Multimodal Communication for Creators

I used to love making presentations, Prezi presentations in particular. My first was for an assignment analyzing a lyrical poem about broken love and how to mourn it. I went picture by picture, each “screen” dictating a certain poetic quality (allegories, metaphors, sonnet rhyme, AABBAA ABA etc.) I conveyed the linguistic mode, capturing all information that needed to be written and spoken to the class for the purposes of the five-minute-long presentation. In the scope of each small screen, the class only saw the important parts of the subjects I needed to cover for the English class assignment. Prezi takes advantage of the spatial mode; the fact that I can move from slide to slide wherever I please gives me freedom in how I want to set up movement throughout the presentation. The “travelling” from one screen to the next seemed completely random. But at the end, I zoomed out, and the shape of a large broken heart came into view, constructed by each of the content “slides” deliberately arranged so. Not only did the words involved relate to the subject at hand, but the design scheme itself embodied the theme I wanted to make clear in my project.

Multimodal calls in a variety of ways to express an idea, and this is apparent in all corners of the world, not just in the “designated” creative spaces. In the end, it is people you communicate to, pitch an idea to win their favor. There’s no one right way to do that through expression; in the same line of thinking, there’s no one wrong way either.



Business cards are often multimodal. Everyone, from the potential recruiter to the U-M Alumni Association cares about how polished your professional card looks, because a successful one speaks to your professional image. It conveys the linguistic aspect because it gives all the important information: name, title, notable positions, year, contact info, website links, etc. It tells the receiver of the card who the card’s subject is from a single few concise lines. Moreover, the visual mode plays a large role. The design must be good, eye-catching, and clean. Majorly, it shouldn’t be overcrowded that it distracts them from the actual information given. I noticed the professional layout of the Alumni Association’s cards, as well as many of the professional designs online, and my own card. They’re all different; the Alumni Association’s speaks to the University of Michigan’s brand name, the cards I found online went for geometrically-pleasing simplicity. Mine, more on the artistic side, went for black and white.


I lived in Hong Kong over the summer, where I got to live within the hot, crowded city bustle of subways, buses, and people walking over crossways in morning commutes. People struggled to get through gateways of the subways, pushing and shoving themselves, no “standing in line” etiquette involved, all to save a matter of a couple of seconds. The photo I included is a picture is a couple sitting next to each other on a crowded subway. The lady is looking at her phone, while the man beside her is studying diligently some piece of board or mechanism, presumably with some interesting text or other detail on it. He peers over to her, and yet she barely pays attention to him. By the visual mode, it’s a likely assumption that they are a couple. The telling details of her looking at a phone and him studying some appliance is also visual description. By the gestural mode, their differing facial expressions, hers of uninterested and his of inquisitive, tell of their general dynamic as a pair, as well as the greater trend of electronics stealing people’s attention whenever there’s a free moment or not. I see this apparent in the many people surrounding, all of whom are equally absorbed in their devices. The spatial mode plays a role in the entire Hong Kong city environment, and thus the proximity that the picture finds the couple in.


My last example, Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, incorporates all five types of modes. Her music video tells a story, where she makes fun of all of the people who’ve ever trashed her in media back. She incorporates all the stories, including that of of her ex-boyfriend and her revealed pen name on a gravestone, representing how that image she portrayed is now dead. She parodies other celebrities who’ve she’s come into conflict with, subtly pointing out the awards they lack that she holds claim to in ways that are visually extravagant and flashy. In these instances and more, she makes commentary on each of these, including parodying herself in all the various innocent and pure images that she’s ever played in her earlier years as an artist. Moreover, there is linguistic mode where she consistently uses analogies and colorful words to describe each of these stories. “Tilted stage”, “I don’t like your kingdom keys / They once belonged to me”, “You ask me for a place to sleep / Locked me out and threw a feast” all have a lyrical quality that plays on her storytelling ability to say something that is musically catchy. Woven into this is the aural mode, where, given that the video features a song, the background music substantiates the words that she says. Moreover, there is deliberate haunted quality to the first 30 seconds of the music video, where the story begins in a gravestone, contributing to the overall video image. Throughout, the gestural and spatial modes are represented well with the dancing segments, “I couldn’t care less” facial expressions she and the others present hold, where she pretends to take on each of the horrid images that the media has created of her.

Multimodal expression creates limitless avenues for greater communication, depending on the method used and the audience targeted. Overall, it is very much up to the writer, the artist, or creator to choose their way wisely with what modes they wish to explore and combine, so that they may convey their messages in the best way possible to their viewers.

3 thoughts to “Multimodal Communication for Creators”

  1. Hi Katherine,
    It looks like you might have copied and pasted your post into the blog from an outside text editor. This adds a lot of weird HTML code that doesn’t play well with the site. For future posts, compose your post in WordPress. Another option if you want to write outside of WordPress is to just write your post and avoid any images or formatting, then in WordPress after copying your text from the program you composed it in, right-click in the text area and choose “Paste and Match Style.” This will add it cleanly. Then you can add images and do additional text formatting (bold, italics, lists, links, etc.). I had to reformat your post slightly, so double-check that everything is the way you wanted it.

  2. Hi Katherine! I really enjoyed your piece. I liked how you talked about a variety of different pieces that had many different modes. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the image of the couple on the subway. Your deep analysis on their relationship and their particular interests was well done. It is crazy how just one image can display so much about a relationship and how two people may interact with one another. Your take on Taylor Swift’s music video “Look What You Made Do” was also interesting. You touched on so many different types of modes present in the video. She used all 5 modes to convey her new image and persona. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Katherine,
    I definitely enjoyed your post as well. I loved how you pointed out that the subway (something we all know to be SUPER uncomfortable) to be multimodal as well. It is almost as if you found the beauty (all of these cool modes) in something that we all see to be so boring. I think that experiences like these where you stop and take in the world around you contribute to being a great writer. I also loved how you put your people watching skills to use as well which will help you with your experiences as well. Awesome post!

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