Anneli Bowie


In this PhD research project I aim to investigate the rhetorical framing of communication design trends, by employing the theory of American rhetorician, Kenneth Burke. Although Burke is relatively unknown in design research circles, this study argues that he may provide valuable new perspectives on the rhetorical nature of design products, processes and discourses. Visual rhetoric is considered an important yet underdeveloped area of design inquiry, and an application of Burke’s rhetorical theories may prove valuable in addressing this need. Furthermore, I intend to show how Burke’s dialectical approach, as seen in his interrogations of historical transitions, may prove particularly useful for investigating fluctuating design movements and trends. In other words, Burke’s holistic rhetorical-dialectical framework can serve as a means to gain insight about design motives, their underlying philosophical values and how these shift over time. I describe the methodological approach of this study as meta- rhetorical insofar as the visual rhetorical strategies embodied in design products will be analysed alongside the surrounding discourse (the justification and promotion of those strategies).

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