There are a number of reasons why using images is a good idea with your consultations, ranging from the obvious (they look nice), to the not so obvious (they can help people to remember things).

Micro camera on a workspace

This image is from Morgue File


From an aesthetic point of view it’s always wise to incorporate images alongside your text; not only do they help to break up the page, but they also add some much needed ‘eye candy’ to what can often be a dreary text-heavy affair. When was the last time you visited a webpage that didn’t contain a single image? Exactly. Your consultations needn’t be any different.


Ok so here’s the interesting part – using images on your consultations may even help people to remember the content of your consultation. According to the picture superiority effect, effective use of visuals such as graphical illustrations or photos can make your web pages more memorable. This is because the human brain is better at remembering concrete concepts (such as images) than abstract concepts (such as text). It’s a proven technique used in a wide range of applications, such as foreign language learning tools, and various forms of advertising.

Types of image

Now all this talk of images doesn’t mean you should go away and start adding random pictures to your consultations – they need to be carefully chosen. Some image types serve more of a purpose than others, so let me run you through a few examples.

By Sunil060902 via Wikimedia Commons

Concrete images

Concrete images are literal representations of the textual content on a webpage, and are probably the most common type of image you’ll come across on the web. Also known as ‘familiar objects’, they can help users to remember the contents of a consultation through familiarity. An example of a concrete image would be to display a picture of trains at a platform if you were running a consultation on proposed changes to your local train station.

An image from Morgue File doesn't require attribution.

Abstract images

Abstract images, or metaphors, can often be used to replace concrete images when there is no obvious (or literal) image to choose from. They are popular amongst designers because of their ability to help users to remember new information, and are a proven mnemonic device. An example of an abstract image is the well-known use of a light-bulb to represent a new idea.

By User:Booyabazooka via Wikimedia Commons


Diagrams come in many different forms, but essentially their job is to provide a graphical representation of information. They also have many different uses: for example, bar charts are great for comparing data; line graphs can help users understand trends; connecting lines can help users understand relationships; flow charts can depict processes; and so on. In the world of consultation, diagrams can be incredibly useful and I would recommend using them whenever you want to display statistical information (you can see them being used directly within Citizen Space if you were to download one of our Summary Reports).

No attribution is required for this image.


Maps are most commonly used to depict a geographical location and should play a prominent role in consultations run by transport or housing departments. They do however have other uses: statistical maps (such as heat maps) can represent different factors, such as population levels, mobile phone coverage, or crime rates.

Where do I get my images?

My first answer to this would be, ‘not Google!’ It’s all too easy to type in a search term and choose the first decent image that comes up in the results, but if you do this and add the image to a public consultation you will more than likely be breaking the law – you have been warned!

Don’t let that scare you off though. There are many places you can go online to source your images, and some of them are free. Have a look at the following excellent resources:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation set up to help people find and use media (such as images, videos, and music) on websites without the worry of copyright infringement.

You can use their search facility to browse popular online image resources for images which are tagged with the Creative Commons license. This includes huge image libraries available on Flickr, Google, and Wikimedia Commons.

Now although this means you’re very likely to be able to use an image, you might have to include some form of attribution to the rightful owner. It’s very easy to check if this is necessary – just look for license information alongside the image, and read what it says – you can see relevant attribution alongside images we’ve used in this blog post. Here’s a useful step-by-step guide on how to include attribution with your images.

Free image libraries

There are many free image libraries available online for you to find images. Once again, attribution may be required, so check the details of the image. Morgue File and Free Digital Photos are two such image libraries.

Paid-for image libraries

If you can’t find a suitable image using either of the free resources above, then you’re bound to find one using one of the Web’s many paid-for image libraries. They are chock-full of hundreds of thousands of professional quality images, including illustrations, diagrams, and photos, and are an essential tool to many web designers. Prices can vary, depending on the type of image you need, but they even have royalty-free sections where you won’t need to pay a penny (read the license info though!). iStock Photo, Shutterstock, and Getty Images are three of the more popular resources.

Last, but by no means least, you should ask your organisation’s web services team! They may have their own bank of images which are free to use, and no attribution will be required. Failing that, they might already have an account on one of the services listed above which might make sourcing an image easier for you.

How do I use my image on Citizen Space?

The first thing you need to do is determine where you want to place your image. Will it appear on its own, with text displayed above and beneath, or do you want your image to appear to the left or right of the text? This decision should help you determine what size your image should be.

Images downloaded from one of the resources mentioned above will very likely be too large to use at first, so have a read of our handy guide to resizing images to ensure you end up with something that works.

When you’ve resized your image, you’ll need to get it added to your consultation. This is a quick and easy process, and you can read all about it in our Knowledge Base article, but if you’re unsure what to do, or you have further questions, then get in touch with our Support Team by emailing They’re always happy to help.