Designing Metaphors

A lot of my posts this semester have been about my Conceptual Design Thinking class… probably because it’s the closest most of the projects come to graphic design for me. Usually, when given more creative control I feel like my designs naturally move from more “graphic” to “illustrative” because, like so many others, I enjoy telling stories or experiences through art. Everybody has a different lived experience, and often times I think art can work more efficiently than language when it comes to the certain ways we express these experiences. I suppose this idea also applies to graphic design, but there is an element of efficiency and simplicity that I find unique to graphic design that isn’t shared with an illustration. Typically my favorite designs, whether it is album art, t-shirt graphic, or anything else usually have elements of both.

Aside from that however, I thought I would share the process of designing a metaphor for the most recent assignment in the class. The criteria for the assignment was

To explore and compare literary and visual metaphors.

To communicate plural symbolic ideas simultaneously through art direction in a visual metaphor. 

To explore and experiment with of variety of visual alternative solutions.

To conceive and render original concepts and compositions.

To take creative risks.

I started by brainstorming ideas for metaphors but ultimately settled with two ideas, the first a representation of “ignorance is bliss” as a cat/human composition with the human on a zoom call and the cat licking its paw. The second was “the balancing act of life” with a figure on a unicycle balancing things that I find to be difficult/relatable. Ultimately, it was decided that the stronger of the two was the unicycle composition.

I felt it would be best to execute the piece like a political cartoon, as a lot of my conscious struggles, as well as many others’ in this country, has to do with economics and security. It seemed fitting to depict certain dark truths we face as young adults with a sense of humor, because after all, things are as completely hopeless or completely lacking in joy as they can appear to be.

It should be mentioned that I have a tendency to depict myself in various drawings or doodles when I’m trying to come up with ideas… it’s not a self centered thing… but who else would I draw in these scenarios? It doesn’t feel right to draw random people. So that leads me to my process of designing “the balancing act of life” as a relatable metaphor to me which forced me to ask “What do I typically balance?” School, money, relationships, work, are some of the most obvious to me, but each day is truly a balancing act within the moments that make them up. Certain elements in my life feel like detractors, like paying rent or pushing myself farther in debt on a hopeful risk of finding some kind of success and happiness – however that takes shape. Yet, despite all the suffering and hardship on the one side of things… on the other is a dangerous metaphorical barbed wire fence you have to crawl through in hopes that your dreams aren’t ripped apart like flesh off your body! I’m just joking, but in all seriousness, the grind has been relentless over the last 12 months. Now that the end of the semester is almost here, I am just happy we can all take a deep breath. Check out the final piece for the assignment “Metaphor” below.

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