Book Review - Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators

Adrianna Greenwald

Written by Charles Kostelnick and David D. Roberts, Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators, focuses on the visual aspects of document design. While the subject sounds intimidating, Kostelnick and Roberts succeed in explaining the theory so even a novice can easily understand it. Their book begins by giving readers an introduction to visual rhetoric. 

In the remaining pages of their book, Kostelnick and Roberts use rhetorical theory and six cognates to teach readers how to practice effective visual communication. The six cognates include: 

• Arrangement
 • Emphasis
 • Clarity 
• Conciseness
 • Tone 
• Ethos 

Throughout the chapters, which range from Perception and Design to Icons, Logos and Symbols, the authors demonstrate how the cognates can impact visual design strategies. Designing Visual Language proves very effective to guide readers through the revision process.

 In each chapter, the authors present a sample document for a specific rhetorical situation. The authors then revise the sample document one or more times, each time explaining the revisions based on the six cognates. This consistent and repeated strategy for revision leaves readers with a mental tool they can easily use when revising their own documents in real world scenarios. 

Kostelnick and Roberts also include exercises and assignments at the end of each chapter, which provide an excellent teaching tool for teachers in a classroom setting. They also provide practice cases for technical communicators who feel they need practice in the area of visual communication.

 Designing Visual Language is a much needed addition to the Allyn and Bacon series written for technical communicators. Kostelnick and Roberts write, “The chief characteristic of the books in this series is their consistent effort to integrate theory and practice.” 

The combination of theory and practice, plus many other excellent traits, make this book an excellent resource for students and professional technical communicators. Designing Visual Language introduces readers to visual rhetoric, and combines theory and practice for both teachers and students.  


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