Visual metaphor occurs when you create a new visual element that represents something familiar. Examples of visual metaphor can be found in art, design and photography.

They are similar to verbal metaphors and are used to help us understand complicated concepts or emotions.

A visual metaphor is an essential aspect of effective communication in graphic design, photography, video and other types of media.

In fact, the use of visual metaphor is so important in communication that it can also be used in written language.

Visual metaphors can help make your personal or professional communications more memorable and effective.


What Is A visual metaphor

What Is A visual metaphor?

Visual metaphors are images that create a parallel between two different things or concepts.

The image itself tells a story about how one thing relates to another, often using symbols or objects that are commonly understood by the target audience, who fill in the blanks.

A visual metaphor is a figure of speech that links two unlike things through a common characteristic they share.

Visual metaphors can be used as a way to understand complex ideas, or simply to express something in a more evocative or imaginative way.



Let’s take a look at an obvious example:

A man stands, looking away from us and out of an open door into an open space beyond.

So what does this mean? It tells us that our man is leaving something behind (whether it’s a job, family, home, etc.), and heading towards something new and exciting.

The door could be a literal door or it could represent opportunity, freedom, etc.

We can make all sorts of inferences here that may include consequences to leaving whatever he’s leaving behind.

The message here is clear: Leave your dull old life behind and join our exciting new world!

The message is clear without any further explanation because we all know how doors work, right?

In film and television, visual metaphors are often used to suggest something about a character without having them explicitly state it.

For example, in The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy Dufresne is telling his friend Red about his wife’s affair, he says: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really: get busy living or get busy dying.”

As he says this, we see an overhead shot showing him walking across the prison yard.

This overhead shot symbolizes Andy’s feeling of being trapped and unable to escape from his situation — which is exactly what he’s saying when he talks about choosing between life and death.

What Is Visual Metaphor?

A visual metaphor is a new image or object that symbolizes another image or object.

It is a representation of one idea or concept with another image or object. The word “metaphor” comes from the Greek word “meta” which means “beyond” and “phorein” which means “to carry.”

It carries meaning beyond its literal interpretation. The most common type of visual metaphor is an object substitution where one object represents another object or idea that it is not actually related to.

Examples include the use of arrows to represent movement and lines to represent energy.

These examples show how you can use similar objects with different properties to represent different ideas in order to create a concept in visual language.

Visual metaphors are useful to help readers visualize a certain topic so that they can understand it better.

It is a form of nonverbal communication that uses visual elements for purposes of analogy, symbolism, or association to another idea.

A visual metaphor is an image that signifies the relationship between two objects that are not actually connected in the real world.

The metaphor is conveyed by relating the visual likeness of one object or idea to another. Visual metaphors can be expressed through drawing, photography, or painting.

Visual metaphors are often used in advertising, film and television imagery, corporate communications, and product packaging. They can create a feeling of familiarity with a product or service.

What Are Visual Metaphors In Art?

A visual metaphor is an image that represents something other than what it appears to be. An example of a visual metaphor in art is using a chair to represent a person who is emotionally crippled or physically handicapped.

The painting below, titled “A Chair” by Paul Gauguin, shows the back of a wooden chair with the legs facing the left side of the painting.

A woman (in this case an artist) sits in the chair, facing away and looking out. She is wearing a red robe that covers her bottom half but her shoulders are exposed.

Her hands are resting on her lap, palms up. The woman is sitting on a rock that makes her appear as though she is floating above the ground.

The rock serves as a platform for the woman to sit on, and it also adds balance to the painting. Visual metaphors are often used in art to represent certain characters or ideas that cannot be seen otherwise.

This can be done to give meaning to the subject matter of a painting or simply for artistic effect.  Throughout history, artists have used visual metaphors in their paintings and drawings to convey messages to their viewers without actually saying anything at all through words.

Visual metaphors can also be used in advertising images and Visual metaphors in art are a kind of symbolism, but instead of words or names they use objects to represent ideas or concepts. They can be found in any medium, from the paintings of Picasso to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.

Visual metaphors can be used to make a work more interesting, and they are often used in advertising or other forms of commercial art. Since visual metaphors can be very complex and difficult to understand, they must be explained carefully by an artist.

When this is done well, it can lead to a good deal of critical acclaim and public attention for the artist. When something is described as a visual metaphor, it means that there is something about the work which represents another idea.

