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Powerful Image Selection for the Mission-Driven

By Intern Blogger on 4/14/16 12:30 PM

Image Selection for the Mission-Driven. Humingbird in color v. black/ white


When you are given a document to read or you are emailed a newsletter containing information to keep you up-to-date, what is going to keep you reading and scrolling? Certainly not never-ending text! That’s what images are for. We need to keep our materials visually relevant as well as informative. But how do you know if it is the right type of image to help you tell the story for your mission-driven organization?

Mission-Driven Basics

Let’s start with the basics. What is a mission-driven organization and how does it have an effect on the visuals you use? Well, when designing for a mission-driven organization, you have a design goal defined by your organization’s end goal. Your mission gives your design and messaging a sense of direction for who, what and how. For example, if your mission is advocating for a more diverse and inclusive economy and you want to use an image to display diversity, it would not be a wise decision to choose a photo of all white males. It does not connect with your message. The images used in different campaigns or materials can help you tell stories that inspire and engage your audience with your cause.

When looking for images, you want to keep in mind the organization’s image and the type of message you are trying to deliver to the viewer. Actually, the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so even if the reader doesn’t read the text they are scrolling through, they may still be able to get a feel for the materials you are giving them just by glancing at one of your images. Are obviously posed images going to get your image across? Or maybe a wide shot of a landscape will capture the feel of your materials?

Good Examples of Designing for Mission

The University of Vermont Medical Center

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The University of Vermont Medical Center’s mission is to improve the health of the community members who seek their care. When looking at its choices of imagery, we can see a range of photography filled with diverse subjects, all of whom look as if they have been captured completing a normal task in their everyday life. Rarely is a subject challenging the viewer by looking directly into the camera and the images help convey a sense of comfort, trust and relief, as going to the hospital is often a stressful life event.



NPR (National Public Radio) seeks to serve the public through delivering quality news. They pair their article titles with appropriate imagery to convey the feel of the text. Karadzic clearly is not happy about the judge’s ruling in his case, and even if the viewer did not read through the article, the man’s face conveys the message of the headline.

Bad Examples of Designing for Mission

A lot of organizations gather their images from collections of stock photos. However, not all stock photography is right to get a message across. Here are some examples of stock photography that may never accurately get your message across.


Each of these visuals screams “generic” and may not provide your materials with the authenticity to engage with a reader. In fact, many viewers automatically steer away from websites containing this sort of imagery for fear of it being a fake webpage. Does a perfectly-timed jump or posed pyramid of “suits” align with the image of your organization?


How about this business man frolicking in a field holding balloons? No? Didn’t think so.

Choose Wisely

Now that we have gone over examples of good choices of imagery and bad choices of imagery, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for photos to complement your message:

  • Don’t used posed photography. Viewers value authenticity in an image and respond better when the subjects of the photo appear to have been captured in natural movement, rather than unrealistic, artificial scenarios.
  • Think about the emotional response you are looking for from your audience. A color photo is much more upbeat and can offer a myriad of emotional responses depending on the color scheme. In contrast, a black-and-white photo is monochromatic and allows the viewer to focus purely on the subject being captured and offers a raw view of what is going on in the frame of the image.
  • Remember what you are trying to deliver when picking photos. Some messages are simple and call for a scenic photo to complete the message. Others require photos of people in action to get the point across.

You understand the mission of your organization and how your imagery can make a difference when sharing a message with your audience. Take lessons from the examples above and put some intension behind the choice of visuals for your materials.


UVM Medical Center: Mission, Vision & Values

Two Decades After The War, A Genocide Conviction For Radovan Karadzic (NPR)

Visual Marketing: A Picture’s Worth 60,000 Words (B2C)

13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography (HubSpot)

The Science Behind Color and Emotion (DesignShack)

Top photo taken and edited by Jen Whitman


Jen Whitman is a senior at the University of Vermont and will graduate with a degree in Public Communication. After graduation, she plans on moving back to her home city of Boston, MA to pursue a career in public relations.


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About Change Conversations

The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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