Good visual communication says the things you want to say without words. It makes people feel something. It invites associations. One of the best ways to accomplish that sort of quality design starts with figuring out what various images mean to you. It all starts with a process called visual ideation.
How to Start with Metaphorical Thinking
A simple ideation exercise can last anywhere from 10 minutes to many hours over a period of more than a week. Start collecting media that reflects the sort of ideas and imagery that you want to invoke. Your sources can include videos, Instagram accounts, newspapers, magazines and other visual media. Think hard about why certain images draw you and how their qualities can be woven into your project.
The images you gather at this point do not have to be cohesive. It is natural for things to be a little chaotic at this point. Unstructured thinking is vital for creativity and finding new ways of communicating. Do not get attached to any one image; instead, look at the qualities that make each compelling.
Working with a Group
Another way to get started with metaphorical thinking involves a group of three to five people, five sheets of paper, and a single pen. Set a timer and challenge the group to come up with 20 ideas in 20 minutes. The ideas don't have to be good, nor do they have to be solid or well-formed. The pressure of the exercise will push you in new directions. After you are done, you may find ideas or fragments of ideas that are worth keeping.
The Visual Matrix Exercise
This exercise follows the ones above. Gather all of the materials that you generated during those steps and identify five top attributes of your brand. You can focus on community, excellence, speed or others that fit. Then, identify five simple words: tree, tool, house, person and science are all good, but you can choose whatever others speak to you. Then, draw a chart with the five simple words going across the top and the five attributes you chose going down the side. Where each meets, draw a small doodle that fits the brand and the idea. You will find when you are done that you have 25 possible visuals.
When you are in the early stages of ideation with any of these exercises, do not get too caught up in the process of refining ideas. The purpose of the exercise is to come up with as many new ideas as you can. Have the discipline to put them aside and keep going. Once you have many good ideas available, you can go back and set aside the ones that will inform your final project.