project 1: visual analysis

a rhetorical analysis of the book The Gorgeous Nothings, showcasing fascimile copies of Emily Dickinson's envelope and scrap poetry


The Gorgeous Nothings analysis.jpg

page 1 of 5, download pdf for full project

My visual analysis of the book “The Gorgeous Nothings” represents a clear and concise assessment of the design choices of not just a single document, but a cohesive collection thereof. Although it was difficult to parse a method to discuss such a meta-designed object (that is, an object designed to highlight the design of actual pieces of paper on which Dickinson wrote poems), I succeeded in explaining the roles of three design elements in an easy-to-understand way. The text of the visual analysis speaks to my strength as a writer and not just a designer.


In addition, the discussion of the three design elements–alignment/negative space, typeface, and paper–demonstrates that I am able to think critically about these aspects of print and document design. While alignment and typeface are often covered in visual analyses, I am not sure if paper is an element that is discussed as often, especially since it is only applicable to print documents. Before I assessed this book, I had also never considered paper quality in a methodical way in regards to how its characteristics shape a reader’s experience, but I was able to claim that in The Gorgeous Nothings, the matte, medium-weight paper adds to the gallery-like, calm aesthetic experience that the entire book is designed to evoke for the reader. I hope that a viewer of my portfolio will be able to recognize that consideration of paper represents (I think) a more out-of-the-box way of thinking about the qualities of visual documents.


The second reason I included this visual analysis in my portfolio is for its own design. The intent behind my formatting of this document is to actually echo the design of the book itself and provide the same roomy, breathy, and relaxed atmosphere of browsing that makes the book such a pleasure to read. The wide margins, dark grey font, ample line spacing, and centered/justified text body directly references the design of the essays/bodies of text in the book. The visual analysis should not ask the reader to put in “work” when they are reading or interpreting it. I hope that this document, as a result, is straightforward, pleasing, and clear to consume and understand.


I am not sure to what extent formal visual analysis documents comprise the work of a designer, but the method of thinking about design certainly forms the foundation for any designer’s mindset and work. For this reason, this project demonstrates that I am able to assess and apply design principles across the spectrum of printed and digital design work.