Compelling Form: Architecture as Visual Persuasion

By James Donald Ragsdale.

Published by The Arts Collection

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

This paper develops a theory of visual persuasion which focuses on buildings as forms of visual persuasion. The theory sets forth the accepted elements of visual literacy (e.g., dot, line, geometric form, etc.) along with the communication techniques for accumulating together the elements into perceptible images. Images in this case are architectural forms--government buildings, performance halls, cathedrals, museums, and the like. The theory further utilizes Gestalt psychology to explain how these elements and techniques impact viewers. It then discusses the architectural elements of symmetry, rhythm, mass, site, color, adornment, and the like to build a framework for assessing the visual experience of architecture. The paper demonstrates the application of this theory to the assessment of visual persuasion in particular, i.e., how structures work as means of social influence. The presentation is illustrated with several images of architectural forms.

Keywords: Visual Persuasion, Architecture, Visual Communication, Visual Literacy

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.89-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 984.037KB).

Dr. James Donald Ragsdale

Professor and Chair, Visual Communication Division, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

J. Donald Ragsdale is the author of three recent books on the subject of structures as visual persuasion, especially the art museums of the US and Western Europe. He is a Professor of Communication Studies and Chair of the department at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA. His primary area of specialty is the semiotics of visual communication, and he is an avid photographer.

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