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See What You Mean

Close your eyes. Note what you see when you think of a peaceful protest demanding racial justice. What comes into your mind when you think about nature? What do you see when you hear the words community and family?

Now open your eyes. What did you see? Words? Likely not. Pictures? Probably so. And these images are powerful. They create emotional connections. They help us make sense of the world.

We have a lot of work to do: speaking out against racism, changing racist systems and policies, engaging people to stop the spread of disease, encouraging people to vote, addressing the drivers of climate change – and more. And every day, smart communicators capture peoples attention and make progress on these and other issues.

Words work, but pictures prevail. Images have the power to do some pretty heavy lifting, and we need their superpowers when were asking audiences to engage on multiple issues – and when we really need their attention and involvement. Images have power because we process them in the same part of our brain where we process emotion. That means they stick, and that matters when youre working to reset a perspective, encourage a specific behavior or otherwise create change.

Thats why Spitfire and SeeBoundless partnered to create See What You Mean, a guide to visual communication strategy. Just as you are intentional about the words in your messages, mission statement or social media content, you must be intentional about the visuals you choose and use. Just as you recognize the messages that get in the way of your work ("Oh! I wish they wouldn’t say it that way!"), you must recognize the images that help or hurt your efforts – or unintentionally play into unhelpful narratives and harmful stereotypes.

We hope youll download the guide and find it helpful. And before you dive in, consider this handful of questions to ensure images are working in every way they can for you.


  1. What go-to images do you have ready to use and repeat to increase likelihood for action – just as you repeat your go-to messages?
  2. How do your photos show action – and avoid the line of posing people?
  3. How do you represent diverse audiences and avoid traditional images of power?
  4. How do you use color to emphasize your messages?
  5. Does your logo use color, fonts and/or images that make it easier to understand your work?
  6. Do your audiences consume and trust video?
  7. Are you treating images as must-haves in your communications? If yes, hurray! If not, what simple changes can you make?


Connect with Spitfire and SeeBoundless on Twitter to share your examples and questions.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at 09:10 am and is filed under Ethical and visual storytelling. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.