Key Steps in Illustration: Visual Metaphors

The following exercise introduced the concept of visual metaphors. First  I did some reading to understand and discovered a great variety of information.

I asked myself, what would I define as a visual metaphor? To me, a visual metaphor is the visual depiction of a methaphor, an illustration that shows metaphors that we use in our language every day. To me it can also be an image that abstracts a concept or situation, and conveys an idea.

Research findings. According to the definition on, a visual methaphor represents a person,  place, thing or idea visually, so viewers can detect a similarity or have certain associations to this person, place, thing or idea (cf. source). They claim that it is a frequently used concept in advertising, and some great examples for visual metaphors and stories created by global can be found on  They also suggest that “people remember 80% of what they see, but only 20 % of what they read”, which would mean that visuals are more effective for advertising and for conveying ideas. Generally I’d agree. There is the saying “a picture says more than 1000 words”, and when looking at the examples presented in the article, I find stunning is the creativity of the ads that convey an idea easily. Especially in advertising, you have to catch the eye quickly because people’s attention span is very short. So you have to get straight to the point, or create a visual that is so intereting that people have to look twice.

I enjoyed doing a bit of research on this topic because of the vast sources of information available – and I’m certain I only uncovered a little part of it due to time constrains. It seems to be a topic that was in focus of academics around the globe, probably because you can look at this topic from various angles and always discover a new aspect.

Then the exercise asked to choose a phrase and create a drawn visual list of objects and subjects to symbolise the phrase.

I then asked others if they understand the meanings of the drawings and if they communicate what I intended. What seemed to be the most recognized was the “broken heart” that symbolizes that the love is over, and often means the end of a relationship.

The least recognized ideas were the frame with the broken grass, and the withering flowers – probably because they are too far away from the concept, and you’d need some mroe contect to associate with a broken relationship.

References: “Visual Methaphors: 20 Creative Ads and What You Can Learn From Them” by Nayomi Chibana. Published on July 19, 2016. Accessed on Dec 10, 2017. URL “How Designers Use Visual Metaphors To Change The Way We Act And Feel” by Andrew Tage. Accessed on Dec 10, 2017. URL “Using a Visual Methaphor Pictogram to Enhance Communications” by M J Hall. Published on July 1, 2016. Accessed on Dec 10, 2017. URL “Visual methaphor” by Richard Nordquist. Accessed on Dec 10, 2017. URL Accesed on Dec 10, 2017. URL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.