June 4, 2020


SMW employees


In times of social distance it is no secret that our feeds and screens have regained importance. These are the windows to the world more than ever, and in return it is our responsibility as marketers to provide social and digital channels with visual content that is authentic in line with the IRL life to which we are closed during this pandemic are.

While #SMWONE, Gray Director of digital strategy Asad Sheikh and Unsplash CEO and co-founder Mikael Cho came together to investigate this topic in depth – in particular how Unsplash empowers its community from more realistic representations of our WFH life to the support of the UN through a visual announcement system for the civil service. They also discussed the future of visual language and how companies and influencers can provide the world's storytellers with a picture of reality at a time when accurate presentation is most needed.

Here are the key findings and insights:

  • The more people can create, the more progress we will see
  • Authenticity is the key to staying social
  • Trust and humanity are at the core of adapting to a growing immersive reality

Give the UN the unsplash effect

A couple of weeks ago United Nations Creative people around the world were invited to submit their best visual ideas to support the fight against COVID-19. After this 17,000 submissionIt came in, the problem was quickly found somewhere where you could see it everywhere.

Unsplash seized the opportunity and mobilized by opening a UN account on the platform to publish the images published there by 1 billion people within 30 days. In order to achieve this, the company has reserved placements on the company's homepage and for relevant search queries. All UN visuals on Unsplash can also be used by 1,820 API partners, including Medium, Buzzfeed, Google Slides, Squarespace, Figma, Notion and Adobe.

"We have seen time and again that if we can get great pictures in front of the creators, they will increase the impact of these pictures more than we could ever have imagined," Cho said in the official announcement on his personal Twitter account. "Our goal and that of the United Nations is to ensure that as many people as possible see these pictures." In short, Unsplash used its platform and distribution power to become a visual announcement system for the United Nations civil service.

Usefulness: the key to authenticity and trust

In addition to PowerPoints and business plans, images are increasingly used to tell stories in today's world when, fortunately or unfortunately, we rely on the screen to understand human stories during this global pandemic. When asked how Unsplash's business has adapted and how the company wants to maintain trust and authenticity with its graphics, Cho explained that it boils down to utility. In particular, as soon as a picture circulates, it takes on its own life and meaning. When people collect images, they assume a representation that is based on human inspiration and interpretation. There are currently over 10 million user-generated collections on Unsplash.

“Unsplash is not a social network. Here people can get pictures they can use and find the basic building blocks to tell a story on a platform where they already have an audience, ”Cho repeated. In the past few weeks, this has been limited to really listening to the community and paying attention to the changes in the types of content that are reflected in the top 20 searches they most needed during these times. In general, the platform saw a 2,000 percent (2M to 45M) increase in DIY-centered content. The result was a new, human-curated library that supported Unsplash's lateral and democratic approach to a free market with limitless creativity.

"When people create, they try to make things happen. And the more they can make things happen, the more we make progress," said Cho. In other words, Unsplash isn't limited to a geographic region, and a big reason why authenticity and diversity sounds true and loud through graphics is largely because people naturally fill in gaps when certain content is missing, and innate trust arises because people can tell their own visual story through their own perspectives and experiences.

The future of visual branding and the role of visual language

Brands are all around us and when this is visually recognized this term feels more real. "As a brand, you may know what your brand goal is – and it is our job to name the visual elements that represent that goal, and we'll let people create what it looks like." In return, you not only help people achieve their full potential through these integrations, but also create an authentic incentive to spread the message far and wide.

The world is becoming more immersive and digital, but the priority should not be to hold back visual elements, but to find organic ways to engage and empower audiences in fundamentally positive ways. Cho referred to TikTok as a platform that he sees as a leader in this area, focusing on rawness versus professional quality. This also applies to Unsplash, where people take pictures either with the best camera or in other cases with their mobile device. The big advantage: keep humanity at the center of this developing immersive reality. Otherwise, it is counterproductive and only affects the shift to digital experiences that are considered authentic and welcome compared to content that distracts and disrupts that we want to skip or skip.

"Authenticity is the key to staying social if you only want to resonate with one person or 100 people, if we really want to understand that I know what it looks like, or if I know I feel that way we have done our job as social media custodians, ”Shakyh finally offered.

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