Mastering Visual Metaphors

When you’re first learning how to sketch out ideas, it’s natural to start with the basics: learning how to draw simple icons that represent real objects in our physical world. That’s what I encourage you to do, and it’s a great place to start.

But it’s not necessarily the best place to end. If you’d like to take your visual thinking work to a deeper and more intriguing level, I encourage you to explore the world of visual metaphors.

And there’s no better guide to that world than Dario Paniagua. Dario helps people become professional visual thinkers by making maps that force viewers to stop and think about what they’re seeing,

Here’s Dario demonstrating what that looks like on his YouTube channel:

In that video Dario shares three methods that you can use to create your own visual metaphors.

Practice along with me!

Technique #1: Blend. Mix two elements together into one image.

Dario’s example:

My practice:

Technique #2: Align. Place two images next to each other.

Dario’s example:

My practice:

Technique #3: Context. Put one image in an unlikely (or even impossible) context.

Dario’s example:

My practice:

As Dario mentions, give yourself permission to be ridiculous! That’s how you’ll make something that catches the attention of others.

To see more examples and get some more practice yourself, I encourage you to check out his book Visual Metaphors.

I’ve been referencing that book as part of my daily drawing practice recently to continue expanding my general visual vocabulary as well as prime the pump for weaving more visual metaphors into my work.

Dario was also kind enough to lead an hour-long workshop on visual metaphors for members of the Collective inside of Verbal to Visual a while back, the replay of which is available there and well worth a watch.

If you’re ready to move beyond simple icons, start experimenting with visual metaphors. I think you’ll find it to be as fun as it is impactful.



Upcoming Workshops: