Paper 1 Analysis

Further Education

Unseen Text: We Are Humber

Text Type: Recruitment Poster

Guiding Question: How do formal features of layout, visuals and copy combine to persuade the audience in this campaign?

Persuasion in one form or another is an element of many mass media texts. You may find yourself studying all kinds of texts and topics in order to learn the language of persuasion: speeches, emotive appeals, adverts, even propaganda posters from the past. It’s unlikely you’ll cover all the possible types of persuasive text; so something you may have to do when you’re sitting Paper 1 is to transfer your learning from other parts of the course into this exam. This is especially true if the text type you are given is unusual. Today’s text is a student recruitment poster for a university. Once you’ve recognised this as a recruitment campaign, you should be able to analyse how the formal features (visuals, layout, copy, slogan) are intended to persuade the reader. Of course, the response you can read below is only one way of responding to the text: any alternative ideas you may have can be equally valid.

Sample Response:

The given text is a recruitment poster for Humber University aimed at encouraging students to enrol on one of the University’s courses. The campaign is mainly aimed at a young audience, the typical demographic for students attending university and is designed to appeal to younger people through a mix of engaging visuals, positive representation of young people and claims as to the benefits of attending Humber for one’s future career prospects. Therefore, the strategy of this recruitment campaign is emotive, focusing on slogans with positive connotations and images of happy and engaged learners.

Firstly, the posters are eye-catching. They are brightly coloured so as to stand out in a crowded events market or recruitment fair. Structured in four pieces, it is likely that the poster could be used to create banners or physical posters at recruitment events. For this reason they are highly visual, and copy is kept to a minimum. The colours are vivid and bright; each block stands out from the block next to it. There is a certain modern tone to the colours, complimenting the focus on practical learning such as ‘engineers’ in the copy and the picture of a student engaged in robotics on the far right. 

In an attempt to connect with the intended audience of the posters, the representation of young people in the images is positive. The girl on the left is smiling, and so are the pupils behind her in the background. The depth of the image suggests the classroom is busy, full of happy learners, while the focus remains on the girl in the front, emphasising her smile. The image in the center is of another girl, this time she looks concentrated and focused. The angle of the image suggests she is listening to something just out of sight, as if inviting us to participate as well. Again, the depth of the image shows there are other students similarly engaged. The photo on the right shows a young man experimenting with a robot arm. He looks focused on his project, and there is obvious excitement in this image; robotics is a modern and dynamic field and is a practical way to study engineering, design, programming and so on. The posters want the audience to know that an education at Humber is not just listening to lectures: the word ‘practical’ is repeated in the copy. The models chosen for these images are diverse: there are two girls, and all three students are from different ethnicities, ensuring the poster will appeal to a wide demographic. The technique of metonymy is used, whereby these happy students stand for the wider student body – any person attending Humber University will be dynamic, engaged and happy.

The copy supports the images, particularly through the repeated slogan: ‘We are…’ The personal pronoun ‘we’ is inclusive, and makes the reader feel like they will be joining a community of likeminded people. The slogan is always declarative and asserts the students at Humber have a range of positive attributes: ‘achievers’; ‘shaping the future’; aiming higher’ and ‘up for the challenge.’ All four slogans have the common theme of ‘ambitious,’ leaving the audience in no doubt that the university will foster and develop a sense of ambition in a potential student. Furthermore, these words are examples of glittering generalities – it would be hard for a reader to disagree that ‘fulfilling ambition’ is a fundamental reason for going to university. The repetition of ‘We Are Humber’ at the bottom of each poster unambiguously associates the university with each of these positive and glittering values.

Underneath the slogans, the posters employ copy to develop the emotive appeals. For example, underneath the heading ‘We are shaping the future’, the copy reads, ‘Humber is evolving to meet the needs of our students, industry partners and communities we serve.’ The idea of a university serving a community develops the inclusive feel of the campaign, and ‘meeting the needs’ of its students reassures the reader, making them feel secure knowing that they are at the center of the university’s mission. The phrase employs a tricolour, which gives the sentence a pleasant rhythm and has a ‘natural’ persuasive effect. ‘Shaping the future’ and ‘evolving’ are both vague claims but, in terms of this campaign, effective in suggesting the university is modern, dynamic, and at the center of innovation and development.

Finally, the idea that Humber is preparing students for the future is foregrounded by the copy. The third panel explicitly states that an education at Humber will ‘help launch your career.’ The word ‘launch’ has been chosen for its positive and powerful connotations, as if Humber will give you the fastest possible start in life or provide ‘lift-off’ to your career. The copy in the first panel includes a list of possible career paths including ‘designers, caregivers, entrepreneurs and researchers.’ One effect of a list is to create the impression that there are more possibilities just round the corner and this list is diverse enough to appeal to a wide audience.

In conclusion, this text is a perfect example of an effective recruitment campaign that has been designed to connect with young people. It is inclusive, modern, colourful, and represents students in a positive way. It may be short on details – no statistical evidence is offered, for example – and it certainly employs card-stacking to make university life seem happy and stress-free. Given the simplicity of the poster or banner format, though, this is to be expected.

Categories:Paper 1 Analysis

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