Metaphors are a common figure of speech where a word or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to imply a resemblance. Metaphors are also a common technique in visuals, particular print advertisements, and PSAs. Visual metaphors are highly structured images that stimulate viewers to understand one concept in terms of another concept. They are a potent weapon in the communication professional’s arsenal.

If you’d like a compact five-minute overview of visual metaphors, please check out my Ignite presentation below:

My presentation includes photos I took from Unsplash. My thanks to the following:


Gkiouzepas, L., & Hogg, M. K. (2011). Articulating a new framework for visual metaphors in advertising. Journal of Advertising, 40(1), 103-120. doi:10.2753/JOA0091-3367400107

An in-depth understanding of visual metaphor with famous examples. Retrieved from

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van Mulken, M., van Hooft, A., & Nederstigt, U. (2014). Finding the tipping point: Visual metaphor and conceptual complexity in advertising. Journal of Advertising, 43(4), 333-343. doi:10.1080/00913367.2014.920283