Summer break = Senior project

Last night I began my senior capstone project: a style sheet for For those not in the know, a style sheet is an editing tool used to create consistency in style, punctuation, abbreviations, units of measurement, and formatting.

I already have a rough plan in my head which would be better if I placed it in digital form, and this seems a good place to do so.

  1. Make an alphabet grid for unique words
  2. Add sections for capitalization, dates, numbers, etc.
  3. Determine which style Style Guide I’m using
  4. Determine which dictionary I’m using
  5. Define text layout
  6. Define font styles (this should be in the CSS already)
  7. Define visual layout principles

Once all those items are sorted out, I can begin reviewing the blog and filling in the style sheet. To complete the project, I’ll write up a short paper in which I explain my editing choices for organization, format (both text and overall), and the chosen terms in my grid.

Piece of cake, right?

The Visual Rhetoric of Frozen Pizza


In a business as competitive as the packaged food industry, a fair amount of money must be put into attracting, or persuading customers to purchase your brand. While there are several means of doing this, there is none so persistent as having well designed labels. So while there is certainly a genre style to frozen pizza boxes, I aim to compare and analyze how various companies differently use color, images, and typography to attract customers. I will refer to chromatic rhetoric research by Caivano and Lopez (2010), and Aristotle’s appeals to make my argument about color. I will also touch on Brumberger’s (2003) research to justify my positions about specific typeface choices.

Decisions, decisions…

Aristotelian Appeals

When studying rhetoric, one of the first analytical tools you are given is the Aristotelian appeals triangle. Each corner is a point upon which to hang arguments. And while Aristotle’s triangle is an incredibly old tool, it still proves useful when talking about the means of approaching audiences.

Aristotle’s appeals

The appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos roughly equate to credibility/authority, logical reasoning, and emotional ‘reasoning’.


Explaining ethos in Aristotelian rhetoric is tricky, because it’s not necessarily actual credibility that matters, but rather the appearance of credibility. I posit that the designers of frozen pizza boxes tend to make appeals on the appearance of credibility. Mainly this appearance of credibility takes the form of co-opting various Italian imagery to make brands seem authentic.


In their research into color as a rhetorical tool, Caivano and Lopez argue that cultures associate colors (and by extension groups of colors) to all kinds of things, up to and including nationalities. Just as red, white, and blue is closely related to the United States identity; green, white, and red are likewise related to Italy’s identity. So, in an effort to gain credibility (ethos), pizza box designers have left us with a color palette of green, white, and red in the grocer’s frozen food aisle. What’s interesting to recognize is that beyond using this color scheme, each individual color carries with it additional enthymematic meanings, so designers can “double-dip” meanings. That is, they can gain the association to Italy, and also have other chromatic enthymematic associations:
For example, green commonly carries with it a relation to freshness or nature. We can see the designers of the Newman’s Own label utilizing green to highlight their inclusion of natural ingredients, while also allowing the green pepper in the photos to stand out even more brightly.

Newman’s Own Pizza, a demonstration in pushing the “All Natural” angle

From an Aristotelian standpoint, one could argue this choice falls somewhere between logos and pathos. To illustrate this, I’ll apply deductive reasoning, also known as Aristotle’s enthymeme. Deductive reasoning follows this formula as described by Caivano and Lopez:

  • Rule: all X are P (this rule is omitted)
  • Case: A is X
  • Result: A is P

So for the example of green used in the Newman’s Own box:

  • Rule: fresh vegetables, nature = green (omitted)
  • Case: There is an abundance of green on this box.
  • Result: This box contains fresh, natural ingredients.

This approach should be effective if the audience Newman’s Own has targeted cares about premium ingredients. (Given the amount of visual and textual cues, this seems to be the case.)

Culturally, white carries several meanings. Caivano and Lopez suggest an association between white and purity, cleanliness, or neutrality. However, in relation to pizza, it conjures up images of gooey melted mozzarella.

Gino's East pizza box

Stringy melted cheese, and also note the use of white text on a red background.

And unsurprisingly when white is seen on frozen pizza boxes, it is usually depicting cheese or functioning as a text color. The choice of white as text makes a lot of visual design sense, as white on red offers good contrast and is therefore highly visible and recognizable from a distance.

White text on red background. High contrast for increased clarity and recognition.

