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#82 - Metaphors, similes and analogies

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

"If we use a thickness of 4px for that divider element, it is like using a 4-lane highway for a small village street, it is unnecessary". What is this comparison, is it a metaphor, a simile or an analogy?

Discerning between these rhetorical figures will give us a richer language when arguing and defending a design, especially when we have to adapt our technical language to business stakeholders or similar, creating a common thread that, regardless of the design level, we can explain concepts and be understood perfectly.

Rhetorical figures of speech are not only useful to explain complex terms, but also to empathise with the participants in the meeting and make them feel comfortable working with us, as we are helping them to understand definitions and implications without being pedantic, which has become fashionable lately. Here we are going to look at the difference between three figures, the metaphor, the simile and the analogy.

A metaphor is the relationship between a real term and an imaginary one, establishing a relationship of similarity. A "divine composition of elements" as a metaphor of using a perfect (divine, imaginary term) composition (real term).

A simile is a comparison that creates a new meaning. It is created by using between comparisons "like", "as", "such". "This design requires a typographic hierarchy like eating", comparing the need to require a typographic hierarchy, with the need to eat (attentive to how).

Whereas an analogy is a metaphor but explained or argued, with the intention of expose with reasons the similarity between the two. Using the previous example, we could say: "A divine composition of elements, using golden colours, lots of white space, a perfect distribution between containers...".

It is a very brief synthesis, and there are thousands of types of rhetorical figures, but I thought it would be interesting to dedicate a number to these three. One exercise I would like to do is to look for rhetorical figures for the different concepts, principles and elements of design, in order to create a richer vocabulary when arguing and defending.

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