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Gestalten in Metaphern


Given that decisions in image-making and, more specifically, the creation of poster designs are not purely arbitrary but rather based on various conscious as well as unconscious thought processes, an analysis of the way we think should enable us to shed a light on how we design. There are different theories of cognition, which could help us doing just that. Among those, the conceptual metaphor theory, which was popularized during the 1980s, seems to provide especially promising ideas and a suitable vocabulary to describe and analyze an apparently quite prominent type of thinking in graphic design: so-called metaphorical thinking. In its essence, metaphorical thinking respectively having metaphorical concepts means “understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. 1
 In this Master Thesis with the title “Gestalten in Metaphern” – which means as much as “Designing in Metaphors” in English – I followed the hypothesis, that in graphic design – or to be more specific: in poster design – many concepts are structured metaphorically. I collected and describe some of the most common metaphorical concepts in design, but also investigate the creative potential of purposefully using unconventional metaphorical concepts that enable us to come up with truly original results. In this context, works from designers such as Julia Born, Irma Boom, Fons Hickmann, Claudiabasel, Ralph Schraivogel and many more were discussed in order to illustrate the crucial role of these unconventional metaphorical design concepts, when looking their creative work.
 The pinnacle of this graduation project is the development of a method that helps to inspire an initial design concept, based on which an original piece of graphic design can be developed. The conceptual metaphor theory was boiled down to what can be seen as a pragmatic tool for creative people who are struggling against the paralyzing void of the empty sheet of paper in front of them. The defined sequence of steps, which make up the method, are formulated in a way that avoids the complicated vocabulary of the theory that backs it up and was tested with many creative individuals until it was proven to work. All of this is summarized and presented in the practical part as poster designs together with master copies of ready-to-use sheets with the essential steps of the method printed on them and accompanied by a publication that provides in-depth knowledge of the research behind this specific approach to graphic design.


1 Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 5.