What are Multimodal Projects?

In chapter 1 of “Writer/Designer,” the authors introduce the concept of multimodal projects. They describe the five basic modes that can makeup such projects: visual, aural, linguistic, spatial, and gestural. Anytime more than one of these modes is used for some form of expression, that piece of communication is multimodal. In keeping an eye out for multimodality, I have been surprised as to how much of what we encounter is multimodal. When somebody speaks, they usually combine the aural, linguistic, and gestural modes in their communication. Articles, advertisements, street signs, and logos are all multimodal. Videos and commercial advertisements often combine all five modes to communicate. We encounter multimodality constantly. Over the last couple of days, a few multimodal projects have stood out to me, each in different ways.

This Paper and Packaging commercial uses all five modes to illustrate why their product is important. Click the YouTube link to watch, but be prepared to feel feelings by the end.


I found this commercial to be emotionally appealing, but also very successful in displaying the value of their product. The visual mode is what the viewer sees on screen – the little kid, the letters, the next door neighbor, the pictures of the boy and his father, and the paper and crayons. The aural mode consists of the piano and the soothing singing voice in the background. Linguistically, the narrator tells a story throughout the commercial. There is also the content of the letters that the viewer can briefly see, and the quick advertisement at the end, showing the company’s name and slogan. Spatially, each scene is shot with a purpose. I love the image in the last scene, pictured above, where the boy is full of wonder and elation at his dad’s return letters. The gestural mode is used mostly with the boy’s facial expressions, but also with the expressions of the father, neighbor, and mother. Their expressions communicate concern and loneliness, but then eventually elation and wonder. I’ve watched several commercials just over the past couple of days that use all five modes, but this one was my favorite.



I came across this electronic Dodgers billboard online, and noticed that it uses three modes of communication. It uses the visual mode by including the appealing logo and coloring it with different shades of Dodger blue. The spatial mode is critical in this billboard. There is a large countdown clock that takes up most of the space. There is not much going on besides this, making the countdown really pop. The billboard also displays the linguistic mode with the context for the countdown: “It’s time for Dodger baseball in:” Coupled with the countdown, this builds excitement for the upcoming Dodger game.


The above VICE Sports article discusses some of the injustices involved in the production of the Olympic games. The author uses the visual mode to aid his argument with pictures of the Olympic rings, the IOC hotel, and the Olympic committee. Spatially, the webpage is laid out with the text, the pictures, and the advertisements off to the side (which are their own multimodal presentations). Most obviously, the article uses the linguistic mode to communicate its point. The author uses logic, emotional appeals, and sensory details in the midst of his article.

All three of the texts are for quite different purposes. The Dodger billboard is attempting to build excitement about opening day for a baseball team, the Paper and Packaging commercial is advertising for their more simple product, and the article is attempting to convey a point to an audience. Yet despite their differences, they all use modern technology (video, TV, HD photography, etc.) to combine different modes in an attempt to most effectively communicate to the consumer of the texts.

To me, the article and the billboard are the most different from each other. The article is a sophisticated, complex form of argument that mostly uses the linguistic mode. Meanwhile, the billboard’s most important mode is the spatial mode. It is also fundamentally simple, using the premise of time as a medium for building anticipation. The article, on the other hand, uses logic as a means for articulating an argument. What’s interesting is that the article and the billboard both use the same three modes (visual, spatial, and linguistic), yet I see them as the most different. The commercial lies somewhere in between. It uses words to communicate a story and a pitch for its product, but it is also visually appealing and extremely reliant on the video clips.

Ultimately, all three multimodal projects are united by the purpose of communication to a modern audience. In each of the three examples, there are elements of presentation that we will also have to utilize in the creation of our ePortfolios.



2 thoughts to “What are Multimodal Projects?”

  1. I love your use of different media examples! The “Letters to Dad” commercial is definitely my favorite. I agree that they did a good job of making you “feel feelings” by the end. Their use of all five modes of multi-modality (especially the aural) helped them reach the audience on an emotional level. The sad music really set the tone for the entire advertisement. I enjoyed your comparison at the end between the billboard and the article. It’s very interesting that even though they use the same three modes, they are very different. I think this is important to keep in mind during our repurposing project and remediation as we decide how we want to utilize the different modes of communication.

  2. I like how you use someone speaking as an example of multimodality. I never thought about it this way, and it is true that it is a combination of the three modes you mention. Just like Brenna, I love the “Letters to Dad” commercial. I had not been able to come across a text that appeared to have all five modes, so it is interesting to see one. I agree with Brenna that it is cool to realize how even though a text may contain the same modes, each mode can be used in such a different way, and this greatly affects the overall takeaway for the audience. For this reason, it will be interesting to compare the projects that people in our class produce which use the same modes.

Leave a Reply