The power of love: 10 evocative ways to depict compassion in your work

Compassion is a difficult subject to depict well - but here Dan Rubin gives you 10 inspiring ways to represent us at our best.


Compassion represents the best of human nature – but it's a tricky emotion to evoke well in art and design work, as the line between showing it in a positive way and it coming over as soppy or silly is a fine one indeed.

So here leading creative director and designer Dan Rubin has curated a library of Adobe Stock images that show the strength of compassion.

Image: #81673228 by Budimir Jevtic. Dan says "Our connection to animals in need, especially common pets, is incredible. This image makes me want to save the puppy from whatever cage it’s trapped within."

One key thing to bear in mind when working with compassion is how it balances with self-interest. Much of advertising and marketing is based on the latter – promoting the direct practical or emotional benefits to the viewer – but the power of love and other warm feelings for others shouldn't be underestimated (if targetted correctly). Family and friends are the most encompassing channels for this - but warm feelings for those in need (especially if those share a connection of some sort with the viewer) are a powerful driver too.

Image: #16594847 by Somwaya. Dan says "Children’s faces communicate so much, in such a pure, simple manner. People are more willing to take action when an emotional connection has been formed."


Adobe Stock tips

One of the best things about Adobe Stock is how it quick it is to use. We've all been there: you've got a few minutes to finish an important project for a client and you discover you need two additional images. Or, during sign-off, the client wants one of the photos changed – and pronto!

Adobe Stock is very much your friend here. You can open it from within the Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro or After Effects. Find exactly the photo, illustration or vectors you want from within Adobe Stock's 40 million stunning images, add it to a Library, and a watermarked comp version is automatically added within the Libraries panel of your CC software.

Add it to your project, get sign-off from your now ecstatically happy client, licence your image from within your application and the comp is automatically replaced with the high-res, non-watermarked stock image – and you're ready to go.

Image: #65857729 by Howgill. Dan says "Religion has a long history of promoting compassion for those in need or suffering. If appropriate for your audience, the symbolism can be incredibly strong."


Image: #73028491 by Pressmaster. Dan says "Hands are a powerful way to show a connection between two people — I like how this image has an editorial feel, as if it’s part of a caring conversation."


Image: #69963902 by Laura Rinder. Dan says "This image caught my attention immediately and I couldn’t look away — the stark contrast emphasise his expression, and make me want to ask how I can help."


Image: #85531650 by szmigieldesign. Dan says "Elephants show an amazing amount of compassion for each other — yet another lesson we can learn from the animal kingdom."


Image: #65185774 by Johan Larson. Dan says "We can tell if a model is trying to fake an emotion, and it interrupts our natural response — invest enough time to find images that feel honest."


Image: #34659200 by Larisa Kurasina. Dan says "We frequently use cats and dogs to represent our differences — as if they’re irreconcilable. Showing the two together, lovingly, creates a powerful visual metaphor."


Image: #45001567 by eyetronic. Dan says "Statues can be stoic, often devoid of emotion. But when they show sadness, despair, defeat, they are trapped in that state for eternity – a feeling we can relate to."


Image: #12141023 by Cheryl Casey. Dan says "As soon as I saw this image I was struck by how much emotion these stuffed bears manage to convey — facing away from the camera creates a private moment."