Visual Analysis

 For this assignment you will choose an image by a [email protected] producer to analyze.  You are encouraged to work on a [email protected] of non-Mexican descent.  Students must have their image choice approved by the instructor.  


You are asked to address the specific characteristics of the medium and conduct a visual analysis engaging the visual language within the site/object.  You are not to simply describe what is visible, but rather you are to discuss the significance of the visual and design elements in conveying meaning and information regarding the site/object and its connection to the themes/issues presented.  Remember this is about what you see and understand.


You must also contextualize the image, which means talk about who the artist is and their connection to the visual expression, the issues that are being addressed visually, and the audience/reception and access for such an work. 

I suggest you choose an image that you intend to discuss in your final research paper.  Make sure to anchor your address of the image/object to the issues you intend to highlight in your final paper.  If you want to submit text on more than one image, please note you have to have at least three pages of discussion focused on at least one image.  


Format: 12 point font, and double spaced.  Required pages (minimum 3) should not include images, citations, or bibliography.

Provide a copy of the image you address (does not have to be in color, but please indicate in your analysis if is).



Below you will find numerous points of information to help guide you in your visual analysis.  However, please refer to materials made availalbe to you under supplemental materials link on Blackboard.

What is visual or formal analysis? - A visual or formal analysis is a technique of “reading” the visual qualities of any object and analyzing the way that those qualities interrelate and work together to produce the whole object and its affect upon the viewer.  This type of analysis seeks to explain the structural logic of a work—how all of the various elements (medium, materials, formal elements, and design/compositional devices) fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.  

Key ideas in formal analysis - First and foremost, a formal analysis is an explanatory, analytic description of a visual object.  Formal analysis explains how formal elements are arranged into a composition created using particular media and techniques.  All of these component parts (various media, techniques, formal elements, and compositional devices) are explained both individually and as they interrelate with each other, like building blocks creating a larger whole that we see as the final object.  

 Writing a formal analysis: Above all, when you are writing a formal analysis, assume that you are explaining the object to someone who has never seen the work before.  Every detail of you discussion should be grounded in the object itself through vivid descriptive explanations and verbal references.  Your writing should make clear your understanding of the intricate relationships of the formal attributes of a particular work of art, and should allow your reader to share that understanding.

  • First identify the medium, materials, and techniques

  • Then, identify and explain any visual or formal elements that are a direct result of these physical components of the object.

  • Next, identify and explain additional formal elements that are more indirectly produced by or possibly unrelated to the materials and techniques.

  • After that, identify the compositional devices used in the object and explain how formal elements are arranged into those compositional devices. 

  • Then, situate the total package within its physical context to see if new formal elements or compositional issue are revealed.  If so, identify and explain these issues as well.

  • Finally, go back and reassess the overall object, tying everything together into a seamless analytic description, and explaining any other interactions or relationships between the formal elements, compositional devices, and medium.

    • 5 years ago
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