Banks today are in the business of building brands as much as physical structures. Benôit Heilbrunn argued that brands are transformative devices that allow contradictory principles to coincide, such as nature and culture, the real and the imaginary, the past and the present, and the very distant and the here and now (Heilbrunn, 1999). Classicism reinforces this notion, linking an ancient past to the present via rhetorical devices perfected during in classical era. Of course, these persuasive visual rhetorical tools are augmented via marketing information technology, selling the past to the future (Berger, 1972).
Classicism remains a central cultural referent. Architecture provides spatial, historical, and psychological images easily appropriated by visual media. Furthermore, architecture is a basic metaphorical structure for perception and cognition—indeed, it “presents embodiments of thought when it invents and builds shapes (Arnheim, 1977, p. 274). These shapes, translated into two dimensions, abstracted and isolated, are the building blocks of meaning making. By tracing visual genealogies such as classicism, we gain an appreciation of the complex composition of current persuasive imagery.
I thank Linda Scott, Marc Markowski, Janet Borgerson, and Detlev Zwick for their constructive comments on this project. Parts of this chapter were taken from Visual Consumption, by J. Schroeder, 2002. © Routledge, reprinted with permission.