Chicago as Message: Visual Persuasion in the "City of the Big Shoulders"

By Richard Bello.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With the 1909 Burnham Plan as a starting point, this study examines how Chicago's layout and structures serve as visually persuasive messages according to the theoretical work of Paul Messaris. Messaris's concepts of iconicity, indexicality, and syntactical indeterminancy are briefly explained and then applied to various design, architectural, and monumental aspects of the city, with a special focus on the city center, its most visited and viewed section. In the process, the key messages that city visitors and inhabitants are likely to be exposed to are explicated. In addition, the likely intentions of those behind the historic and influential Burnham Plan are re-examined in light of those messages.

Keywords: Visual Persuasion, Chicago, Semiotics, City Layout, Architectural Elements, Burnham Plan

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.13-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 345.180KB).

Dr. Richard Bello

Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

After obtaining a minor in speech communication at Louisiana State University in 1977, Richard Bello decided to make the study of human communication his life’s work. In 1979, he earned a master’s degree with a concentration in communication theory and research from LSU. Rick spent most of the last thirty years as an assistant professor of speech communication at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. While there, he earned a Ph.D. from LSU in 1999 before moving to Sam Houston State University in 2003, where he is currently Professor of Communication Studies. Rick enjoys both teaching and research, with over thirty-five research presentations at professional conferences and twenty articles in scholarly journals to his credit. His research interests focus on language in interpersonal communication and visual communication. Rick has been married for over 30 years and has one daughter. Outside of work and family interests, he especially enjoys the study of birds and other outdoor activities. He has birded, camped, and photographed the natural world in places as far flung as Alaska and Belize, in addition to many places in between and in Europe.