This is different from most other forms of symbolism which involve the use of words or names to describe ideas. An example of verbal metaphor would be when someone says that something has “eyes like saucers.”


In this case, “saucers” represents something else for which it is an analogy, such as being wide-eyed with wonder.

This is also different from a simile because it isn’t merely saying that one thing is similar to another thing; instead it actually represents something else in the artwork itself.

What Is A Visual Metaphor In Film?

A visual metaphor can be thought of as a comparison between two things, with one of the things represented by an image that stands in for it.

Before I get into the definition of a visual metaphor, I want to clarify that I will be talking about them in film. Visual metaphors are also used in painting, literature, music, theatre and other forms of art.

But since this article is about film, I will only be discussing film visual metaphors. Trying to find the answer to “What is a visual metaphor?” really got me thinking.

I always thought they were just pretty images or things that related to something else in a story. But after some research, and my own personal observations, here is what I have come up with.

There are two kinds of visual metaphors; real and implied. The difference between the two is vast!

This may not seem like a big deal but it actually is when you’re trying to figure out what it is you’re watching.

Although both can make your story more intriguing and easier to follow for the viewer. A real visual metaphor shows exactly what it’s supposed to represent in your story or documentary even if it seems weird at first glance!

Visual Metaphor Examples

Visual metaphor is a literary device that we use to compare one thing to another. For example, “The ship plowed through the waves.”

This metaphor compares the ship to a plow. The device of comparing one thing to another is used frequently in all types of writing.

Metaphors are created by using similar characteristics between two unlike objects.

Here are several examples of visual metaphor that you can use when writing your own stories: 

  • The moon was a glowing pumpkin.
  • A gigantic oak tree with thick branches blocked his path and roots curled like snakes across the forest floor. The black and white checkered tiles of the kitchen floor resembled a chessboard.
  • He watched in horror as blood poured from her wrist like a crimson waterfall. Her long hair was as dark as a raven’s feather and her eyes were like two pieces of coal.

Visual metaphors are a type of simile that compares two unlike things using an image. For example, you could say that an athlete runs faster than the speed of light.

The fastest man alive can’t actually travel at the speed of light, but it’s an apt comparison to help your audience visualize how fast he is. More often than not, visual metaphors are used in creative writing.

They can also be used in speeches and everyday conversation.

Visual metaphors are appealing to readers because they allow them to create their own mental images of what you’re describing based on their own experiences. By using visual metaphors in your writing, you can help your audience visualize your topic and better understand it.

Visual metaphors are appealing to audiences for another reason: They are entertaining.

People like to see comparisons between dissimilar things. If you find a way to make a dull topic interesting or funny, people will be more likely to listen to you or read what you write.

Visual metaphors are also useful for breaking up blocks of text so that your audience doesn’t get bored.

Visual Metaphors In Movies

Visual metaphors are a constant in movies. Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they are completely over the top and obvious.

Either way, they capture our attention and get us to think about the movie in new ways. Taken from a book of the same name by film critic Jim Emerson, here are some of the most memorable visual metaphors in movies: All About Eve (1950) The opening shot of “All About Eve” shows a train pulling out of a station and disappearing into a tunnel.

This is a metaphor for what happens when an actor makes it big — they go into the “tunnel of success” and are never seen again.

The most common visual metaphor is that of the circle. It shows us the “whole picture”, it can be closed and it gives us the sense of completeness and perfection.

Examples: The wheel, the eye, camera lens, the clock, rings, eggs etc. Other visual metaphors are triangles and squares.

Triangles are used to show power and aggressiveness. They are also phallic symbols and represent masculinity.

Examples: The number 3 (three points), devil horns (two points up), pyramid (the most powerful shape), sword or shield (can pierce).

Of course you can find these shapes in any sci-fi movie with aliens, spaceships or robots. Squares show stability and strength.

However sometimes they may symbolize rigidity and coldness (like a tight box).

Also squares are often used as backgrounds for funny faces to make them look more humorous or add drama to a scene (as in this example from “Big Fish”). Visual metaphors help stories show, not tell.

Metaphors are used to explain concepts or ideas that might be hard to understand through normal language alone. Visual metaphors are often used in movies to show the audience something they would not be able to understand if told in words alone.

For example, when your favorite character is feeling down, a visual metaphor might show an image of a dark cloud above their head with rain pouring down on them.

