Select Your Visual Thinking Metaphor Wisely

Judy Bartkowiak quote

“Our mind by creating metaphor creates a new meaning and solves problems by distracting us from the content and engaging us in process.”

– Judy Bartkowiak

How do you visualise your ideas?

One way is to write all thoughts/ideas onto separate sticky notes and cluster them into groups on a wall. Another way is to use a metaphor.

Draw the outline of the metaphor on a wall and get the group to fill-in the gaps based on the topic under discussion. Typical examples are:

  • Crossing a finishing line
  • Climbing a mountain
  • Tree of life
  • Stepping stones

Using a metaphor may help solve your problem by identifying steps you would have missed if you concentrated on the subject matter content alone. Therefore, select your metaphor wisely.

George Orwell loathed the use of ‘dying metaphors’ (his examples: Achilles’ heel, hotbed, swan song) because they led to sentences empty of meaning.

Along with dying metaphors we use dead metaphors all day long (e.g. hands of a clock, deadline, computer desktop). We don’t think of them as ‘metaphor’, it’s simply the noun describing the object.

I like metaphors. I especially like them as a guide for visual thinking. They may be dead or dying but like Lazarus raised from the dead, they can be given new life as part of design thinking.

Let me know what metaphors you use to visualise your ideas.

(Note: the Lazarus bit is a simile. Hmm!)

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