Brown College Blog

Avoiding Bias in Visual Communication

December 11, 2013 General 0 Comments

Avoiding Bias in Visual CommunicationBias in visual communication means to display facts, images or information with a particular perspective, point of view, prejudice, or other angle rather than presenting neutral information. This is done either by selectively presenting facts, or the manner in which the facts are presented. Becoming aware of how to avoid bias in your communication will help you create more inclusive and neutral work.

Avoiding Bias in Written Communications

 Written communications use words to convey thoughts and information. Avoiding bias requires making language choices that are either neutral or inclusive of all people.

  • Ethnicity: avoid stereotypes, and only mention ethnicity if it is contextually relevant
  • Gender: use neutral words and phrases like “mail carrier” instead of mailman, address both males and females.
  • Ability: avoid using adjectives as labels, “disabled people” or “the blind”. Use “person with a disability” or “people who are blind”.
  • Sexual Orientation: Use “partner or spouse” instead of “husband or wife”, and include all family types when discussing families in general.
  • Age: only mention age if it is contextually relevant. 

Avoiding Bias Without Words

Pictures and cartoons are other types of visual communication in which bias has a tendency to crop up. Nonverbal messages can be some of the most powerful, so being mindful of this is imperative.

  • Avoid consistently displaying any group as inferior. 
  • Drawings or other artwork should always display balance and maintain a sense of realism. Groups of people may have similarities in appearance, but every person is unique and groups should not be displayed as if individual members are indifferent. 
  • Balance your images according to the needs of the project, and show people appropriately. Realistic displays include people of all ages, sizes, colors, and ability. Extremes in any direction should be avoided, so don't choose all women to portray construction workers, but don't exclude them either. Include women of all ages to represent beauty. Include people with disabilities as they interact in society, without singling out the individual or highlighting the disability as an “extra challenge.” 

Maintaining neutrality and avoiding bias in your visual communication is an important way to be sure you reach a wider audience. By including more people and making an effort to avoid excluding groups, your work is more likely to be respected and appreciated by a wider group of people. 


What do you think?