Mid March and I find myself in the conference room of a beach front hotel, where I’d be following a one day seminar on rhetoric. I have to admit that I didn’t have any idea on what to expect and had even strategically placed myself in such a way as to make a quick escape. (Should the need arise.) I mean what does a technocrat like me know about rhetoric? (About as much as can be written on a beermat.)
It has long been a firmly held belief of mine, that in order to think “outside the box” and create products that make a difference, one must expose oneself to a wide range of diverse subjects. Indeed once in a while it’s a welcome breath of fresh air to get away from binary logic, object orientated programming and Steve Job’s autobiography.
The seminar started with the first speaker whisking us off to ancient Greece, to meet Gorgias and Socrates. A dialog ensues between the two great men which is narrated by distinguished speaker Professor Christian Kock, from the university of Copenhagen. After there followed an informative presentation followed by Lisa Villadsen on Rhetoric studies in Denmark. The main speaker Professor David Zarefsky had come all the way from the United States of America and did not disappoint. Without the aid of powerpoint. (Which one would expect from a professor of Rhetoric) he gave an enthralling lecture on the various facets of rhetoric. Indeed it was somewhere in between Socrates and Apostolos Doxiades speech on Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that it suddenly dawned on me. -Had we techies become lazy and complacent? Had we simply relied on all our fancy gadgets and development tools to make an impression and forgotten about the importance of good rhetoric? I became flustered and slightly perturbed.
Now don’t get me wrong. In the age of the internet and mobile computing I’m not suggesting that we do away with everything digital, and reintroducing the quill and parchment. -Far from it. What I’m suggesting is that we treat rhetoric and the written word as an equal rather than something we have to knock out quickly as part of the website development.
Putting theory to practice. Burger, fries and a side order of Rhetoric
We’re developing a website for the “Big Kahuna” Burger joint. I’ve rounded up the team for an idea storming pow-wow. (minus the pipe of peace because our office is smoke free ) First to pick up the stress ball and talk is Sergio our current artistic virtuoso. He’s the guy who loves photography, filters and all things animated. “We will create a fancy sizzling semi-animated slide board”, he proclaims in his pigeon Milano accent. I love the sizzling idea but also wanted to add some fiery rhetoric onto the grill -to give it extra flambé!
That’s a tasty burger! -Presenting your case.
In the picture you see a mouth watering burger that would probably get most carnivores salivating. I contend that there is something missing. (And when I say missing, I don’t mean the beer and onion rings.) In order to get our message out and the prospective customers picking up the phone and eagerly placing their orders, we’re going to need some persuasive rhetorical argument. -Preferably in a light Helvetica Neue font.
Firstly we’ll fortify the notion that what they see in the picture, they will get and not a deflated imitation. Furthermore we’ll argue that because the burger bun dough is rolled on the thighs of a twenty year old virgin from the Polynesian islands and the meat is so succulent, it will give the consumer a culinary orgasm. Sowing the seeds of imagery with the written word can actually be the dealmaker, or at the very least compliment the photos, Miles Davis background music and sizzling Flash animation!
Here is an extremely informative presentation by Apostolos Doxiadis, filmed at the seminar I attended. Please do take the time to view it.
Euclidian influence in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address