Alternatives to Photography

by Brandie Knox on December 30, 2013

Knox, BrandieThe power of imagery is often overlooked. That said, many firms rely on photography when selecting visuals for their marketing collateral, particularly stock imagery, which is often expensive and banal. In my previous article, Good Design is Good Business , I touched on the use of visuals as a part of any good design program. Here, I want to expand a bit on those alternatives to photographic imagery.

Keep your brand identity in mind, whatever your visual approach. Discuss your ideas with your design team – they will provide proper guidance on brand consistency as well as which visual solutions should be employed to best illustrate your ideas.



Illustration can be abstract or realistic in approach. A concept that looks strange, or that is difficult to portray in a photograph might be much easier to represent as an illustration. Illustration can be ideal when portraying a more abstract concept, whereby a photo may be more difficult. For example, communicating terms such as balance, focus, vision, etc. Consider a variety of illustration styles that best reflect your brand.



Custom symbols are a great way to add visual interest either as primary imagery or smaller, visual elements that complement specific copy. Simple, graphic icons can draw a reader into a narrative that might otherwise have been overlooked. Explore a range of styles and remember to simplify, simplify, simplify!

Information Graphics


Information graphics are a great way communicate a complex idea. Infographics might be used to explain a process, visualize data or convey a variety of information while engaging your audience. By expressing visually what you might tell in lengthy narrative from, the information is more easily conveyed and understood. Have in-depth conversations with your design team to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the information to be presented before designing an infographic– this step is critical!



Large fields of color, used in combination with type or other visual elements, can compositionally direct the viewer’s eye through your website or print collateral.

By adding visual “flow”, color can also be used to emphasize particular content areas such as key information, call-outs, sidebar information, etc. Limit your color palette to maintain visual flow and consistency – you only need a few!



Repetition of graphic elements, i.e., rules, shapes, letterforms – you name it – can be used simply as textural elements or to create a focal point within a design. Kept simple, these patterns can be relatively cost effective to create, thus ideal for budget and time sensitive projects, but confirm this with your design team first. Consider using a series of related patterns within a piece to create cohesiveness.

Instead of photography, consider using the above elements within your print and electronic communications. Perhaps you can combine 2–3 ideas above to create your desired effect. Be sure to consider your visual brand identity as well as how the imagery works consistently throughout your marketing materials.

Illustrations by Tracey Berglund and Jason Lynch.

Brandie Knox is Creative Director & Principal at knox design strategy, As a strategic design studio, knox design strategy focuses on professional services firms, with expertise in the legal industry. She can be reached at / follow us on twitter @knoxdesignnyc

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