Or maybe their eyes are shown with a broken heart symbol floating above them when they have just had their heartbroken.

The purpose of visual metaphors is to give the audience an immediate visual understanding of the characters feelings and emotions that words alone cannot explain.

The Function Of Visual Metaphors

In writing, metaphors and similes can add a new dimension to the narrative. They can make the characters more memorable and help advance the plot in film

In visual art, they can create a sense of balance in a composition. The function of visual metaphors is to enhance the communication process by providing mental images that are easily recognizable.

The use of metaphorical language is often thought to be an effective way of transferring information, ideas and concepts from one mind to another.

Metaphors are also used as literary devices, devices that assist in telling a story or conveying information about a subject in an interesting way.

They can be used to simplify a complex idea or situation into terms that are easier to understand or visualize.

Metaphors are also used when one thing is substituted for another, usually for purposes of comparison. It can provide insights into the world around us and sometimes help us look at things in ways we would not normally consider.

This is because they allow you to see something familiar in an unfamiliar context or environment.

For example, if someone were describing how he felt after being dumped by his girlfriend, he might say that he was left “cold” and “empty.”

When we listen to someone, we can understand the meaning of what is being said by understanding the words he or she uses. However, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand a person’s words in a conversation when the person does not use correct grammar or misspeaks.

In such a situation, we might have to use additional clues to understand what that person is trying to say. Visual metaphors are one such clue that we use in order to understand a speaker’s real meaning.

For example: A visual metaphor is something that visually resembles what it represents. For example, an illustration of a black cat in front of a moon shaped like a smiley face represents good luck.

It would be difficult for us to understand this metaphor without looking at the picture of the cat and the moon. They are commonly used in advertisements and also on posters.

These visual metaphors can be used as tools to convey messages quickly and easily. The audience will only get the message if they pay attention and look at the ad or read the poster carefully.

This makes it easier for advertisers to get their message across because they do not have to spend time explaining things or defining terms; they just need to show pictures briefly described with text.

Communicating Your Visual Metaphors

My visual metaphors are important to my communication’s strategy. They are a great way to reinforce the message that I am trying to send.

Visual metaphors can be used in a variety of different ways in my communications. They can be used in company logos, advertisements, magazine ads or even as a theme throughout a website.

The goal is to make sure that the message that is sent out is consistent and intentional. I will use a few examples of companies that use visual metaphors in their marketing communications.

Two examples of companies that use visual metaphors throughout their marketing communications are Starbucks and Disney. Starbucks uses mermaids throughout their website and advertisement campaigns to represent their quality of beverages.


Their tagline is “The Place for Lively Conversation.” When people think about Starbucks, they think about a place with good coffee where you can hang out with friends and talk. The mermaid represents this theme because she is portrayed as being friendly, social and fun loving.

Disney also uses visual metaphors in many of their marketing campaigns and advertisements.

They portray themselves as being magical, whimsical and fun by using characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse throughout their marketing materials such as commercials, websites and even some of their merchandise (such as t-shirts).

Every piece of design is a visual metaphor for your product, service, or company. It’s your job to make that metaphor as specific and appropriate as possible.

Technical Metaphors: When you are designing for a technical audience, you’ll probably want to use metaphors that are familiar to them. Moving parts, gears, and pulleys are all things that engineers can relate to.

An icon that looks like a compass or an eraser is easy to interpret by someone with knowledge of the tool in question.

Conceptual Metaphors: When you are designing for a less technical audience, it might be better to use conceptual metaphors. For example, replacing the gears with an analog clock might work better than using actual gears.

Functional Metaphors: Another technique you can use is to create functional metaphors in order to simplify the design or explain what actions they should take. For example, if you’re creating an email app and you want users to press send when they’re done composing their message, you could use a stamp on top of the send button instead of text that says “send.”

This way the user doesn’t have to read any text but still understands what action they should take. 

Visual Metaphor Examples

Here are some examples of common visual metaphors. Information is represented in a physical form.

This is the most common way to represent information, and the easiest way for people to understand it.

For example, blueprints or sketches are used to show the layout or plans of a building. A picture or diagram represents information by showing a physical version of it.

Identification is represented through physical form. This is how people use a sign or label to identify something that they can’t see.

For example, when you go to the grocery store and there are many boxes of cereal on the shelf, you can identify which one you want by reading its label. A symbol represents something by displaying an image or word next to it that identifies it.

