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Visual Cliches: Phone Operator Pictures

Learn why another picture of a phone operator will get you to clichéd hell. More importantly, learn what you can do to solve this problem.

We already looked at how you can overcome clichéd pictures, and we thereafter specifically looked at examples of handshake and globe pictures. Yes, those two visual concepts may be the most clichéd ones, but there's yet another clichéd picture scenario—and that's the picture of a phone operator! The phone operator is more often female than male. She has a big smile and looks at you while she is also holding a phone in one hand. Such pictures are often used anywhere people want to represent "communication".

Figure 1, below shows search results on the Bing Images site for "phone operator". Most search results seem to come from stock photo sites!


Figure 1: Looking for the “phone operator”?

So what does a phone operator represent? It must be representing quite a bit if this clichéd visual concept in so over-used. Well, it indeed represents so many concepts:

  • Very often a picture of a telephone operator is used to denote communication.
  • It could also represent someone who is skillful and persuasive to promote business.
  • It could also represent a person who is dealing in stocks, and is calling to confirm sales.
  • Denote a person or business with a lot of connections and thus networking skills.
  • A person who is able to deal with other people effectively, or even a phone counselor.
  • The telephone operator could also assist people in a way that could make a good impression of the company, hence the person is in a way responsible for the success of the company. First impressions always matter.

Now let us think about alternatives for the cliché that a phone operator graphic represents. As discussed in our Overcoming Clichés in Pictures article, we will explore four directions:

Think Creative

This is the part when we think about creative alternatives to a clichéd visual concept. If the phone operator picture is indeed such a clichéd concept, then to be creative you will have to think about what you were trying to express when you originally decided to use a phone operator's picture as a suitable visual? Let's brainstorm a little. Each of these scenarios may or may not work for you. So, remember these are just examples of brainstorming. You will have to similarly brainstorm with your own scenario:

  • If you were trying to show how efficient you or your company is with communication, then human gestures can help. A great idea is to show a human hand touching a body of water that causes a small ripple?
  • Try using a picture of some animals trying to communicate?
  • You can also use more prominent human gestures such as two hands with a solved jigsaw puzzle?
  • Also look at silhouette style pictures of phone operators if you must use the same visual concept. Changing to a silhouette pictures means that you no longer show the ethnicity or the mood of the person on the phone.
  • You can also sometimes go retro, and show a bulky, old, black phone.

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

Think Profound

Thinking profoundly means to think in-depth. Think about your business or purpose, and then ponder why you wanted to use the phone operator picture in the first place? What was the connection? Once you unravel this puzzle, you may end up with many more visual concept ideas.

These thoughts will help you

  • If the phone operator signified communication infrastructure, then you can look at so many more visual concepts. Even then, be careful, for you may escape one cliché and end up with another! No, using a picture of a person on a mobile phone rather than a land phone or headphones does not help you overcome this cliché, and you will have to look further. Telephone or power cables may help, as may a picture of a bunch of SIM cards.
  • If the phone operator signified just a happy ending slide, so as to enable prospective clients to get in touch with you, then you will need to think much, much more. What about a dangling receiver of an old phone?


  • What if you could abandon the phone altogether and use a canned phone instead? Canned phones are essentially composed of two empty cans connected to each other, as shown in the visual above.

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

Think Logical

Now we come to the part where creativity or profundity has not been able to help! Maybe the topic of our presentation is very specific, and we need to be extremely focused in our thinking now. And that calls for logical thinking. What does that mean? It means that any of these options are still available:

  • We should abandon thoughts of actual camera pictures and think about other alternatives such as doodling, sketching, or even an infographic such as a chart or diagram.
  • Or create a road map that correlates to our way to achieve an aim or ambition? Maps are easy to draw, and sometimes you can draw a map of sorts using flowchart shapes? Or why not look at road pictures?
  • What about a communication map? What's that? It’s very similar to a mind map, and a quick search on Google Images will provide many ideas.

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

Think Again

If you have progressed so far without finding a direction or even an alternative, then you need to think radically differentfrom the visual thought of a phone operator. Clearly what you are thinking about and wanting to end up with are two different thoughts. So we recommend you first "un-think" whatever you have thought so far, and start your thinking process all over again.

Sometimes stopping to think for a day may help. You can thus sleep over to erase old thoughts and start all over tomorrow again? Or maybe you can distract yourself so as to empty your mind of all older thoughts, and then start over again?

What do you think about these articles we are putting up about overcoming clichés in visual concepts? Or do you want us to do an article on a visual concept that has become clichéd? Do get in touch with us via this feedback form.

See Also:

Clichés: Handshake Pictures
Clichés: Globe Pictures
Clichés: Teamwork Pictures
Clichés: Light Bulb Pictures
Clichés: Target and Dart Pictures
Clichés: Stack of Coins Pictures


Visual Clichés: Visual Cliches: Phone Operator Pictures (Glossary Page)