All! Around! You!

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Communication goes far beyond words, cutting across how we see visuals, hear speech, interpret body language etc., via multimodal texts that use different means to send messages. And multimodal communication is everywhere.

For example, I have been watching a webseries, Frankenstein, MD, by Pemberley Digital Studios. It’s a modern retelling of Shelley’s Frankenstein in the form of a young scientist’s research vlogs. The webseries incorporates linguistic elements in its script, visual elements in the video graphics, aural elements from the dialogue and soundtrack, spatial arrangements of props and graphics and gestural elements through acting. Together, these modes convey the humorous apathy of Victoria Frankenstein and the situations and crises she faces.

Exhibit A: Shots from web video series Frankenstein, MD by Pemberley Digital Studios.

(Above) Here’s a Lärabar I found in my kitchen.  Part of the Lärabar’s iconic design is its red brand label with the peach-colored block letters and border, with a colored background. I consider the range of Lärabars I’ve seen in Kroger’s. The red-and-peach brand label is constant to all Lärabars. It unites the front of a wall of assorted flavors of bars from the same company. Yet it is the color on the wrapper background, outside the branding label, that always varies. Isn’t this a visual mode of communication? The blue color syncs with the “blueberry muffin” text.

See this image above. (Credits: The brand label is kept standard, communicating consistency of the brand, while the assortment of colors visually communicates the different flavors! (Yellow for lemon, brown for chocolate, green for apple). That’s just the visual. Let’s also consider, linguistically, the way they named the bars: “Cherry pie”, “pecan pie”, “cashew cookie”. Why not just “cherry”, “pecan”, “cashew”? There is no way a Lärabar resembles a pie or muffin. Perhaps the use of those extra words like “pie”, “muffin”, “cookie” is meant to create associations with desserts. Since Lärabar is marketed as a health food, this perhaps also targets health-conscious consumers’ more indulgent dietary cravings. Those extra words make us think we are eating dessert instead of a “health food bar” (quote marks because healthy skepticism of “health branding”!).


Just another day sitting in East Quad trying to write this assignment. I’m sitting in front of the Residential College wall calendar.

I never really appreciated the importance of spatial modes in a calendar. There are so many ways a calendar can be organized. A list? A series of weeks? This calendar’s table form represents the whole month such that it’s easy to follow because of the grid week-by-day structure. Within the calendar spaces, things get organized by date. Within each date you get various ways of sending messages, be it flyers, post-it notes. These all employ various linguistic choices (Short and sweet? Dramatic? Thought-provoking? Enticing?), or visual elements (flyer designs).

These observations of multimodal text heightened my awareness of communication modes that permeate, no, barrage my senses with information daily. It also gives me ideas for my experiment cycle. The Lärabar wrapper has me thinking about the role of moving parts interacting with a constant and how that conveys both consistency and variety at the same time. I could explore this by manipulating genre conventions in my experiments, by playing on certain tropes while adding layers of variance to each trope.

I want to end off with this image beloq. This is one of the bags my roommate and I use for groceries. It says “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy” in German and shows an adorable unicorn scarfing down a cookie. How better to convey a humorous message about food and denial than via a fluffy hungry unicorn?


2 thoughts to “All! Around! You!”

  1. Jamie,
    I think your analyzation of Lara bars is very profound! I haven’t thought about what goes into packaging in much detail before, so this was interesting to think about. I think that thinking about the spatial mode of communication is also interesting. The bars packaging is very simple because of the layout. This simple (yet colorful) design attracts readers without making them feel overwhelmed. It also does not change for each bar, probably so that the consumer knows what he or she is expecting.

  2. Jamie!

    Well addressed post––I too, like Chloe, have never thought of packaging as a genre. However, you are quite accurate! It is something that does not come to our minds right away, however a large part of marketing is depended on how the product looks. Well done in discovering this spatial, visual, and even linguistic mode.

    Second, your spatial look towards the Calendar is also interesting, because it is true! It is quite obvious that you are aware of these multimodal projects. I encourage you to keep on the lookout––as you may benefit using some ideas as inspiration for your own work.

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