Teaching Kit

ImageSeeking for Fantastic Visual Metaphors

Learn how to find reusable images
to represent concepts and ideas

Made by Alan Levine @cogdog


As a webmaker, images are a key ingredient of what you create. When you need an image of specific thing, literal keyword searches usually work well. For example if you need "a photo of a cat" or "an image of a surfboard", you can find these images pretty easily.

But often you wish to represent more complex ideas or concepts as metahpor images-- how can you find things that are not as clearly represented by keywords? How do you represent something like honesty, learning, respect, or even fear with an image? In these cases, literal keyword searches are usually not as effective.

Using the ImageSeek Strategy you can practice what is as much art as science in finding images. Four prompt questions help you choose alternative keywords that produce images that suggest or metaphorically represent the idea who want to communicate in photos. ImageSeek also encourages you use images that are licensed for re-use and to keep a record of your search strategy for future reference.

Learning Objectives

In completing this activity you will be able to:

  • brainstorm and use keywords that help to find images on the web not easily found by descriptive terms
  • locate and download at least four useful images that represent an idea or concept
  • maintain a record of your search in a format that allows you to provide proper attribution to the creator of the image found.


  1. How Do You Currently Search For Images? (Webmaker Activity)
    In this activity we identify our current methods for finding images by looking for images of subjects that are relatively easy to find by literal keywords, such as "shark", "the planet Saturn", "a balloon", etc. A goal is understand the relationship of these keywords to the context images are found on the web, and how image search really works.
  2. Best Practices for Attribution (from Creative Commons)
    Most often the topic of providing attribution for images is framed around language of "stealing is bad" and "it's against the law"
    However, it is better worth talking about as a respectful thing to do for someone that has shared their photos online. Wouldn't you prefer to get credit for your own images if someone else used them on a web site? Wouldn't you like to know that this has happened? When you share your own photos and also give attribution credit to others, amazing stories can happen.
  3. Finding and Tracking Your Searches with the ImageSeek (Thimble Make)
    Let's give it a try. First come up with a topic, concept that might be challenging to represent in photos. Try to get it down to a one or two word phrase-- maybe Achievement? Frustration? Giving Feedback? Honesty? Creativity? Education? Fairness? Friendship? Pain? Joy? Respect? Play? Debugging?

    You then will want to Remix the ImageSeek tool. Inside you will find a step by step tutorial; first you will edit it in Thimble to add your search subject. Then you will look at the four prompt questions and edit the code to add your keywords. When you do this, the buttons become triggers to generate a search for that keyword in four different sites that have images licensed for re-use. Keep track of what you find because you should also edit the ImageSeek to add notes and locations for the images you found. You can add links to the four best images to show off your ImageSeek skills.

    For an completed example see this Image Seek to Represent the Idea of Broken Web Links

Seek More On Image Seeking


  • Discussion. What were the most surprising keywords that produced good image results? Of the best keywords, how far are they from more literal descriptive words? Which search tool produced better images?
  • Sharing. Ask participants publish their remixed ImageSeeks in a place for others to review (e.g. web site, google doc, EtherPad).
  • Second Level Activity. A secondary activity might be to have participants remix each others Image Seek makes to see how their results might be different.

Assessment criteria

What To look for in a completed ImageSeek

  • At least 3 different keywords for each prompt.
  • Best keywords highlighted.
  • Four final images displayed in the gallery.
  • More than four search results fully documented in the notes, with sufficient information to provide attribution.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by bionicteaching: http://flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/1262605918