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Exercise 2.11: Visual Metaphors

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

This exercise was different from the others as it didn't require a finalised illustration to a specific objective at the end. Instead, it focuses on exploring the idea of visual metaphors as a way of communicating an idea, as often seen in advertising campaigns and publications where a clear message needs to be sent, or to make the viewer think differently about a particular topic.

A selection of visual metaphors discovered through pinterest.

I gathered together images that featured visual metaphors using pinterest, but initially found it difficult to find strong examples at first. The exercise suggested looking through editorial articles and although these illustration pop up often while reading a weekly magazine, they are not always attached to their own search terms when looking online and instead use the ones from the articles they are attached to. Changing my search terms help a great deal by using key phrases surrounding currently discussed topics such as climate change, scientific advancements, political climate, the economy and mental health. Through narrowing the fields in this way I found a lot more visual metaphors than before to fill out my collection by seeking out the article first, then finding the artist interpretations.

From my searches, I found the tone of visual metaphors varied depending on which sources I looked at. Political campaigns and activist movements use metaphors to try and shift public opinion on a topic by employing metaphors to send a specific message to a target audience, whereas articles and newspapers focus on using metaphors to commentate on current events. Idioms and puns are straightforward metaphors often made as jokes that lend well to advertising campaigns by often using juxtapositions in a surrealistic way.

Favorite artists that I was already familiar with: (Left) Banksy | (Right) Lora Zombie

Favourite new artist discoveries: (Left) Andrea De Santis | (Right) John Holcroft

For the only practical element in this exercise, I was asked to sketch shorthand ideas around one of these phrases:

Reaching Retirement | Dreams of Romance | Broken Relationship | Censorship of the Press | High Achievement | Economic Catastrophe

I chose dreams of romance as I had more instant thoughts on what to draw than when I read the other phrases.

To expand on my list of subjects, I made a spider diagram and then used these words to generate images on the opposite page. I had and easier time finding words centred around romance rather than dreams despite them both being universal concepts. I think this is because the visual imagery of dreams is much more subjective and so most of the iconography I came up with was attached to beds and sleeping rather than dreaming. Despite this, when I showed them to others to see if they could still understand the overall meaning behind the collection of drawings, they were still able to interpret them as I intended and this was good practice for visual shorthand to keep repeating in later exercises.



Jensen, S. (2010) “Banksy & The Visual Metaphor” At:

Modern Thrive (2016) “25 Editorial Illustrators We Love” At:

Nordquist, R. (2018) “Definitions and Examples of a Visual metaphor” At:

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