We founded Noun Project in 2011 to build a global visual language that unites us. Over the last decade, we have shown our firm commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through initiatives like Iconathons and the Redefining Women collection, and by championing the creation of more civic-minded content that supports equal and accurate representation in iconography.
Visual language has the power to shape, reinforce, and change our perceptions about the world. It is more important than ever that the visual resources we have access to, from the classroom to the boardroom, are inclusive, free from outdated stereotypes, and empower creation in a socially-conscious way.
Today, we’re thrilled to share what we’ve been quietly building since 2019. Guided by the same vision and principles we were founded on, we are now offering professionally-curated, art-quality photos in addition to iconography. The photos available on our platform have been carefully selected to celebrate diversity and support the critical work of moving our society toward a more equitable future for all.
A Focus on Inclusion
The media we consume can lift us up, but it can also oppress those who have been marginalized. Many visual resources still perpetuate stereotypes, set unrealistic expectations, and present inaccurate and potentially harmful depictions. For decades, research has shown powerful connections between the images we see in mass media and how we see ourselves in society. From the impact of positive portrayals of women in STEM on the career choices of women and girls, to the importance of representation of the LGBTQ+ community on television and in film, and the detrimental effects of racial stereotypes portrayed in media, the evidence is clear: representation matters.
In the United States, 51% of Americans identify as female and 42% identify as BIPOC. If white men in America only make up 31% of the population, why are they featured in the majority of the images we see in mass media, from our textbooks to our televisions and presentation decks?
We all need to be more conscious about the messages we’re sending with the visuals we use in our day-to-day lives. The truth is, we are all susceptible to the media we consume and the social norms depicted by that media, which influences our value systems and, ultimately, how we treat each other. Positive representations help us form connections, enhance self-esteem, and send a powerful message about validity and one’s value in society. In the words of Yance Ford: “We can not be a better society, until we see that better society. I can not be in the world, until I see I am in the world.” To those of you who have felt unseen — we see You — and we are making sure the world does too.
Our collection has been developed through the lens of inclusion. Each photo available on Noun Project has been carefully selected to celebrate the diverse, beautiful world we live in. Throughout this process, we consulted diversity, equity and inclusion experts and deliberately worked to create a set of photos that more accurately represent and benefit everyone, not just a few. Because representation is a fundamental part of equality.
Curating for Quality over Quantity
Most stock photo platforms offer either high-quality images at high price points, or catalogues of un-curated, free images that users must spend time sifting through. We found that users open, on average, 3 websites and multiple browser tabs while hunting for the perfect image. People want to create beautiful visuals, whether that’s for a website, a social post, a client pitch, or a history lecture, and spending hours searching for the right content is tedious and counter-productive.
Focusing on quality over quantity has always been central to Noun Project’s content offering. Our goal is to enable users to quickly find exactly what they’re looking for, instead of wasting time rummaging through pages of search results. After months of research with our users and product team, as well as years of experience building a global community and the world’s most comprehensive icon collection, we are taking the same approach with Photos.
By applying what we’ve learned from our rigorous content curation process for iconography, we are carefully curating our photos to make sure only the most authentic, art-quality, and emotive images are selected for our collection. This is to help you quickly and easily find the best content for your needs, from people to flat lays, landscapes, animals and more.
Accessible Licenses that Support Photographers and Models
Our photo licensing options reflect our commitment to offering free and affordably priced high-quality content, while also providing an opportunity for photographers to generate revenue from their work.
We’re taking the licensing model that has worked for our iconography offering and applying it to our photo collection. Users can acquire photos under the following licenses:
- Creative Commons License: A user can download and use a 1 megapixel photo with embedded photographer attribution, for free, as long as they do not use the photo for commercial purposes, and do not create any derivatives.
- Royalty-Free Noncommercial License: A user can purchase a photo for $8.50, and use a 5 megapixel photo only for non-commercial purposes. A user can only print up to 100 copies, and they can not create any derivatives.
- Royalty-Free Limited Commercial License: A user can purchase a photo for $33.00, and use the full-resolution photo for limited commercial purposes (no advertising use, for example). A user can print up to 250,000 copies, and create derivative work from the photo.
Supporting Our Photographers
While it’s important to our mission that our collection of visual language remains accessible, we also believe in fairly compensating photographers for their work. We’ve restricted the free level to a 1 megapixel photo with embedded attribution, and limited commercial and editing privileges to the highest paid level to ensure that when a user needs those benefits, they are fairly compensating the photographer. Photographers earn royalties of 60% from each direct sale of their photo on our platform. We have also restricted all advertising use of our photos to encourage fairly paying photographers and models for work made for advertising purposes.
Protecting the People Who Appear in Photos
This is just the beginning. We are busy building a new icon and photo upload interface and improving our curation tools to accommodate a higher volume of icons and photos. In the meantime, we are working with a community of pre-selected photographers to develop the collection. If you are interested in working with us to build a more equitable visual language, let us know here if you are a photographer and here to be represented in photos.
Our work is not done, and we look forward to growing the collection with our community.