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Clichés: Light Bulb Pictures

Explore alternatives for visual clichés pertaining to the light bulb.


If someone wants a visual to express a bright idea, chances are they will use a picture of a light bulb! And probably there are thousands of people who decide to use that picture of a light bulb for the same reason – and that’s made it a visual cliché! Can you imagine that a search for the term “bright idea” on Google Images got us almost nothing but light bulbs, as you can see in Figure 1, below.

All bulbs are bright ideas
Figure 1: All bulbs are bright ideas

OK – now one has to wonder -- does a bright idea concept even visualize as something other than a light bulb? On the other hand, does a light bulb represent anything other than a bright idea? The second question is more relevant to the topic we are discussing -- let’s now find answers to the question.

Regarding the use of the light bulb graphic, here are some thoughts on what it can represent:

  1. A bulb graphic denotes illumination in a dark room.
  2. Small bulbs are used to represent joy and happiness during festive seasons.
  3. A bulb could also signify information and enlightenment on topics.
  4. It could also signify radiance and warmth.
  5. And most importantly, it certainly does represent a bright idea.

Now let’s explore visual alternatives for this cliché. To do so, we will use guidelines discussed in our Overcoming Clichés in Pictures article:

Think Creative:

So how do you think creatively to find alternatives to the light bulb? It does call for a “Eureka” moment! And it is “Eureka” to the rescue. But you know something – many Eureka graphics have a light bulb too! So you will have to filter those results as well. Some other keywords you can use in your search are wow, excited, and amazed. Dancing, jumping, and youth may help too!

Think Creative

Whatever you end up with, you will have to be more creative than ever before – “light bulbs” are the biggest challenge in the world of visual clichés. Here are some ideas to brainstorm:

  • If the light bulb indicated a success that was unexpected, then you can go in for pictures that represent keywords related to all sorts of human emotions. Some of these keywords could be surprise (but only good surprises), rejoice (a little over the top can work here), and big smiles.
  • If the light bulb indicated good results for which you worked so much, then celebration stuff will work – a good example is the picture of jumping silhouettes against a bright sky.
  • If the light bulb indicated a bright idea, then think about something cheeky? Or even a picture of a very happy person.

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Profound:

Now that we explored creative ways to overcome this particular cliché, let’s now move on to trying to achieve a more profound solution. Sometimes “profound” may be similar to “accepting” – and what would you accept in this case? Well, you would accept the bulb – but would still want it to be expressed in a different way so that a new perspective can remove the cliché from an old subject.

Think Profound

Here are some thoughts:

  • What about not one, but many bulbs?
  • What about using the morning sun as the source of light (and the bright idea) rather than a bulb?
  • And also, try and explore newer lighting technologies.

Many times, looking at the old with new eyes can help – this is one of those scenarios.

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Logical:

Now that you have reached so far -- that means you need to look into visual areas that are beyond photographic clichés. Or even if you look at photographic imagery, you can explore the results (reactions) of your topic. What would be result of a bright bulb? Some reaction could be expected in return, right? What about amused, happy, surprised faces? We did explore this option also in the Think Creative section – but from a slightly different perspective.

Think Logical

Coming back to non-photographic content, here are some thoughts:

  • What about drawing a bolt of lightning?
  • With drawings, you can go further – you can draw a wide-open exaggerated human eye?
  • You could use hand gestures, that reflect creativity and excellence.

If this section did not help, move on to the next one.

Think Again:

This is the end of the thinking process about the “light bulb”, and also the beginning of a new thinking process. It looks like light bulbs won’t really work for you – start thinking all over again until you find something better.

Think Again

See Also:
Clichés: Handshake Pictures
Clichés: Globe Pictures
Clichés: Phone Operator Pictures 
Clichés: Teamwork Pictures

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since November 02, 2000