assignment can be successful in a variety of ways, I can only offer broad categories here. You need to offer a sustained argument, based on analysis and textual evidence, and achieve coherence and persuasion through a synergy between the written and visual modes (other modes can be added, as you like).

So, for example, “Infinite Jest and addiction,” “Infinite Jest and entertainment” or “Infinite Jest and depression” would be good starting places. From there, since all three of these examples are such a big part of this novel, you would need to narrow further, but if you think in broad terms at first, you’ll start to get a sense of how you need to refine and narrow it once you get into the research a bit. There are so many directions you could go here, since, as I hope by now is abundantly clear, Infinite Jest is “about” a whole lot of things. The three examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.

From there, since all three of these examples are such a big part of this novel, you would need to narrow further, but if you think in broad terms at first, you’ll start to get a sense of how you need to refine and narrow it once you get into the research a bit. There are so many directions you could go here, since, as I hope by now is abundantly clear,

is “about” a whole lot of things. The three examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.

That is, think about how you can engage the visual in order to illustrate your points, provide counter-evidence, enhance the ethos of your sources, evoke a particular affective response from the reader, provide a context for a particular target audience, etc. So you might compose an essay on

that is meant to be a static document. Or you might use a more dynamic platform, like

(or any other similar softwares you might think of), to create a visual essay that also plays on the added feature of temporal pacing of the visual impact.

Note, though, that if you choose to do a Prezi, it will need to be used in profoundly different ways than in your presentations. Since Prezi is specifically designed for presentations, its templates guide you in that direction, but you do have enough agency within the program to create interesting and dynamic visual essays. So, for example, you might shrink the size of the text such that the Prezi module can hold a lot of text at once, which would be (usually) a bad idea for a presentation, but here it works as something else entirely, meant for an individual viewer to be guided at her own pace through the essay. Think of it as a sort of time-elapsed essay.

I include a few examples here to help get you started thinking about the variety of ways you might approach this assignment. The idea is to play to your strengths. If, for example, video editing is something you enjoy, you might try an ambitious project that adds audio as well as sophisticated editing to the project. Note also that being an incredible artist is not essential. Sometimes the simplest visuals can be the most effective.

What aspects of the visual presentation of the assignment evoke

In what ways is the visual presentation of the assignment more effective than the written one?

In what ways does the visual presentation of the assignment evoke the requirement to make the visual aspect a primary conveyor of the argument?

In what ways does the visual presentation of the assignment differ from an oral/visual presentation using Prezi or a similar software?

What critiques do you have for the visual presentation of the assignment? What things might have been revised to emphasize important elements more effectively?

• Background Image:

• Visual Essay Example 1: https://wwwDOTyoutubeDOTcom/watch?v=w5R8gduPZw4

• Visual Essay Example 2:

• Visual Essay Example 3:

• Visual Essay Example 4:

• All other images obtained from Flickr Commons

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