Visual Aphorisms

An aphorism is a handy means of expressing an idea succinctly and cleverly. And aphorisms are WORDS. But words are not the only means of expressing ideas!

The Eide Neurolearning Blog, which is devoted to “neurologically-based approaches to learning and learning differences”, has a poll on “How Do You Solve Problems” that offers a number of choices, only one of which involves using words. 

Indeed, it is not always possible to come up with the words you want when trying to describe something. Although, if stumped, here is an interesting online application, Tip of My Tongue, that tries to help you “find that word that you’ve been thinking about all day but just can’t seem to remember.”

In Thinking in Images: Nine Tips for Communicating Visually, Stanley Leary quotes Aristotle:

There can be no words without images

and shares a suggestion I have heard elsewhere – that of using charades to coax thinking visually about ideas.

My husband naturally thinks visually. Here are some of his visual aphorisms, created with SketchUp. You can see the more of these visual aphorisms at Design With SketchUp. (Note, the images will soon be catalogued under 9 & 10 ‘08.)

Pearls of Wisdom


Esoteric Idea


Thinking along the same lines


Thinking outside the box




6 thoughts on “Visual Aphorisms

  1. synapsesensations Post author

    Thanks for your comment! Glad you like the visuals. They were created by my husband using a program called SketchUp. Given your profession, perhaps you might smile at an idea I’ve had for a long time – and that might actually be in place somewhere – which is to supply children (come to think of it, adults, too!) who are in hospitals with computers that are equipped with software such as SketchUp. The idea is to provide a visual playground where they can express their feelings.

    Yes, this can be done on paper or with other hands-on media, but the benefit of the computer is that there might be a period of having to learn the program, and that period of tinkering would be beneficial to getting the child or adult thinking about something other than their hospital stay.

    If you have any thoughts about this, or know of any programs such as I’ve described, please feel free to comment back.


  2. synapsesensations Post author


    I am currently reading John Medina’s “Brain Rules” and rule #10 is VISION TRUMPS ALL OTHER SENSES. Haven’t actually gotten to that chapter yet, but here is a link to his web site and the rule:

    One particularly nice aspect of the book is that each rule is accompanied on the site by an extensive set of references, so you will find much information to support the rule (and hopefully support your future conversations 🙂


  3. Tantalus Prime

    “In Thinking in Images: Nine Tips for Communicating Visually, Stanley Leary quotes Aristotle: There can be no words without images.”

    I really must remeber this quote in the future. In my discussions with scientific inguists (i.e. those who study the cognition of language, not language itself) I have found that most INSIST that people only think in words, not in images. I have always found this to be a problem, since my personal experience is to think in images, or more specifically in the relations among images. Words, in my thought process, are often secondary.

  4. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Laurie!

    What wonderful sensuous images your husband has given you to display. Thank you for showing these to us.

    I often wonder what parts of the environment contributed to the evolutionary process that made us so aware of the meanings of abstract images. I suspect that the abstraction of nature went a long way to contribute to this.

    How more abstract, yet so common, as the sky in all its glorious colour, shade and form? How more active in power and abstract motion, yet so common, as the rough sea thrashing against the rocky shore. How more abstract in shape and motion, yet so common, as the life in a rock pool? How more beautiful in abstract form and colour, yet so common, as a medow flower? How more abstract, yet so common, as the music of a song bird piping its heart out?

    All these have been on earth since human life began. Thinking in the abstract, for as much as it may be looked on disdainfully in some circles, is a natural gift. Our artists tap into this, and bring to us things we can empathise with and understand, despite their abstract construction.

    Communication is more than just words. You are right. Body language, and a raft of other seemingly unrelated factors colour our interpretations of communication in some environments.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

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