Syllabus bites: Visual literacy



Exploring images

Photographs and images created for commercial purposes aim to attract attention, develop interest and persuade the audience. Print advertisements are ideal for exploring familiar visual texts as they develop understanding of the language of visual elements, the aesthetics of visual texts, and the constructed nature of these texts as social products.

Advertisers create images for a product to target a particular audience then use the image as the main idea or feeling they want to associate with the product. The photograph, illustration or graphic must catch or arouse the interest of the audience.

Many advertisements use juxtaposition to create interest and desire in the audience. Advertisers often place the product next to visual objects to create a desire in the viewer.

In the digitally manipulated image on the right, the juxtaposition of a man with the face of a fish exaggerates the effect of climate change to evoke an emotional reaction from its audience.

Photograph of a man with a digitally manipulated face the shape of a fish. Slogan: 'Stop climate change before it changes you."



Many visual texts use representation to portray people, places or events. Composers use a range of conventions and choose visual texts to represent groups, ideas and popular objects to make connections with the audience.

Representations can range from a colour or icon to depict branding and product image to sophisticated layering of ideas about cultural and political issues.

Illustration depicting a family stereotype: a man arriving home to his wife who is getting food out of the oven. Their son and daughter are sitting at the table ready to eat.

‘Hi Honey, I'm home!’: A stereotypical family

Stereotyping is a representation based on the typical or commonly held idea of the subject. Stereotyping can be a way for the audience to identify familiar subjects and ideas. Advertisers will use familiar visual images and product images in sophisticated campaigns involving TV, online and social media to build brand recognition.

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Select a colour advertisement from a print or online source and use the Guide to responding to visual texts to analyse and annotate the visual text. In your response use the appropriate terminology for evaluating the text(s).

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Create your own colour advertisement for use in print or online.

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  1. View these spoof advertisement examples then search the web for more.

  2. Analyse how the composers have manipulated the images, words, captions and product message to create the spoof.

  3. Collect two ‘real’ print or online advertisements for well-known companies or industries. These could be messages about alcohol, fashion, sport or fast food.

  4. Consider the messages not contained in these ‘real’ ads. For example car advertisements don’t mention the high fuel consumption costs or the damage they cause to the environment.

  5. Create a spoof ad based on these ‘real’ advertisements.

Three approaches to creating a spoof ad:

  • change the text of the ad, but keep the same image

  • keep the slogan but put a spin on it by changing the image

  • change both the image and the text

Remember to keep the same font, colours and layout as the original. The key to spoofing is to make the altered ads look as authentic as possible.


  • mUmBRELLA is an Australian media website that features some of the best Australian print ads.

  • The Best Ads website has award winning advertisements from Australia in a number of categories. Download and annotate examples from the website.

  • adFlip has print advertisements to download from a range of categories.