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The 5 Best Practices for Choosing Visuals That Are Truly Inclusive

BY: Isha Sharma

Photographs and illustrations are your most powerful tool for quickly connecting with the consumers you want to reach. That’s why a brand’s plan to evolve its “visual vocabulary” should be carefully considered. In the past, advertising and marketing have played a role in dictating standards of beauty and cultural norms — often in insensitive ways, relying almost exclusively on images of heterosexual, thin, young, white people. By contrast, and according to Getty Images research, nearly 80% of individuals state they expect companies to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures.[1] This means reflecting all forms of diversity with images that include representation across ethnicities, gender identities, income brackets, ages, abilities, sexual orientations and more.

At Foundry 360, we believe diversity and inclusion should be top of mind when creating content marketing. Here are five best practices for cultivating diversity in images:

  1. Conduct regular visual audits. Conduct an audit of the visuals you own. Does the existing art feature women, men, couples or families? Does the imagery include diverse representation? Does this audit highlight an audience that might be missing or excluded? The review process can help identify both gaps and insensitivities.
  2. Favor authenticity, not stereotypes. It’s critical to include visuals that avoid cultural biases and stereotypes. It is also important to include imagery that goes beyond the tokenistic portrayal of a group or subgroup of individuals. Which communities may be excluded and why? Would an individual looking at this image feel represented in a positive way? Or does the image show a type of person in a stereotypical — or worse, disrespectful — role or scenario?
  3. Don’t attempt to show diversity in every image. This becomes performative and can imply a lack of commitment to achieving your goals in a meaningful way. Instead, it’s critical to be thoughtful about what makes sense for your target audience. For example, if you have a photo of a group of individuals, ensure that there are some varied physical attributes and that those pictured are representative of the organization or brand you are portraying (e.g., races and ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, age, body types and abilities).
  4. Consult your audience about what’s working, what isn’t and what they’d like to see more of. Seeking guidance and feedback to evaluate whether you’re on the right track is key to cultivating buy-in and leads to a more impactful product. What have you done in the past that has worked well? What have you done in the past that hasn’t worked well? Which types of attributes and individuals would you like to see more of as you continue to grow? What are some examples of content you’ve seen lately that have done this well?
  5. Involve diverse individuals in the overall creative process. This means including distinct perspectives in the entire project life cycle, from choosing the imagery to creating and editing content. Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion starts from an environment where everyone is encouraged to speak up and give open feedback. Building a team invested in being a champion for diversity and inclusion is key to building success in the short and long term.

Foundry 360 is a leader in helping brands create and evolve their visual vocabulary. We can also help brands diversify other aspects of their content marketing to ensure all communications are created in an inclusive and sensitive way (look for more content on this subject in the coming months). Get in touch to learn more!


Isha Sharma is an Associate Editor at Foundry 360, a content marketing services agency within Dotdash Meredith Corporation, where she works on Millie and Proto magazines. Isha believes it’s never too late to pursue new opportunities or career paths and is currently on a journey to embrace her creative side. Prior to her jump to editorial and media, Isha was a rising expert in health policy and government affairs in Washington, DC. Isha is a graduate of Georgetown University and Case Western Reserve University. In her free time, she loves to mix music, go to high-intensity workout classes, travel the world, and snap photos of friends, family, and strangers on her Fujifilm disposable.



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