A New Search Engine For Metaphors

Yossarian offers a new way of searching for inspiration online

okra pickles
Lew Robertson/Corbis

Traditional search engines are very good at delivering specific results to their users, but they aren’t really designed to get those users to think outside the search box. But a new search engine called Yossarian is designed with creative types in mind—it's an image search for metaphors. 

Fast Company spoke with Yossarian’s founder J. Paul Neely about the pitfalls of looking for inspiration on Google:

The name Yossarian, a reference to the main character in Catch-22, gets at that point. "We kind of joked about the catch-22 of Google," he said. "Google is incredibly powerful and helps us by giving us access to the world’s information. The catch is that it hurts us. The more we use it, the more we think like everyone else."

Yossarian is pretty simple to use. Type in a word, and then select one of the five types of search from Literal (“Regular search, but with a little extra kick”) to Serendipitous (“A little magic, some randomness, & infinite possibilities”). Hit enter, and let Yossarian conceptualize your search term, bringing up a collection of pictures for your perusal. 

The results can provide the user with very different levels of inspiration.

A search of the word "growth" on the Literal setting provided images of growing plants, sprouts, children measuring themselves against a wall and soaring graphs on charts at business meetings. A search of the same word on the Serendipitous setting yielded images ranging from a cathedral in Reykjavik, at least nine pictures of sardines and an image of jars of okra pickles. 

As Fast Company points out, Yossarian isn’t alone in attempting to create a search engine for inspiration. A company called Seenapse also promises to increase participants’ “Aha moments,” all from the comfort of your computer.  

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.