Billboards of Pakistani Automobile Mechanic Workshops

A Study of Visual Literacy Practices


  • Sarwet Rasul Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi


Billboards, Pakistan, Automobile Workshops, Literacy Practices, Visual Literacy


Billboards are a source of immediate, on spot and permanent means of advertising. They do not require much linguistic proficiency for understanding; and the pictures and images accompanying the text correspond with the language to create meanings. The current study explores the visual literacy practices as exhibited on the billboards of auto-mechanic workshops in Pakistan. The study is based on the data collected from three localities of Rawalpindi and the surrounding areas within 100 kilometers radius including: 1) Rawalpindi City 2) Murree City, Company Bagh, Murree Expressway 3) and Dinna, and Gujjar Khan. The sample is collected from two social classes, the middle-middle class and the lower-middle class,in the form of pictures of billboards with a focus on the non- linguistic (visual) images. The model adapted for the research incorporates the theoretical approach of Critical Visual Analysis by Wang (2014) derived from Critical Discourse Analysis developed by Fairclough (1989, 1995) which is further merged with Visual Grammar framework as proposed by Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006).

When it comes to the Pakistani Auto-mobile mechanic workshops the visual literacy practices operate as a means to persuade the customers. The aim of the current research is to examine the nature of non- linguistic visual literacy practices employed in designing the billboards of auto-mobile workshops in Pakistan, and to analyse the social and cultural implications of these non-linguistic visual literacies.These visual literacy practices reveal social class identities and professional affiliations. Symbolically the images on the billboards are the vectors to communicate the social and cultural meanings. From the perspective of ‘interactive dimension’ of Visual Grammar it is examined how modality serves as a  marker of the degree of reality in the representation of images as a visual literacy practice as exhibited on the billboards of these workshops. The study explores the markers of modality or the factors that define modality of an image including color, reality by dominant society standards, sharpness, brightness, contrast, saturation and image background etc.Thus, the  paper throws light on how and why the description and interpretation of these visual literacies need to be viewed in a larger social and cultural context to reveal the possible ways in which they affect the perceptions of viewers and potential customers.