As we shift our focus from whites to red, we can see red is the most commonly used color in the entire aisle. Beyond the connection to Italy’s flag, red carries with it other enthymematic meaning. On a subconscious level, red is an alarming color due to its association with blood. Therefore, a box that is predominantly red catches the eye. For the context of pizza however, red is also the color of ripe tomatoes.

  • Rule: delicious tomato sauce is red (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box has lots of red
  • Result: This pizza has delicious tomato sauce

Additionally, across cultures, people associate red with heat.

  • Rule: hot things are red (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box has lots of red
  • Result: Hot pizza awaits

I argue that a hot pizza is more appealing than a cold one, I think the pizza box designers are aware of all these associations, and therefore recognize the powerful rhetoric red provides.

grocery store frozen food section

So much red in the pizza aisle.

Another way pizza box designers attempt to prove authenticity and gain credibility is by co-opting things that seems “Italian”, let’s take for example the the stereotypical Italian chef that appears on several pizza brands.

Italian chef images

Rotund, mustached, and cheery. The Italian chef welcomes shoppers to purchase his wares.

He (and it’s always a he) appears a little round (never trust a skinny chef), wears a neckerchief, and sports a large mustache. This seems to be a mixture of both an ethos and pathos appeal. By using a chef that looks like that, the ethos appeal is fairly clear.

  • Rule: Italian chefs would make an authentic pizza (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box depicts an italian chef
  • Result: The pizza is authentic

However, I suggested there is a pathos claim as well. I believe the enthymeme would look like this:

  • Rule: Italian chefs are would craft a pizza with care (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box depicts an italian chef
  • Result: The pizza is was made with care


Eva Brumberger’s(2003) research about typography illustrated that people recognize various typefaces as having personalities. That is, the choice of typeface influences the “voice” in which text is read, and that readers identify whether or not a typeface is appropriate for the message delivered. Examples of inappropriate typeface uses include: using Comic Sans for scholarly work, or using Impact typeface for a wedding invitation. Readers recognize these mismatches, so picking the proper voice is important in delivering a message.

I believe that pizza branding shows clear examples of typeface selection designed to match audience expectations. First, Brumberger suggests that “direct” fonts are considered more serious. In her research this included Arial and Times New Roman as “direct” sanserif and serif typefaces, respectively. Typefaces that are more stylized, such as Bauhaus and CounselorScript we categorized as “friendly” and “elegant”.

Fist, let’s examine some “direct” serious typefaces. The choice of the bold serif typeface used on the DiGiorno box shown above is an attempt at establishing the brand as serious, or adult. Similarly, other brands that want to be seen as higher quality, top-shelf pizzas make use of similar typefaces.

However, the frozen pizza market is not just for adults, and as such “friendlier” typfaces are used on those brands. Most notably Totino’s and Tony’s brand pizzas have styles that are considered “script” typefaces. Typefaces that are less serious, and therefore are attempting to reach less serious consumers.

Indeed, both Tony’s and Totino’s are on the lower end of the cost scale as far as pizzas go, and they both tend to appeal to a younger demographic. DiGiorno’s, Bellatoria, and Freschetta are more costly and seem to appeal to an audience with more refined tastes. Thus the typefaces used for those brands follows the expectations one would have following Brumberger’s research.

Closing thoughts

Considerable time, effort, and expense is put into marketing for nearly all products. Convincing a consumer to purchase your product is a goal, but getting the right customer to purchase your product is an even better one. By using visual cues, the designers of frozen pizza boxes can dial in on the audience they want to hook. Designers attempt to persuade their chosen audience via the appearance of credibility with the clever use of color, selecting iconic imagery, and choosing proper typeface.

(my apologies to Gorgias)

By this discourse, I have tried to explain the reasoning behind the look of frozen pizza boxes. I have shown that color, imagery, and even typeface play a role in persuasion. I wanted to write this post; the visual rhetoric of frozen pizzas, and my plaything.


Brumberger, E. R. (2003). The rhetoric of typography: The awareness and impact of typeface appropriateness. Technical Communication(50)2. 224-231

Caivano, J. L., and Lopez, M. A. (2010). How Colour Rhetoric is Used to Persuade: Chromatic Argumentation in Visual Statements. Colour: Design & Creativity (5)11. 1-11

Winter cleaning

I have submitted my last essay for the term. (Thanks for your editing assistance, Kiddo.) With that submission the semester draws to a close. Time for me to dig into the projects that get pushed to the side while school is session. Perhaps some music while I get down to the task of cleaning my office.

