Metaphor again

I came across the work of illustrator, John Holcroft today and was impressed by the metaphorical strength of his images. I’m sure these images would initiate a lively discussion, theme, project, etc. in the classroom. The captions are not the titles of John’s work. You can read more about the context of his work and see more illustrations here.

You are what you eat

You are what you eat

Trapped within

Trapped within

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Growing roots

Growing roots

London Subway

London Subway

TV overload

TV overload

The brain is slow to get going in the mornings

The brain is slow to get going in the mornings

What is a metaphor?

According to Buzzle “A metaphor is a substitution of an actual thing with its symbolism. For example, the famous line by Shakespeare – “All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players”, is an example of a metaphor where he substitutes the world with a stage and people with actors, playing their part. Not only is this a profound metaphor that connects the similarities between acting on stage and living life, but it also conveys what the author is trying to say, quite aptly. Thus, metaphors help grasp the real idea, by planting a similar symbolic idea in its place.”

There may be confusion between what is a metaphor and a simile. According to Buzzle “The prime difference between a simile and a metaphor is that while the former only compares the similarities between two entities, the latter goes so far as to equate two similar ideas. The sentence – ‘He was like a lion in the field’ is an example of a simile, but the same sentence when composed as – ‘He was a lion in the field’ becomes a metaphor. In the second sentence, the man is not just compared but equated with a lion for literary effect. Metaphor is substituting the symbolic similarity with the actual idea, while similes stop at identifying the similarity. Ergo, metaphors are much more powerful and potent tools in the hands of good writers as they can convey greater truths symbolically, without explicitly stating them.” Read more at Buzzle.


What’s in a brief?

I’ve just been reading a blog by Krishna and am impressed with this statement that appears on it:

“We see what we expect to see. What we know, or think we know, influences us so strongly that we
 are often blind to change, to new 
views and new opportunities. This 
is true in all aspects of life.

The challenge is to see and learn
 everything around us with fresh eyes.”

I love it!

I’ve been thinking about the way I interact with clients who find it hard to articulate what they want when it comes to a visual design brief. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they don’t have a literal concept in mind – no designer wants to be ‘the pencil’ for someone else’s visual concept, but I do need a brief to help me meet their expectations. However, I also want enough latitude so I can provide concepts that allow the client to “see and learn with fresh eyes”.

I have a wonderful client who willingly embraces the opportunity to see and learn with fresh eyes and who trusts me with total creative freedom. Her briefs are usually something like this:

Client: “I want some images to work as inspiration for some yet to be developed courses that will be aimed at people of different ages, experience and background”

What a wonderfully ‘open’ brief, but I need to get a narrower perspective. I don’t want to set any pre-conceived notions so I try to get more information by asking the client to describe her big-picture thoughts through abstract terms such as emotions, colours, style, relationships and metaphors; eg “if this project could be described as an animal what sort would it be?” “what colours do you spontaneously think of when you think about this project”,  “give me 10 key words that immediately come to mind when you think about this project”, “what’s the main effect and outcome you want”, “what don’t you want” (usually clients are quite clear about this one).

My client really appreciates this approach and from it has evolved a really good working relationship.

Here are some images that I created for such a project. These images were used to inspire creative course titles and content in the early development stages of a learning program, and were then used in a successful marketing campaign for that program.

Revealing the inner self

Revealing the inner self © Bev Puckridge

Fisher in the ocean of opportunity

Fisher in the ocean of opportunity © Bev Puckridge

The voyage of dreams © Bev Puckridge

The voyage of dreams © Bev Puckridge

Flightpath  © Bev Puckridge

Flightpath © Bev Puckridge

Using visual metaphor in the classroom

Images can be a powerful way to generate ideas and promote creative discussion in a classroom. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of visual metaphors.

“A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. Metaphors “carry” meaning from one word, image, or idea to another”.

A visual metaphor improves the ability to reason about complex systems.

“Metaphors help us describe, visualize, and make sense of the world around us. For example, a possible metaphor for the brain is a computer. The images this metaphor creates help us to make sense of something complex — many would consider the brain, like the computer, to have intelligence, memory, and organization, and perhaps even to be user-friendly.

“Modern advertising relies heavily on visual metaphors. For example, in a magazine ad for the banking firm Morgan Stanley, a man is pictured bungee jumping off a cliff. Two words serve to explain this visual metaphor: a dotted line from the jumper’s head points to the word “You”; another line from the end of the bungee cord points to “Us.” The metaphorical message–of safety and security provided in times of risk–is conveyed through a single dramatic image”.

Visual metaphors used in advertising are often simplistic and shallow. When used by filmmakers and artists they are usually more profound and complex in the conveyance of meaning as well as reality.

Look at these images. Each one could be used as a visual metaphor. What implied comparisons do they convey to you? How could you use images to promote complex reasoning and discussion in your classroom?

Michelangelo. Detail from The creation of Adam.


Henri Magritte. Time Transfixed

Magritte_Time transfixed

Salvador Dali. Detail from The persistence of memory

salvador-dali-the persistence of memory

Edvard Munch. The Scream

Edvard Munch-The-scream-1893