The Power of the Metaphor Question

Asking the client to describe their brand, and collecting up the adjectives they use, has always been a part of my design process. But recently, I’ve discovered the amazingness of metaphor questions thanks to Samantha. And I pretty much think they’re the best thing ever!

(Friendly Promotional Aside: You can hear all about Samantha’s design questionnaire approach and more at the Interlink conference this week!)

The Story

Not too long ago, I was starting on a big project that involved designing for other designers. I was taking an extra critical look at my process to make sure it started it off in the absolute best way possible. Nerves will do that do you! Samantha and I were due for a chat, and I know she loves talking process as much as I do, so we had an awesome Sunday morning chat all about process. (That’s what everyone talks about on Sunday mornings, right?)

While we were on the topic of design questionnaires, the metaphor questions she used got me thinking. I’d never used questions like these. Could they really be useful? ETA: check out the links listed in the comments for more info on metaphor questions.

I had to give them a try! So I picked two to add to my own design questionnaire this time around. The two questions I used were: “If your brand was a car, what car would it be and why?” and “If your web site had a celebrity spokesperson, like Shatner for Priceline, who would it be and why?”.

At first these kinds of questions may seem cheesy and completely unrelated to anything at all. But that’s the beauty of them! The answers I got were much more revealing and useful than just asking for a brand description or list of adjectives straight out. Though, I also use those questions in my questionnaire.

Asking questions that get your clients think of their business from a different angle will get you some really interesting and revealing answers. And that leads to better discussion, which is exactly what you’re going for.

The Results

I used the answers from the metaphor questions more than any of the other questions I asked to assemble my style tiles/mood boards (I consider what I created for this project to be some kind of mutant child of the two, but that’s a whole different topic). It was the easiest time I’ve ever had getting on the same page translating words to visuals with a client.

Everyone’s process is different, but if you can find a place for questions like these in your discovery phase, definitely try them out! I managed to get some great results with them and will definitely be using them from here on out.

Have a comment or question? Find me on twitter or email me.