Co-authored with Will Farrier. Illustrations by Justin Cheong.

An illustrated scene showing two co-workers discussing visual metaphors
An illustrated scene showing two co-workers discussing visual metaphors

Every day, in all kinds of scenarios, we speak in metaphors without thinking twice. In fact, the ability to think with metaphors is so hard-coded that we create and reuse them without really knowing we’re doing it.

In a similar way, designers are always working with metaphor, often without realizing how much of a role it plays in their practice. This isn’t surprising; metaphor is an inherently human tool that helps people make sense of the world, and so it’s a natural material for designers to play with.

Without an awareness about…


A mural of sixteen editorial illustrations created by Justin Cheong for the Adobe UX blogs
A mural of sixteen editorial illustrations created by Justin Cheong for the Adobe UX blogs

How would you illustrate the concept of ‘culture design’? What about ‘designing for trust’, or ‘disability design’?

Over an 18-month period from 2018, I illustrated over 75 banners for various UX design articles across Adobe’s design blogs. These have been a career highlight for me, both as a designer and as an illustrator.


It’s 2020. Technology trends continue to accelerate, thanks to a massive transition to remote work. Meanwhile, people across the world face social and economic uncertainty amid a global pandemic.

How did we get here? What happens next?

As human-centred designers, one way we can make sense of complexity is via the use of metaphor. Metaphors are a part of everyday life. When we use metaphors to access unfamiliar situations, we can make better sense of them and be better able to chart a path forward.

To help us make sense of our current world, I’d like to tell a story…


Three abstract birds drawn on top of squiggles made by a marker
Three abstract birds drawn on top of squiggles made by a marker

In 2015, I was introduced to Squiggle Birds by Dave Gray. In its workshop form, it’s a 2–3 minute game where you draw some squiggles, exchange them with a partner, and then each turn those squiggles into birds using a differently coloured pen.

I’ve been starting my workshops with this exercise ever since. It’s wonderful for warm-up, and virtually everyone draws something creative and unique. It’s especially helpful in workshops when you need to prime participants for drawing, as it engages them in many ways:

  • Drawing squiggles: Gets people moving their hands and making marks on paper
  • Seeing squiggles: Gets…

People I’ve encountered who work in Human-Centred Design — whether that’s UX, service design, etc — have typically made their way into a design career through windy roads, thus bringing with them different approaches to problems and even different views of what design is really about.

This article contains reflections about design that emerged in my time collaborating with one such designer. In our time working together in an in-house consulting unit, we conducted research, ran workshops, built design capability, and reflected on our practice together. …


As an illustrator for Thinking Design by Adobe and the Adobe Design Blog, I face the daily challenge of needing to create engaging visuals that complement various content. To keep my creative juices flowing, I have been using different sketching exercises to generate new imagery and stretch my creative thinking.

I dubbed one such exercise “Iconstorming”, inspired by the cleverly titled Gamestorming, one of my favourite visual thinking books (written by two of my favourite authors). The exercise itself was inspired by Edward De Bono’s creative thinking exercises.

I first shared this exercise in 2018 at VizConf, an Australian conference…

Justin Cheong

Human-centred designer. Founder of Visual Academy, a platform that equips designers and educators with the visual thinking toolkit. visual.academy

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