New Metaphors: A Creative Toolkit

by —— in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, United States

New Metaphors: A Creative Toolkit
We did it
On 11th January 2020 we successfully raised £10,160 with 41 supporters in 42 days

Help us publish New Metaphors—a creative toolkit for generating ideas and reframing problems!

by —— in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, United States

 New stretch target

We'll use any extra money raised above our target to support the lab's work, including enabling students to travel to conferences to present their work.

EDIT: The cards are now available to download (free) or buy at


Could shedding an old skin or plant growth be a metaphor for confidence? What about sweetness as a metaphor for motivation?

Could creating new metaphors help us understand the world in new ways, and imagine different futures? 

Can we generate new ideas and reframe problems we face, within organisations, and in society more widely? 

Students at Carnegie Mellon University use the cards, September 2019

New Metaphors has been developed over the past three years by the Imaginaries Lab, a design research studio based at Carnegie Mellon University, and working internationally. New Metaphors is a set of 150 cards and a number of simple, fun workshop formats which enable idea generation and new ways of thinking about issues creatively, from specific problems within an interaction design or UX team or organisational context, to much larger questions about our collective futures and our relationships with the planet.

As well as having been used in teaching (in design, architecture, and business schools), we have developed New Metaphors through popular workshops with prototype versions at a number of design industry conferences and events, including IxDA Interaction, UX Lisbon, and Google SPAN. We have also worked with futurists and writers through the Plurality University Network, and prototype versions of the toolkit have been used by designers and researchers at a number of well-known and not-so-well-known organisations in both industry and academia, from Chile to Australia. You can learn more about the development process in this paper presented at the ACM Creativity & Cognition conference in June 2019. Dan Lockton, who leads the Imaginaries Lab, is best known for the Design with Intent toolkit (2010) which has been widely adopted by educators, researchers, designers and businesses worldwide.

We know that the ideas in New Metaphors will have more impact in the world when they are applied and used in real situations, whether by designers or by anyone looking to reframe ideas or generate new approaches to things, whether you see yourself as ‘creative’ or not (you are!). 

While all the New Metaphors materials are free (CC-BY-NC-SA) to download—see below—we're regularly asked how people can buy a physical copy. As we're a new lab with a small operating budget, we have turned to crowdfunding to enable this to happen, as we can make it much more cost-effective for everyone involved if we can get hundreds printed at once, rather than in smaller quantities. Hence this campaign! 

Students at Carnegie Mellon University use the cards, September 2019

What you'll get for backing New Metaphors

We have various levels of rewards ranging from the toolkits themselves to tailored workshops which we (the Imaginaries Lab) can run for your organisation. The toolkit you'll receive comprises:

  • 100 image cards, 127 × 178 mm / 5" × 7"
  • 50 concept cards, 63 × 76 mm / 2.5" × 3" (size may change slightly)
  • 16-page booklet with suggestions and instructions for workshop activities
  • two A3 or 11 × 17" photocopiable worksheets to help structure workshops
  • packaged in a box enabling easy access to the cards

The clear plastic boxes shown in some photos here will be replaced by high-quality cardboard boxes, top-opening rather than tuck-type (in our experience these are often inconvenient for actually using card decks in workshops). The plastic boxes have proven too fragile in testing.

Bella, who features in a number of the image cards, accompanies some of the toolkit spread out on a table

Download everything to preview what you'll get

You can download the latest version of the cards, worksheets, and introduction booklet, published together as:

Dan Lockton, Devika Singh, Saloni Sabnis, Michelle Chou (2019). New Metaphors: A Creative Toolkit for Generating Ideas and Reframing Problems. Pittsburgh & Dawlish: Imaginaries Lab, ISBN 978-0-9565421-2-0 (print) ISBN 978-0-9565421-3-7 (PDF)

The cards, booklet, and worksheets are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. Photos included are by Dan Lockton, Devika Singh, Michelle Chou, Tammar Zea-Wolfson, Shengzhi Wu, Sofía Bosch, Marisa Lu, and Soonho Kwon.

We are aiming to make some improvements to the booklet and worksheets before the crowdfunded version is printed—including incorporating feedback from people who are currently using the cards.

Why are you using when you're based in the US?

Supporters can pledge on a project using major international credit/debit cards. The shipping address defaults to the UK, but you can edit it. 

Although the Imaginaries Lab is currently based out of Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this crowdfunded project is independent of the university, because it does not allow us to raise money for projects in this way. Hence, Dan Lockton (a UK citizen, from Dawlish, Devon), is running this independently of his employer. New Metaphors is published by Imaginaries Lab—registered with Nielsen as a UK publisher—with a UK ISBN.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£27 or more

34 of 50 claimed

New Metaphors toolkit (Early bird)

We'll send you one New Metaphors toolkit, when published. Shipping costs are extra.

£31 or more

New Metaphors toolkit

We'll send you one New Metaphors toolkit, when published. Shipping costs are extra.

£59 or more

2 New Metaphors toolkits

We'll send you two New Metaphors toolkits, when published. Shipping costs are extra.

£100 or more

4 of 10 claimed

New Metaphors toolkit + video call

We'll send you one New Metaphors toolkit, when published, and then arrange a video call of 30–40 minutes to talk through how you can use it within your team. Shipping costs for the toolkit are extra.

£400 or more

0 of 5 claimed

New Metaphors remote workshop (+ 2 toolkits)

We'll work with you to run a remote workshop (via video), approximately 2 hours long, suitable for up to 25 participants, applying the toolkit to issues of interest to your organisation. Includes two toolkits (300+ cards) which will be shipped to you beforehand (shipping costs included).

£1,000 or more

8 of 10 claimed

New Metaphors in-person workshop (+ 2 toolkits)

We'll work with you to run a workshop in person for your team, approximately 2 hours long, suitable for up to 25 participants, applying the toolkit to issues of interest to your organisation. Travel and accommodation costs will be extra, dependent on location and timing. Includes two toolkits (300+ cards) delivered in person or shipped beforehand (extra cost).

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