New Irish web-only graphics firm open for business

12 May 2004

A new digital media company based in the Liberties in Dublin is providing a business graphics service solely through the internet. Metaphor Business Graphics claims to be the first company in the world to provide digital graphic images or metaphors aimed at communicating current technical and business issues.

Based in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Metaphor began trading on 1 May. It was established by former PricewaterhouseCoopers Financial Services Partner, Paul Cummins. “Businesses use text and figures to communicate complex issues,” he said. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t start using graphics to illustrate those concepts in documents. There is unlimited scope to use graphics and graphic metaphors to illustrate complex business issues.”

Traditionally, businesses have commissioned graphics as the need arises. Metaphor plans instead to license business graphics exclusively through the internet on up-to-the-minute business topics, without any prior commissioning. The metaphors used are designed so that the graphics can be used in different countries.

The service offered by Metaphor currently addresses a range of business subjects such as EU enlargement, women in business, pensions, banking regulations or EU and US accounting rules. A selection of graphics on these and other topics can be downloaded from Metaphor’s website, The site also has watermarked demo graphics available for download free of charge. Over the coming year the company plans to broaden the range of business topics it covers.

Metaphor’s primary market will be international corporations dealing with technical business issues, who require images for company presentations, training courses or strategy documents. The EU represents another market opportunity. “It produces a vast amount of data, much of it unread because it’s indigestible, made up of text and figures. That’s ripe for graphics,” said Cummins.

The site’s payment processing is handled by a German provider, Element 5. Using this system, purchasers can pay in one of 18 currencies and transact in 11 languages. According to Cummins, Metaphor is the company’s first Irish client. “They charge a fee for every graphic I sell but it means I don’t have to have a distribution department,” he points out.

Metaphor charges €150 for a high-resolution print-ready image. The same image in medium format, suitable for presentations, costs €75 and a low-resolution graphic for the web costs €50. Volume discounts are also available. The Element 5 system can accept payment by credit and debit card, by wire transfer, cheque or even by a company account which can be set up through Metaphor’s website.

The payment facility is managed so that if a customer pays for a graphic by cheque, they will not receive the image until the cheque has cleared.

Cummins is open about the competitive landscape; this niche of the market doesn’t mean that others would be unwelcome. “If someone else came into the market, that would just widen the market; I’m not secretive about this,” he says. He also stressed that artists should not see the venture as a threat to their livelihood. “I’d hate to think illustrators will see this as competition; it’s creating a new market for them”

Cummins outsources the creation of graphics to a group of four young Irish illustrators, so that the images will not all have a common or identical style. As the company grows, he plans to use more illustrators as well as commissioning researchers to look at new business issues as they arise.

“A big thing I’m hoping to sell is that if a business topic emerges at 9am, I can have a graphic on the site at 3pm. The difference with the internet means there are no barriers to delivery.”

By Gordon Smith

Above: a Metaphor business graphic illustrating the new financial reporting rules that companies must comply with by next year