One down, two to go

By this time next week I will have finished my first semester as a technical writing major. I have but two more semesters in this long college run, and I’ll be happy to be done. I have to admit I made a mistake by not taking Dr. Heinsohn’s advice years ago, when she boggled at me when I told her I was a Comp Sci major, and she said I belonged in the liberal arts. I finally feel like I’m at home with this major. After years of trying to make myself love programming and heavy mathematics I have landed where I’ve always belonged.

You look different…

I spent the afternoon completely redesigning the website, preparing the space to house my online portfolio. This overhaul served two purposes:

  • The online portfolio is a class project, and I want a good grade.
  • I wanted to adjust the focus of the page towards my professional endeavors.

I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I managed to trim most of the areas that didn’t really belong. No more program source code, or duplicate information in the about/FAQ pages. I still plan to use the blog, but now it will serve as both a personal and professional space.

Completed Projects

It’s been a long while since my last update. I wanted to get a couple snapshots of progress around here. The bathroom remodel was quite an ordeal, but we got it taken care of. My now ex-girlfriend’s father was incredibly helpful and I couldn’t have completed it without his help.



After. Moved toilet, new surround and tub.

After. Moved toilet, new surround and tub.

Replaced the double vanity with a single, and added two cabinets.

Replaced the double vanity with a single, and added two cabinets.

Also, the rocking is done now. Ready to put in a ceiling someday when funds make themselves available again. Thanks to my dear friend Kristen for all her efforts in painting the hell out of both the bathroom and the basement. The edging would have looked terrible under my brush. I’m in your debt, Kiddo.


Rocking it

Last night while writing the blog post, I’d made a list of things I wanted to get done in the next couple days:

  • Replace the sprayer in the kitchen sink.
  • Clean the area in the basement where the new wall is going.
  • Figure out the extra electrical stuff down there.
  • Remove whatever electrical items aren’t needed.
  • Remove old crappy walls.
  • Start putting up rock.

With this to-do list written up on my whiteboard, I knew when I awoke this morning I’d have at course to follow. Once I managed to get a cup of coffee in me I quickly went after the sink. It was so unexciting I didn’t bother taking pictures. Beginning the basement work is a whole different story.

First a couple of mostly before pics:



At this point I’d just taken off the weird wall sconces. The previous owner had a penchant for them. In addition to these two, the downstairs bedroom also had a pair in there. Freakin weird. Anyway, At this point I started fiddling with the circuit breaker trying to kill the power to that wall. I probably should have done that before pulling the sconces, as noted by the mild shock I got. Once the power was off, I began pulling wires. You can see the outlet and switch on the right side of the wall, the switch used to power a pool table light. The pool table and said light are gone, so I’m thinking I’ll eventually rig that back into the laundry room to get more lights back there.

Next, get that wood outa there!




Tearing down that wall wasn’t too difficult. Hauling the nail infested boards up to the garage was. Where I had a mostly organized garage before waking this morning, I now have a lumber pile.

Now that all the wood was off the wall, I was ready to haul some sheetrock downstairs. I had forgotten that the ceilings in the basement are not 8 foot. The ceiling reminded me of this fact when I attempted to place the first panel and ended up hitting the ceiling about a foot from vertical. Damn it. A quick score and snap, and the first panel was in place. I made sure to measure the next pieces before bringing them down. There’s more room to do that in the garage, and it makes them lighter to carry. Bonus!




Tomorrow I’ll be finishing off the half sheets under the stairs. Then time to start mudding. Blort…

Making Jack a dull boy


Today kicked off “Tear Your House Apart” season. The lady and I spent most of the day fighting crowds at the local home supply stores in preparation for a couple of sizable home projects. The smaller of the two projects doesn’t worry me at all: replacing 12 feet of terrible wood paneling in the basement with sheet rock, and then cleaning up the remaining basement walls which will be getting a LONG overdue paint job. No biggie. The other job, I’m a bit terrified of… Remodeling the upstairs bathroom



It needs help. As you can see, it’s poorly laid out and to fix it we’re stripping the whole thing down to the studs. Starting fresh. New everything. To fix the ugly layout, we’re going to be moving around some sewer lines. I have several apprehensions about the things we want to do, but I’ve been assured by the project manager that I’m worrying too much and that it’ll be fine.