Physical properties are represented as specific attributes. This is similar to metaphor identification, but in this case specific attributes are used instead of things like colors, symbols or images.

For example, a map shows the elevation of an area by using different colors to represent the height above sea level at different spots on the map. An object’s motion is represented as another object moving around it.

This creates an apparent motion in two-dimensional media like television and computer screens because there is no third dimension involved. For example, if you have a character A visual metaphor is a comparison that uses one thing to represent another.

It’s a mental shortcut we all use every day to help make sense of the world. To create a visual metaphor, you need to identify the things that are being compared and the ways in which they are alike.

You also have to decide whether the metaphor is literal or implied. Finally, you have to decide what kind of response you want from your audience.

Metaphors can do a lot of things, like clarify your message, draw attention to key points, or simply entertain. Once you’ve decided what type of metaphor you’d like to use, you can start building it into your speech or presentation.

The use of visual metaphor to illustrate a point or concept is an effective way to communicate a message.

They can be used in print, video, television and other forms of media, but they are most commonly used in advertising and marketing. Tongue-in-cheek visual metaphors are also used to make a point.

Visual metaphors can be funny or serious, but they almost always use an image that is not directly connected with the product being advertised. Visual metaphors are more effective than slogans because they don’t require the viewer to read them.

The image conveys the message without any extra effort on the part of the viewer. Visual metaphors can take many forms and are often recognizable even when they are not readily identifiable.

Communicating Effectively Using Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors help you communicate more effectively with your customers. 

For example, when we say “it’s raining cats and dogs,” we’re using visual metaphor to compare something very large (cats and dogs) to something very small (rain drops). We say “let’s get on the same page” when we’re talking about reading the same book.

We use visual metaphors every day without even realizing it. When we use visual metaphors, we’re trying to help our audience understand our message because it requires less effort for them to grasp the concept than if we explained it in words alone.

Visual metaphors work because people are more likely to remember information that they’ve seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted. When creating marketing content you should always keep the purpose of your message in mind when deciding whether to use visual metaphors.

If there isn’t a clear benefit for using a visual metaphor then you should consider using an alternative method of communication instead. 

They are not, however, a magical formula that will make you instantly likeable or respected. Metaphors can make us look at things in new ways and provide a sense of clarity when talking about complex issues.

Not all visual metaphors are created equal. When used effectively, the following visual metaphors can help you communicate effectively: The Big Picture: This metaphor is used to focus on the overall goal of an organization or project, as well as its importance.

When this metaphor is used well, it helps people see the vision for what is being accomplished and why it is important for them to support it.

A River of Life: This metaphor focuses on the passage of time and how it affects people and organizations. The river is always moving and changing; so organizations must adapt to be successful over time.

In this metaphor, we see that the future flows from the past, just as a river flows from its source to its mouth in the sea. In this metaphor, we view our history as something we can learn from rather than something to regret or be ashamed of.

The future is another opportunity to make new choices that lead us toward our desired outcomes. 

Establish Character Arcs Using Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors are a great tool for establishing character arcs, letting you show a story instead of telling it. 

The Power of Metaphor Metaphors are an effective way to link many different elements of your story together. By applying a metaphor to a character, you can show their arc or change in the story while also giving them an interesting quality that helps define who they are as a person.

For example, consider the classic image of a hero slaying a dragon. This metaphor acts as both an obstacle for the hero to overcome and a reflection of their own internal struggle.

It shows growth in the character and allows them to emerge victorious at the end of the day. Have you ever wondered how writers create characters that audiences connect with? Writing a character arc is the answer.

Character arcs are essentially the development of your character throughout the story. Using visual metaphors to build character arcs is a technique that will help you build your characters.

Telling your story through the eyes of one or more characters is one of the best ways to give an audience a sense of what’s happening. Visual metaphors can help you develop your characters and tell your story in an interesting way, so let’s take a look at how they can be used: Using color as a metaphor.

Colors can represent different things, which makes them perfect as visual metaphors for character development.

For example, in Zootopia, when Nick wants to tell Judy that he knows she’s really a rabbit, he uses blueberries to show how he feels about her.

The flowers he gives Judy when she gets accepted into the police academy are red and are meant to show his genuine appreciation for her accomplishment.

Once again, in The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible has been stripped of his superhero status and has to learn how to be Mr. Mom for his family. There are several instances where Mr. Incredible loses his temper over something Dash does or says.