The Value of Digital Equity in Storytelling

Let's envision a new reality.

Since when is a mood board political?

In elementary school, there was once a time that you came back from summer vacation and got an assignment from the teacher.

“Okay class, settle down and welcome back. Today, we’ll be talking about what you did over the summer. Tomorrow, you have one assignment: create a mood board or collage of what you did while we were gone.”

But what’s a mood board?

“A mood board is a visual tool that communicates our concepts and visual ideas. It is a well thought out and planned arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc. that is intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.”

So, you might go home, and think a bit about what you did over those months. You might look through your mom’s magazines to include some cartoons, you might add pictures of a neighborhood summer cookout, you might include pictures of kids playing in a pool and be ready to wow the class the next day.

For some students, though, they might not be able to find the right picture to represent their summer passions. Were you looking for a black skateboarder or ballet dancer? Might be harder to find. How about a woman protagonist in that video game you played all year? Likely unavailable.

Unfortunately, not everyone has these problems. Some people come to class with a perfect representation of their summer, while marginalized kids are left without a voice.

What stories aren’t being told?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Stories We Tell Change The World We Intend To See.

Visual art is always political, no matter the intent of the creator.

There’s always a relationship between the tools, the process, the product, and how it’s presented to the world that influences some sort of action: whether it’s for an advertisement agency, a painting that’s being presented in a museum, or slapped on a street sign.

Unfortunately, visual storytelling has been dominated by people and institutions in power. Over the past four years, we’ve been dominated by narratives about the dominators: white supremacists and nationalists, the immeasurably rich, and the politically influential — have sowed seeds of division, false nostalgia and hatred, harming our economy, public health, relationship with the earth and cultural identity.

During this time, the stories of marginalized people — the working class, people with disabilities, queer folks, immigrants, Black people, Non-Christians, and countless others — have been hidden from the mainstream stage.

In a world built to laud the rich and powerful, who is crafting the visual voice of people making the world more just? How do we apply the tools of storytelling, visual language, and artistic strategy to catapult advocacy and empowerment stories of the marginalized towards the people who need to hear them?

3 Reasons Why Storytelling Matters

Equitable storytelling matters because:

  • Stories shape reality. They help to form our value systems, identities and belonging in our communities. Stories set the stage for policy. Equitable stories, then, are a non-negotiable prerequisite to systemic problem-solving.
  • Our reality is fractured. Our information system is broken. Thanks to pay-to-play PR, algorithms that proliferate conflict, rampant misinformation, propaganda, conspiracy, and manufactured distrust of science, academia, media, and government, the way millions of people learn about the world and form core beliefs is sorely inadequate.
  • Truth and empathy are an antidote. Dispelling big lies, restoring a shared reality, and bringing people home to their moral center means that we must tell equitable stories in order to redeem the soul of our nation and restore humane values at the core of our belief systems.

Your organization’s visual story is the representation we need to reflect the diversity of values and experiences being shared in our world. That’s why we need to prioritize and invest in building the visual creativity of equity changemakers, so the values of change catalysts can be equipped with the visual language to tell their story.

So, what do we need from you to make the story work?

What does it take to build a powerful visual?

A definitive “why.” Leaders and organizations inspire collaboration, trust, and equity by communicating their mission with a clear sense of purpose. You must have a concise and compelling reason why your organization exists.

Authenticity. Don’t tell a story you aren’t truthfully living. It’s too easy to verify dishonesty and your reputation won’t survive if there’s a discrepancy between what you say and what you do.

Laser focus. The goal is never to speak to everyone, all at once. Good storytelling strategy requires that you identify a key audience, the problems they feel emotionally connected to solving, and the value you’re uniquely equipped to deliver that will accelerate their solution.

Managed expectations. Have patience in the early stages of building your visual story.

Commitment to iteration. You’re not going to get it right the first time. Being okay with intermediate imperfection will get you to the goal faster and more securely.

Honesty. Critiquing is a lost art. Sure, you can see any comment list on a social media site to get a good dose of vitriol, but people don’t know how to make critique purposeful. Critique is intended to find a solution: what’s wrong, so we can find something right? It’s about engaging the art, instead of the creator.

Trust. Visual storytelling will take time and space, and a bit of vulnerability. Though transformation is scary, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it once it’s finished.

What’s your mood board look like?

When Amanda Gorman came to center stage at the 2021 inauguration, we thought of the young children who might never see another young black poet in their midst. Through that representation, the mood boards of millions of children offered immeasurably more possibility.

At Think Rubix, we take the stories hidden from view and put them center-stage. The story is the most powerful information channel designed by human society. Your stories — of hardship, challenge, influence, and vision — must not be lost to the annals of history. When we see heroes, innovation, transformation, and justice in spaces unknown by mainstream society, we pool the values, work, and vision of changemakers into the visual strategy and language of the work.

However, we have far to go to make equity the industry standard. It seems, like any other foray in creation, this one requires relationship-building. For the equity catalyst, we need your story, your passion, and your heart, From us, you need our eye, our expertise, and our design journey — to ensure you’re on the right track.

What story do you want to tell?