Monday, June 28, 2010

Visual Metaphors

I blogged about visual metaphors in an earlier post, "Think Outside the Pie Chart," but I believe there is more to be said about the power of visual metaphors. Most importantly, how you can find the right visual metaphor for your solution, process, idea, tool, or whatever information you're attempting to impart on your audience.

Visual metaphors, similes, and analogies can help communicate information that may otherwise be more confusing or time consuming to present as is. As I've touted before, visuals are digested far faster than text alone and are more memorable. Distilling a complex solution into a simple, yet effective, graphic is one way to successfully communicate an important concept to your audience—and reach your goals.

Often the key to what metaphor to use can be found in how you describe your solution to others. You'd be surprised how often metaphors, similes, and analogies pop up in our daily conversations and how they work their way into our solution descriptions. Below are are a few descriptions of solutions and the visual metaphor used to illuminate each concept. Can you tell what visual metaphor will work best for each solution just from the description?

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Solution: Our system gathers large volumes of information and automatically funnels out irrelevant data. All relevant data is funneled into an intuitive graphic user interface so the end user can easily review relevant actionable information.

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Solution: We have a four-step approach (analyze, plan, test, and deploy) to transitioning the old system to the new system. Our approach will safely bridge the gap between the old and new systems and overcome the risky waters of transition.

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Solution: Each piece of our five-part training program fits together to form a winning team.
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Solution: Our database storage system outweighs the competition in capacity, speed, and dependability.
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Solution: From the ground up, we are transitioning our branch offices to be more green.


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Now try this exercise with your own ideas and concepts. Look for clues in your descriptions that can point you toward the correct visual metaphor that will help you successfully reach your audience.

You can also browse sites like BizGraphics On Demand to get more ideas when trying to visually communicate your complex ideas. Type in keyword and phrases from your descriptions into the search function and see what pops up.

Good luck!

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