Fortunately, both upstairs roommates will be effectively out of the house before we start, so slightly fewer lives will be disrupted. Demolition starts a week after the Messabout, and then it’ll be all work and no play until it’s finished.

Makeovers and such

Today is the two year anniversary of launching my Puddle Duck Racer, #824 Serenity. Happy birthday, Serenity!

The 2016 Lake Pepin Messabout looms ever closer, and Serenity has gotten some much needed upgrades. First, her sail has been replaced by the good folks at PolySail. While I had been debating going with a some form of balanced lug rig, I ended up with another Bolger styled Leg O’ Mutton sail. [If you’re interested in sailing or even design, you’d do well to check out Phillip Boger. The guy was an unconventional, prolific boat designer.]

What was interesting to me is I replaced a LOM sail with another, and the boom I’d been using had to be replaced. (It was about a foot short.) The reason why this was the case had been escaping me until just typing the previous line. When designing that first sail, I’d made the sail to fit the mast and boom, instead of creating the sail first and matching the spars to it.

I’ve also been experimenting with alternate rigging setups; mainly getting rid of my false traveler and attaching the mainsheet block to the rudder just aft of the pintles. I’d forgotten I wanted to try that out until I was out testing the new sail with my roommate Paul. I noticed an eye-bolt atop the rudder and spent most of the day’s sail confused as to why it was there. Eventually I rigged the mainsheet block to it, taking the load from the “traveler” and found that it worked quite well. I was worried it would negatively impact steering, but it did not. Additionally, the jam (or clam) cleat that holds the main worked FAR more effectively once the angle of the line was reduced.

In case that last paragraph made absolutely no sense, I’ll try to show why the cleat works better in this configuration. Here’s a jam cleat:

The jam cleat, also known as a clam cleat.

The jam cleat, also known as a clam cleat.

Jam cleats hold a line in place by tapering as they reach the bottom, the grooves help pull the line in that direction as tension is applied from the left of that picture. If the line is pulled up, or to the right the line will loose. The problem that I’d been having is the angle of the “traveler” meant it was always being pulled up a bit. This meant it would occasionally pop out, the sheet would loose depowering my sail, and I’d cry bitter tears.

The new way vs. the old way.

The new way vs. the old way.

Granted this is a new mod, and the jury is out if I’ll keep it this way or not. We’ll see.

Also, my friend Kristen came over to help out with a makeover. I spent an hour yesterday with an angle grinder getting rid off my terrible epoxy drip marks that had plagued her hull. I spent another hour today with the orbital sander smoothing out the angle grinder marks. Kristen and I got the first of several coats of paint done. The old girl is getting a whole look I’ll be unveiling at the Messabout. I’m very excited to see our end product!




The sketchiest thing I do all year.

It appears spring has finally graced Minneapolis, and that inspires me to do the sketchiest thing I do all year: Take Serenity out of the rafters.

Sleeping so peacefully, like a bat...

Sleeping so peacefully, like a bat…

You see, she spends all winter hanging from the rafters in my garage. All winter she waits for this day with anticipation, as I do with dread. On one hand, it means getting her back in the water. On the the other, I have to avoid death by falling boat.

First things first, I needed to take the casters off of the trailer, as they can gouge Serenity when they’re attached.



Then up into the rafters to attach the ratchet straps to the chain hoist…

All anchored in

All anchored in

What could possibly go wrong here? I'm sure this is totally safe!

What could possibly go wrong here? I’m sure this is totally safe!

Surprisingly, she made it down with very few problems. The largest of which being I had to turn the trailer around while avoiding the other stuff in the garage: motorcycles, bikes, and my roommate’s car.

Aaaaand touchdown.

Aaaaand touchdown.

All ready for a coat for bottom paint. (As if I'm gonna do that. Lake Pepin beach is basically sandpaper.)

All ready for a coat for bottom paint. (As if I’m gonna do that. Lake Pepin beach is basically sandpaper.)

Now to finish the sail I picked up from Polysail!