Use a picture to tell the story

A thousand words

I’m fascinated with visual metaphors.
A picture is a great way to explain a concept.  The picture above is a visual metaphor that I designed with a client to explain the role of the coach (the blue person) in making sense of the conversation of the coachee (the red person).
We were sitting around her dining room table throwing around ideas.
“The coachee talks and talks and talks,” she explained.  “It is the role of the coach to untangle what that means and to play it back to the coachee.  In that way, the coachee can make sense of it.”
I picked up on the metaphor of “untangling” – untangling a knot, untangling string lying on the floor – and started sketching that idea.  We both worked with the concept and came up with the various colours, which just brought the metaphor to life!

Here’s a couple of tips when trying to come up with a visual metaphor:

1.  Like a brain storm, there’s no judgement.  Go with whatever comes to mind.
2.  Use the “yes, and” approach – like they do in comedic improvisation – and build on the idea rather than shooting it down.
3. Listen for visual metaphors when people explain things e.g. stepping stones, or pitfalls or untangle.  Then work with these.
4.  Look at the metaphor that you’ve created and ask:  how can I make the concept come out more clearly.  Add little details to see if you can clarify the meaning.  Things like body stance, colour and facial expressions can have a huge impact.

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