Visual Storytelling for Change: The Role of Graphic Design in Social Impact


If you’re a nonprofit or mission-driven organization looking to improve your digital communication materials, there are several visual techniques available to help you do so. From the use of infographics to using succinct key messages illustrated with icons, there are many ways to make sure your message is heard loud and clear. Consider partnering with a design professional who can help you create a strong digital foundation for your organization.


Graspable concepts

We like to grasp information and move on. When communicating with your audience, make sure to include key takeaways. The use of icons or visuals can help clarify certain key points. It is also a great way to ensure that your content is more widely accepted by different types of learning styles, whether visual, auditory, or reading/writing methods. By using visual cues (or icons) in combination with text, we can help both visual and reading-based learners comprehend our messages.

Key questions: What key takeaways am I trying to get across? And how can they be represented visually? Is my online content accessible in different formats? i.e. audio, visuals, text?


Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is the arrangement of elements in a way that suggests their relative importance. When it comes to digital content, visual hierarchy can help to guide the reader’s eye and make it easier to understand the message being conveyed. This can be achieved through the use of different font sizes, colors, and styles, as well as through the use of icons or other visual cues.

Key questions: What is the most important information I want to convey? How can I use visual hierarchy to guide the reader’s eye and make it easier to understand my message? Is there an opportunity for using “call-outs” in my content?



Another way to make your content connect with wider audiences is through the use of diverse images and graphics that represent a variety of cultures and backgrounds. This helps to create a more welcoming and inclusive message that resonates with a wider audience. Consider partnering with designers or illustrators who can create visuals that are both engaging and inclusive.

Key questions: Do my communications feel welcoming? Am I representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds in my graphics? What can I do to ensure that my message resonates with a wider audience?



As a socially, or environmentally-focused organization, the work is often complex and difficult to grasp. Infographics are a great way to communicate complex information in a visually engaging way. They can be used to present data, explain a process, or tell a story. When designing an infographic, it is important to consider the message you want to convey and the audience you are trying to reach. The design should be simple, clear, and easy to understand, with a clear visual hierarchy and a consistent color scheme.

Key questions: What complex information do I want to communicate? How can I use design to make the information more engaging and easy to understand?



Dashboards can be considered simple infographics. They’re great for giving a clear picture of where we are in the context of something. A speedometer tells us how fast we are going. A bank balance dashboard tells us how well we’re spending our money.

Organizations can use visual tools to help tell their story: How much fundraising is needed to complete X project? What’s the state of X social topic, and how my organization is making a difference in my community?

Key questions: How can I represent where my organization is and where we’re headed? What overarching storylines can guide the stories we tell, and how do we represent them in simple graphics? Can I represent visually the impact of my organization in a simple graphic?


Data Visualization

Data visualization is the use of visual elements like charts, graphs, and maps to represent data in a way that is easy to understand. When presenting data online, it is important to choose the right type of visualization for the data being presented. For example, a bar chart might be more appropriate for showing changes over time, while a pie chart might be better for showing relative proportions.

Key questions: What type of data am I presenting? What type of visualization is best suited for this data? How can I make the data more engaging and easy to understand?


Icons and Symbols

Icons and symbols are a great way to add visual interest to online communications. They can be used to represent ideas, concepts, or actions, and can be used to make content more engaging and easier to understand. When using icons and symbols, it is important to choose ones that are clear and recognizable, and that are consistent with the overall design of the content.

Key questions: What ideas or concepts do I want to represent? What icons or symbols are most appropriate for my message? How can I use icons and symbols to make my content more engaging and easier to understand?



When creating content, it is important to consider the content’s alignment with an organization’s values as an essential way to establish a strong and consistent brand identity. It is important to ensure that all content, whether it is website copy, social media posts, or marketing materials, reflects the values and mission of the organization. This helps to build trust with your audience and fosters a sense of authenticity, which is crucial for establishing a loyal following.

This may involve making strategic decisions about the tone and style of your content, as well as the types of topics and issues that are addressed. It may also involve partnering with designers and other creatives to create visuals that are consistent with the organization’s brand and values. Ultimately, creating content that is aligned with an organization’s values requires a deep commitment to understanding and communicating the organization’s mission and values in a way that resonates with its audience.

Key questions: Does my content look aligned with my organization’s brand? Does it communicate its values?

I hope this quick collection of tips and techniques for creating effective online content helps your organization create great content. If you’re a mission-driven organization looking to improve its digital communication materials, do not hesitate to contact me.