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25 July 2013

Visualising sustainability


Over the past few decades, the term ‘sustainability’  has developed into an increasingly holistic concept, as we come to realise that people, profit and the planet are intrinsically linked. The term ‘sustainability’ now incorporates buzzwords such as ‘ethical’, and ‘organic’ and connects to wider themes of responsibility and transparency within business. This is becoming an increasingly important strand for brand communications which are using a greater amount of content to visualise sustainability.

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The sustainability issue of Getty Images’ online publication Curve highlights five key visual trends that are driving the conversation around sustainability.

The first of the five key trends identified in Curve is 'Make'. Over the past decade, the revived craft movement has gained momentum, as buying something handmade re-establishes the connection between the maker and consumer. By using images of craft , brands communicate strong concepts such as pride, quality and tradition.

The second trend is about ‘Sharing’. The rethinking of consumption opens up possibilities for new economic models and social entrepreneurship and images that can demonstrate this trend will be key. 

The third trend is, quite simply, 'Me'.  There is a trend towards enjoying the simple things in life. This trend is not about leaving modern technology behind, it’s about using digital tools in more meaningful ways that help us create a more sustainable lifestyle for ourselves. 

Similarly, 'Spirit' is key. Finding wisdom, mindfulness, and meaning are attractive to modern-day consumers.  There has been a recent rise in imagery that explores cosmic themes to talk about a brand’s journey of discovery.

The final trend is 'Next', and brings us back to the more traditional meaning of 'sustainability'.  Images of children and inter-generational bonding remind us why it is we need to change our behaviour: so that future generations will have a clean, abundant planet to inherit. 

As the meaning of sustainability evolves, so too do the images that brands use to speak to consumers.  Businesses need to ensure they are using a current visual language that connects to their audience and inspires change if they are to be truly successful in their communications.

By Micha Schwing, Senior Manager, Content Strategy, Getty Images

Image Credit: Trevor Williams/Getty Images


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