Thursday, September 17, 2009


The following is a draft of my exegesis on three multimodal interventions I have completed based on the readings of Emily Post.

This semester students of Issues in Publication and Design were required to intervene in three documents based on the writings of Emily Post in order to produce three new artefacts. Each artefact must be multimodal and comprise of visual and/or audio elements. In an attempt to facilitate effective communication of messages to the reader, numerous texts concerning document design and textual intervention were consulted when producing these artefacts. Elements such as consistency, whitespace, use of headings, graphics, and colours were taken into consideration when determining the design of these three artefacts.

Artefact One

The Emily Post reading titled ‘Engagements’ was reworked to give a modern-day interpretation of Post’s original ideas. According to Pope (1995), paraphrasing a text is a useful way of examining its construction. This is a means of identifying one’s own values, as well as labelling and categorising behaviours, as discourse. This is certainly true as my own judgements of relationships in modern society have heavily influenced my style of intervention in this text. Pope (1995) also recommends altering the ending of a text when intervening and in doing so exploring cultural differences.

Emily Post was an author who wrote a book about appropriate etiquette in the 1920’s (The Emily Post Institute, 2009). There are significant cultural differences in how relationships were played out in society in that era, compared to modern times. Taking this into consideration, I chose to end the text with the couple divorcing five years on to illustrate the marked increase in society’s acceptance of divorce compared to Post’s days. Statistically, it is estimated that one in two marriages in the US will end in divorce, compared with one in seven in the 1920’s (Thomas and Associates, 2005). Divorce has become socially acceptable in the Western world in modern times and relationship breakdowns are often played out in the public eye, in contrast to Post’s era where such proceedings were undertaken discreetly. Thus, I chose to incorporate the contemporary example of a high-profile sportsman whose marriage breakdown garnered a lot of publicity in recent years. In the 1920’s women who divorced traditionally were forced to move back in with their parents as they no longer had anyone to financially support them (Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society, 2008). Today, it is perfectly reasonable for a wife to expect her husband to financially maintain her post-divorce.

Kress states that visuals are a more effective means of communicating large quantities of information to readers. Considering that my artefact is a large document, I decided to present it in the style of a series of wedding invitations. I believe this is an effective way of conveying to the reader that the artefact is about an upcoming wedding. In order to communicate the satirical tone of the intervention to the reader, I have included audio of Good Charlotte’s song entitled
‘Boys and Girls’. This song is a parody of relationships in modern society and fits in well with the theme of my intervention which is the superficial nature of many relationships today.

Artefact Two

The second artefact is a brochure based on the Japanese interpretation of Emily Post’s ‘Greetings’ (Post, 1922). Sweller (1990), argues that one of the major factors that contribute to a document being unusable is poor design. He believes that this leads to confusion caused by readers exceeding their cognitive comprehension level. Similarly, Kress (2004) states that as society progresses, it is becoming increasingly important for publishers to consider how their document can communicate most effectively with the reader.

An Australian pamphlet should constitute an A4 size and have six panels. It should have a visually enticing front cover which sets the tone for a consistent design style throughout. Headings are required to guide readers to content as they quickly flick through seeking relevant information (Whitbread, 2001). Reep states that consistent headings and attractive graphics maintain reader interest in a document. The Japanese greetings brochure uses the same font for all headings which are boldface and underlined to attract reader attention. The use of a single font for all headings provides consistency for the reader, making a document easier to read (Bear, 2009). According to Reep, effective document design includes an appropriate amount of whitespace surrounding headings so the reader can easily distinguish these from the body of the text. The brochure has no more than one heading on each panel, and allows plenty of space between the headings and the rest of the panel’s content so the reader can easily identify the headings from the body of the text.

Kress (2004) states that graphics give readers a clear impression of what otherwise may have been a vague sentence. This is in keeping with Reep’s argument that readers ‘read’ visual content of a document as much as they do text. Therefore, a well designed document will incorporate text and visuals to support each other and convey meaning to the reader. This is achieved with the graphics in the Japanese greetings brochure by using images that support the instructions of the text on how to greet people appropriately. Images of Japan have been used in the brochure to convey the message to the reader that the content contains information regarding Japanese culture.

The use of contrasting colours in a document is an effective way of capturing the reader’s interest (Bear, 2009). However, Reep argues that the number of colours used in a document should be kept to a minimum, as too many colours may overwhelm and distract the reader. To achieve this balance, the brochure has used the colours red and black consistently throughout. These are colours that are traditionally associated with Japan, and also are contrasting colours therefore are likely to be effective in attracting the attention of readers. By keeping a consistent theme of red and black, the reader is not distracted from the content by sudden or unnecessary colour changes, allowing them to focus on the message of the content. As the fifth panel of the brochure is viewed ahead of the others in a gate-folded design, Whitbread (2001) recommends using this for material that stands alone. With this in mind, the fifth panel is used to give information regarding the business promoted in the brochure.

Artefact Three
The third artefact is based on an interpretation of Post’s ‘Travelling at home and abroad’
(Post, 1922). The artefact is in the form of a magazine article aimed at young women, discussing the appropriate etiquette to observe when travelling on a public bus in today’s society.

According to Walsh (2006) readers constantly interact with text as they read. This can be influenced by various factors including social conditioning, the genre of the text and the cultural context of the text. Walsh believes that readers of texts incorporating graphics are required to deconstruct visual codes to interpret meaning. This interpretation is subject to the reader’s culture, life experiences and prior knowledge, and assists them to derive meaning from text. The use of colours and the image selected for this document were chosen to convey the message that this is an article aimed towards young women. A cartoon image depicting one of the characters of the popular television show ‘The Simpsons’ was chosen as Whitbread (2001) states that the use of cartoon images can make text more lively and enhance aspects referred to in the text. This image was placed in the top left-hand corner of the article, as this is where Western readers begin to read a page. If the image were to be placed elsewhere, it may be difficult to attract the reader’s attention back to the beginning of the text as the eye is always attracted to a graphic first (Style Manual, 200).

According to Style Manual (200) readers are attracted to large text first. The text in the article descends in size from a large heading, medium size first paragraph, to a small body. This provides the reader with a pathway through the text, making it easier for the reader to interpret the content in order. Whitbread (2001) states that the introductory paragraph of a magazine article should be written in a slightly larger font as a way of guiding the reader into the main body of the text. Consistency in a document should be maintained by the use of only one font throughout and boldface type should be used to draw the reader’s attention to headings (Reep, 200). With this in mind a single font has been used throughout the artefact to maintain consistency, with changes such as variations in size, boldface and use of italics implemented to highlight sections of importance to the reader. The text of the artefact is bright and the background is a pale colour, as readers interpret colours from brightest to palest (Style Manual, 200). As an accompaniment to the artefact, an audio recording of bus noises has been included to assist the reader to interpret the message that the text of the article relates to appropriate ways to behave on a bus.

In conclusion, essential elements of good document design have been considered when creating all three artefacts. The use of headings, whitespace, colour, graphics, and a consistent style all combine to help readers easily interpret the meaning of texts. In putting a modern twist on the writings of Emily Post, each artefact essentially helps the reader translate her theories into a modern day context. All three articles have been produced in a multimodal manner to reflect the progression of technology in today’s society, and to assist the facilitation of communication of Post’s ideas to modern day readers.

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