How nothing became something: White space, rhetoric, history, and meaning

John W. Pracejus, G. Douglas Olsen, Thomas C. O'Guinn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


We seek to advance visual theory in the domain of commercial rhetoric (advertising) by demonstrating how objects and symbols derive meaning from their histories. We do this by examining a single visual trope common in advertising, white space. The choice of white space was purposeful in that it is not a picture and its history is both accessible and traceable. Our sociohistorical theory is supported by showing how specific movements and social forces acted upon the meaning of this particular visual rhetorical device and how this meaning is today shared and understood by both producers of ads (ad agency creative directors) and the readers of ads (ordinary consumers). We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this approach to rhetorical and other major theoretical formulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-90
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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