Larger Type
Smaller Type

Classroom Activities

National History Day 2007–2008
Understanding Visual Communication

Painting by Xavier Viramontes

Artists are often involved in representing and communication advocacy positions. In a single picture, an artist sets a mood with color, leads the eye with composition and texture, and conveys meaning to the viewer. Several areas of our Web site explain the principles of visual communication and analysis. Teachers might explore these presentations so they can incorporate visual literacy into their curriculum. Students can visit these sites to learn how to interpret various artworks as part of their historical research. Finally, students can use their knowledge of visual expression as they develop plans for exhibiting and/or performing their National History Day project.


Posters American Style

The Web site Posters American Style uses a new communication medium to explore a nineteenth-century one. In some ways, the Internet is a high-tech descendent of the humble printed poster. Through both media, people express opinions and appeal to a broad public. One section of this exhibition is dedicated to "patriotic persuasion."


Poster concept, design, and production


Effective posters demand attention. How does an artist create an image that can literally stop us in our tracks? The "More To It" section discusses the thinking and decisions involved in creating a poster, describes how elements of design can affect a poster's meaning, and demonstrates the silk-screening process.



Eyeing America: The Prints of Robert Cottingham

Several years in advertising taught Robert Cottingham the commercial techniques of enlargement and cropping as well as the power of letters and words. Learn how artistic decisions affect your perception!



Panoramas: the North American Landscape in Art

Landscape artworks are more than visual records of places. They convey cultural values through symbols and allegories. The feelings and experiences of viewers also affect their interpretation of art. Thus, individuals might have completely different understandings of the same landscape.



Pictured: Xavier Viramontes, Boycott Grapes, Support the United Farm Workers Union, 1973, offset lithograph, sheet: 23 5/8 x 17 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, 1995.50.58