Encyclopedia of Database Systems

2018 Edition
| Editors: Ling Liu, M. Tamer Özsu

Visual Metaphor

  • Maria Francesca CostabileEmail author
  • Alan F. Blackwell
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-8265-9_446


Analogy; Metaphor


Metaphor is a figure of speech, whose essence is to make a comparison between things that are not literally the same. For example, saying “that man is a lion” asks the reader to imagine how a topic (the man) could be reinterpreted in terms of some vehicle (a lion).

In Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), visual metaphor refers to a kind of analogy, by which designers present the user with an explanation of system behavior in terms of some image. In the early days of the GUI, attempts were made to present all computer behavior in terms of real world analogies, as in the case of the desktop metaphor. However, these large scale metaphors soon broke down, as the challenge of developing and maintaining whole systems of correspondence became apparent. Attempts to replicate the success of the desktop metaphor have failed [1]. In practice, UI designers now use the term to refer to visual conventions and genres that, although familiar, need not resemble any...

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Recommended Reading

  1. 1.
    Blackwell AF. The reification of metaphor as a design tool. ACM Trans Comput Hum Interact. 2006;13(4):490–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Catarci T, Costabile MF, Levialdi S, Batini C. Visual query systems for databases: a survey. J Vis Lang Comput. 1997;8(2):215–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lakoff G, Johnson M. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1980.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Francesca Costabile
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan F. Blackwell
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of BariBariItaly
  2. 2.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Tiziana Catarci
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. di Ingegneria Informatica, Automatica e GestionaleUniversita di RomaRomaItaly