A cliché is something common or ordinary. So ordinary that we might be a bit sick of it, it’s so overused. But that doesn’t mean that clichés don’t serve a purpose. Cartoonists have always used visual clichés for memorable comic effect. Where would Wile E. Coyote be without his anvil and Acme rocket shoes?
Graphic clichés are useful because of their implied meaning. They can be considered the embodiment of an industry, institution, emotional value, or point of view. They become a visual shorthand that is familiar to everyone in a certain culture. Some clichés even transcend culture. Think of an umbrella, for example. It is the universal visual symbol for protection, and is one of the most recognizable icons of the insurance industry.
Designers use graphic clichés to make a fresh statement with a recognizable symbol. A cliché might work perfectly to tell a story graphically, because everyone can agree on what it means.
In the right hands, a cliché is no longer obvious and banal.
The results can be new, witty, and refreshing.