New Metaphors is a project to help spur creative thinking through metaphor. It’s a deck of cards you can use in exercises to help stimulate new perspectives on an existing idea:
A metaphor is just a way of expressing one idea in terms of another. This project is a nightmare. The city is a playground. You are a gem. Creating new metaphors could help us design new kinds of product, service, or experience, and even help us think about and understand the world differently.
New Metaphors (buy a printed pack, or download for free) is a set of 150 cards (two different kinds) and some fairly simple methods for running workshops, brainstorming (individually or in groups), discussions, and other creative activities.
I’m reminded of something from David Epstein’s Range, where he writes about the importance of analogies to creative, connective thinking. Astronomer Johannes Kepler was known to use analogies to reframe problems he was working on:
Kepler was facing a problem not just new to himself, but to all humanity. There was no experience database to draw on. To investigate whether he should be the first ever to propose “action at a distance” in the heavens (a mysterious power invisibly traversing space and then appearing at its target), he turned to analogy (odor, heat, light) to consider whether it was conceptually possible. He followed that up with a litany of distant analogies (magnets, boats) to think through the problem.
Most problems, of course, are not new, so we can rely on what Gentner calls “surface” analogies from our own experience. “Most of the time, if you’re reminded of things that are similar on the surface, they’re going to be relationally similar as well,” she explained. Remember how you fixed the clogged bathtub drain in the old apartment? That will probably come to mind when the kitchen sink is clogged in the new one.”