It Started With A Tweet (#ISWAT) How to be more representative in stock art

I love social media, especially Twitter. I was a relatively late adopter but joined Twitter in 2016 after attending a session for Central Ohio ATD by Mike Taylor. In this session, Mike talked about the value of Twitter for professional development. Fast forward to today and Twitter has helped me grow my network and gain knowledge and skills to make me a better L&D professional. For me, Twitter is my version of golfing, having coffee, and going out to lunch with my peers. Twitter gives me instant access to learning and development professionals all around the world. I’m able to ask questions and learn from them and with them.

This kicks off a series I’ll be publishing on Wednesdays called It Started With a Tweet or #ISWAT. I hope to share the conversation and some additional tips and resources. In this inaugural blog, I am going to dive into a huge problem: lack of diversity in stock art for design.

It Started With a Tweet…

I posted this out of frustration as I looked for a photo of leadership. All I saw were men. Smiling white men. I thought I couldn’t be the only person who had this problem so here is how the conversation unfolded.

Joe has a great point here. It reminds me of a situation that Sean Hickey and I had a few years ago where a stakeholder told us that using diverse names can confuse test takers. Luckily, someone else fought that battle for us.

I’ve sent a direct message to both Tricia and Judy to see if they have any resources posted I can link to from their session.

There are so many jokes I could make here but I’ll let someone else do that for me.

Stop what you are doing right now and connect with Amy. I met her at the Association for Education Communications and Technology conference last year and I have learned so much from her. She shares great resources about accessibility and inclusiveness. She also has a great point here, why do so many stock art examples not show real life?

Yes, yes, and YES!!!!

These photos have a Creative Commons license and I love this snippet from their website:

Stock photos that accompany articles do more than illustrate subject matter. They have the power to shape perceptions of entire communities. When used critically, they can chip away at harmful stereotypes, pushing more accurate perceptions and understandings to the fore.

YES! We should be having these conversations and asking vendors to be more inclusive. In this conversation, there was a vendor that someone else called out for their lack of diversity in their stock art. The vendor responded by acknowleding the issue and sharing their committment to resolve it.

So what are some ways you can be part of the solution to make learning and development artifacts more inclusive?  Here are some tips:

Use ROYGBIV for skin colors:

ROYGBIV is an easy way to remember the colors in a spectrum. It’s also a fun and easy way to take the emphasis off of race of characters. You are more likely to do this with vector images. My pal Jonathan Rock and co-worker Casey Rinehart have done this successfully in recent eLearning. Casey created a lunchroom scene where the kids had green, purple, and pink skin. It was well done and didn’t distract from the content of the module.

Create your own stock art/library:

I know this can be hard to do on a limited clock and budget but hear me out. If you take the time to re-work a vector to have different skin color or if you find a free-use stock image that is representative, hoard it! Treasure it. SHARE IT WITH THE COMMUNITY! We all have a responsibility to be part of the solution here and I know I’m not the only L&D Gollum scooping all those links and resources shared on social media.


I actually mentioned this idea at Learning Solutions in March this year during the Guild for Good meeting as something that would be a great project for the community. It’s that important that if we all do a little, we can make a big impact

Know where to go:

Here are some great places not mentioned yet to get started:

Nappy, Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people.

Women of Color in Tech,Images of women and non-binary people of color in tech that are free for use with proper attribution (#WOCinTechChat)

Lean In Collection, a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them

Hexatar, a flat icon avatar maker

If you found value in this post and/or you’d like to add some resources, feel free to leave a comment below or share using the #ISWAT. Let’s continue the conversation and continue to grow as a community.


One thought on “It Started With A Tweet (#ISWAT) How to be more representative in stock art

  1. I don’t have resources to share, but have been really constrained on eLearning projects where the client wanted to show people, but was also concerned about diversity and inclusion. This makes it very hard to have a graphic design strategy that shows people and and their environment with any type of realism.

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