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Visuelle Kommunikation

Laura Tobler

Figurative Daily Objects — The Potential of Pictorial Metaphors

As beings with complex inner emotions, surrounded by an equally complex and abstract outer world, humans rely on simplification and a humorous access to their surroundings and emotions. Metaphors are one strategy to give us access to this process. The figurative usage of the content, which marks a metaphor, enables us to represent things in an unconventional and accurate manner.

Contrary to the theory that a metaphor is a linguistic phenomenon, this thesis is dedicated to the potential of pictures evoking metaphors.

In particular, I should like to show the metaphorical potential of ordinary objects.

US American linguist George Lakoff and US American philosopher Mark Johnson define the ontological metaphor as a specific type of metaphor. By which they mean metaphors that show the fact of physically existing objects. By interacting with these physical objects in a daily manner, we link lots of emotions and associations with these items.

Considering the above-shown aspects, the purpose of my thesis is to find out, which visual strategies will allow me to make use of this enormous knowledge, stored over years, to explain a content from within a different context?

The practical content of my thesis included an experimental phase, in which I let my imagination run wild. Often, I was inspired by actual events, such as the daily routine at school, which prompted me to generate metaphors. As media I used film, illustration, and photography. I was inspired by the theoretical difference between metaphor and metonymy and constructed different visuals, including playing around with typographic elements. All of the developed pictures have in common that observers are irritated in one way or another.

Thereupon I decided to focus on the medium of linear hand drawing and started to create some series of individual drawings. During this process, I realized that the principle of size scaling, i.e. the extension and shortening of single components of an object, creates great metamorphotic potential. This strategy enabled me to provoke abstract associations and emotions. I found the extreme transformation of a parameter “from long to short and big to small” to be fun, as I was often surprised myself by what the object then developed into. Changing the size of objects also made changes to their functionality and had me question their designs.

In the theoretical part, I looked into the basics of metaphor theory, most of which originated from the discipline of cognitive linguistics. I adopted the knowledge of different types of metaphors and terms (unconventional metaphor, conventional metaphor, ontological metaphor, metonymy, comparison, or personification). In addition, I looked into two approaches gleaned from iconic research: on the one hand, the analysis of visual advertisements by Charles Forceville in 1996 and, on the other one, the definition of emblems, a form of art from Renaissance times known for its mysteriousness.

It is part of my personality to search for connections between things from different contexts. Through this project, I learned to put my spontaneous experiments into a theoretical context and was, thus, able to categorize, analyze, and talk about them.