How to Improve Representation in Your Visual Communications

December 6, 2021

Marketing images have always overrepresented young, thin, able-bodied, straight, white and cis-gendered people. But as the world becomes increasingly diverse, it’s important to use images that look like the audience you communicate with. That includes the photos your firm uses on its website, social media, and in internal and external communication.

Why Diverse Images Are Important

Representing different kinds of people is important because it affects how your audience views themselves and how they perceive your company. So considering whether your visuals are authentic and accurate needs to be a permanent feature of your content creation process. Many organizations have made progress on better representing gender and ethnicity, but there is more work to do to represent people who vary by gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, culture and outward religious expression, and body size and type. Fortunately, more platforms are recognizing this imperative and creating a variety of stock images that are authentic, diverse and reflective of our heterogeneous society.

Where to Find Diverse Stock Images

Ethnic Identity: Diversity Photos launched in 2016 after its founders got fed up with the lack of authentic representation of people of color in stock images. The site’s wide array of beautifully curated photos not only fosters inclusion but also shatters stereotypes as it celebrates the nuances and complex layers of the people represented. A similar site, Picnoi, allows you to easily search for and find multiracial images. If you’re in search of Native American stock images, look no further than NativeStock Pictures — the leading supplier of Indian Country images. Finally, some of the larger stock image sites include sections devoted to diverse communities: Alamy, Pexels, and Getty. Use filters to help you find what you need in their large archives.

Disability: According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population has a disability. Yet, visible disability appears in less than 2% of media images. And often these images play into stereotypes. Consider how many times you’ve seen a disabled person in a wheelchair with a lonely, sad expression. Instead, seek images that showcase inclusion. Disability Images is a great place to start.

Gender and Sexuality: Noun Project Photos and Gender Photos aim to improve representation across the LGBTQ+ rainbow. Each site features collections that show members of these communities without defining them solely by their gender identities or sexual orientations. Images depict them in connection to careers, passions, relationships and talents.

And more: Diversity is complex, and most people have multiple identities. This growing list of stock image resources can help you improve representation of all kinds in your marketing visuals.

What to Consider Before Selecting a Stock Image

As Campaign Monitor explains, using a checklist can help you choose a photo that honors your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before conducting an image search:

  • Who is missing or excluded?
  • If this was a photo of me or someone I love, would I be okay with how they are represented?
  • Are any stereotypes being reinforced in the photo I’m using?
  • Am I depicting someone in the role our culture usually puts them in?

Making intentional choices about the images you use in your marketing is an expression of your firm’s values. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it sends an important signal to your audience about how you view your work and who is included in your vision of the future of your industry.