Some student assignments can be truly creative. After all, the task of college and university teachers is to ensure that students are comprehensively developed. Therefore, it is not surprising that recently, such a kind of work as a visual essay has gained increasing popularity. We suggest that you understand what it is, what types exist and what tips will help you prepare a truly outstanding visual essay.
What Is a Visual Essay?
First of all, this is an essay that doesn’t consist entirely of words. Instead of text, graphic images and photographs are used here. To them, in the same way as to a regular essay, several requirements are put forward. For example, photographs or pictures should be created by you, to be qualitatively processed. You provide these images as confirmation of your thoughts. Students can choose a topic for an essay on their own, in some cases, teachers assign it.
Visual Essay Purpose
The main task of this essay is to convey ideas, which requires not only an oral language but also a visual one. Many people perceive new information through images. Yes, and the students themselves, especially creative areas, need to be able to convey their thoughts in different ways. Depending on the educational institution and the teacher, a visual essay may be accompanied not only by images but also by music, various sound effects.
We offer you a sequence of actions that will help to prepare a really interesting, informative and unusual visual essay.
Choose a topic
Sometimes teachers instruct specific topics to make the task easier for students. But if you need to choose a topic yourself, rely on personal experience. Close your eyes and think about which topic you have the most emotion about. You need to refer specifically to the emotional components, not the cognitive ones. Then the selected images and other files will be able to convey the idea.
Follow these 4 steps to succeed:
- Step 1. Turn off notifications on your smartphone and set aside time for the brainstorm. During this hour you will be able to come up with several creative ideas for the theme, content, search for graphic applications, quotes.
- Step 2. Collect all the additional materials. Remember that they must be original. Some teachers ask you to take these photos yourself, especially if you are a photographer. In some cases, you can download pictures from special paid sites. Make sure you’re not infringing anyone else’s copyright.
- Step 3. Mount your visual essay using the special software. In programs such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, you can add music, video, a variety of effects.
- Step 4. Present your essay to classmates and a teacher or a wider audience by uploading it to the public.
How You Can Start Your Visual Essay
It is important to understand that although visual essays have a slightly different format, some processes are the same for visual and written papers. Think about what idea you want to convey to your viewers. It could be:
- Explanatory essay. When you describe a situation, imagine a picture as it is, but do not express your own opinion, do not oppose any ideas.
- Analytical essay. If you want to parse a topic into several parts for a more detailed analysis. This can be done with songs, films, literary works. Devote part of your essay to assessing the impact of this work of art on a wide audience.
- An argumentative essay. This format is suitable for you if you want to convince viewers of your point of view or express your arguments. In this case, you will need to answer a large number of questions that will help make the topic narrower. For example: Is this phenomenon existing or is it a fiction? Maybe we attach too much importance to this issue? Is it possible to say that one particular point of view is the only correct one?
Before you conduct research and prepare visual materials for your essay, you need to work on an idea and a concept. Think about what the main question you are asking yourself. Then study the following list and make sure that you have not just a common understanding, but also specific answers. Then you can make a realistic work plan.
- Why does your thesis sound convincing?
- Can you show examples proving this?
- What is the opposite of your opinion?
- Will people want to challenge your idea?
- Have you prepared several refutation options?
- Do you have any ideas about the necessary images?
- Are you ready to illustrate your essay with quotes or phrases right now?
- What kind of music best suits the mood of your essay?
- Do you want the music to be constant or to change regularly?
- Are you ready to take the time to write the script?
- Will your essay be accompanied by a video? If so, who will shoot it?
Creating an Outline
Now you can carefully study the answers to questions from the previous sector and start planning. The structure of the visual essay will be the same as that of the written one. Your work must necessarily have an introduction, body paragraphs, as well as a conclusion. If it will be easier for you, imagine a story that has a beginning, a culmination, and an end. So you get a general idea of your essay and you can prepare it in a more structured way.
You can use an intriguing single word or short phrase that will catch the viewer’s attention. Remember that your task is to convey not only the meaning but also the mood. Font, color and musical accompaniment play no less role than the text itself. Therefore, you should experiment with styles.
The first few images should be both informative and intriguing. The viewer must understand what you want to talk about and express a desire to continue watching.
This is the bulk of your essay. And here you can freely experiment with the format, for example, add text accompaniment. Or you can refuse it, giving viewers the right to conclude on their own. Think about which graphics to help you do this. Remember that the least important ideas must come first, and then the most important ones. If you want to present several points of view at once, try using images or other visual additions in different styles. Then the viewer will immediately understand that another story has begun and will easily switch his attention.
What mood do you want to create for your audience? Do you want to cheer them up? Make you think? Anger and urge to action? Use music, good quotes, and calls to action to achieve your goals. Make the final chord bright but convincing.
Using Visual Elements
We all faced situations when words were not enough to express a thought or idea. Sometimes it is the visual elements that help make the text even more complete, logical and interesting. Vocabulary and grammar, along with images, music, graphic effects, work real miracles.
Typically, a visual essay has the same clear structure as a written one. But this does not mean that you should push yourself into a tight framework. You can imagine any sequence of images, the main thing is that they convey your idea. Many students experiment with slide shows, Photoshop, combine images and text. Sometimes words are in addition to the picture, and sometimes they convey a completely different meaning.
Another interesting format for preparing a visual essay is a comic. So you can stand out from the crowd of classmates, take a fresh look at the problem. Regardless of which format you choose, consider the following questions for yourself:
- What events served as the backstory for your idea?
- At what point does history develop so much that it reaches its peak?
- How soon and how does the denouement come?
If you’ve never collected visual essays before, check out the works of other students for inspiration. The main thing is not to use these materials so that you are not accused of plagiarism. Also, after reading the papers, you will see that the visual essay has a lot to do with the traditional written essay. Here you also need to start in advance, pay attention to preparation, draw up a plan. If a written essay consists of 1,500 words, there will be fewer in the visual, up to 700. But the rest of the essay will be images and other applications. Do not forget about the annotated bibliography. This is an important part of the academic article. Here you indicate the sources that you used to inspire and compose a visual essay.
A visual essay is often much better than a written one. After all, it requires not just knowledge and language skills. It requires empathy, understanding how people feel. Give yourself enough time to prepare for this job and then you can succeed.