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Metaphorical Box

The "Metaphorical Box" is a conceptual and practical tool used in design and creative processes to encapsulate and convey complex ideas, themes, or narratives through a curated collection of objects, materials, and sensory elements. These boxes serve as tangible metaphors, enabling designers to abstractly represent and communicate intricate concepts in a more accessible, tangible, and engaging manner. The metaphorical box bridges abstract ideas and concrete design solutions, stimulating creative thinking and innovation.

The creation and interpretation of Metaphorical Boxes integrate knowledge from various fields, encouraging a transdisciplinary dialogue that enriches the design process. By including objects and materials that appeal to multiple senses (visual, tactile, olfactory, etc.), these boxes create a multisensory experience, deepening the emotional and intellectual engagement with the design concept. Metaphorical Boxes facilitate the development of narratives around design concepts, making it easier to communicate complex ideas to a broader audience, including stakeholders and end-users. They serve as a starting point for ideation, allowing designers to explore multiple pathways and interpretations, thus fostering a more open and innovative design exploration process.


  • 1.

    Define the Core Concept

    Start by identifying the key idea, theme, or narrative you wish to explore and communicate through the box.

  • 2.

    Collect Elements

    Curate objects, materials, and sensory elements that metaphorically represent aspects of the core concept. Consider how each element relates to the concept and each other.

  • 3.

    Organise the Box

    Arrange the collected elements within the box thoughtfully, considering the spatial relationships and how they might influence the interpretation of the metaphor.

  • 4.

    Engage with the Box

    Interact with the box and its contents, either individually or in a group setting, to explore and discuss the evoked ideas, narratives, and emotions. This step is crucial for the iterative process of design thinking.

  • 5.

    Iterate and Refine

    Based on insights and feedback generated through engagement with the box, refine the concept and the selection of elements as needed. This iterative process can lead to deeper insights and more nuanced design solutions.

  • 6.

    Translate Insights into Design

    Use the narratives and ideas generated from the metaphorical box as a foundation to develop concrete design concepts, solutions, and prototypes.



Iannilli, V. M.; Spagnoli, A. (2019). Re-Thinking the Design Role: Experimenting New Narrative & Rhetoric Design Methods. (link)