“These Vanguardians are the visionary leaders, entrepreneurs and public figures fostering global citizenship. And they are having an impact on imagery.”

After analyzing data from millions of licensed images and tracking trends in how they are used, a few things become clear.

We’re beginning to see the impact of a generation born digital – with a different set of visual expectations. But we’re also seeing brands who challenge the status quo, defying old practices and increasingly building social good into their business models.

A recent GCC study found that 73 percent of millennials believe the government can’t solve today’s issues alone and 83 percent want to see corporations actively involved in making the world a better place. As such, more people are turning to brands to help solve social and environmental issues, and at the same time, brands are using new technologies to increase transparency and embrace communal participation.

People also are using social media to fundraise in new ways, with #GivingTuesday on Twitter and the Ice Bucket Challenge raising millions on Facebook.

We call this movement The Vanguardians. It’s one of the key trends predicted by Getty Images visual anthropologists for 2015, based on their quantitative and qualitative research.

Who are they?

These Vanguardians are the visionary leaders, entrepreneurs and public figures fostering global citizenship. And they are having an impact on imagery. Getty Images has seen the search term “social responsibility” rise by 73% over the past five years, as more brands opt to recalculate the idea of success to include value beyond the purely commercial.

Here are some of the key points and brands that are helping to define the Vanguardians trend:

1. Transparency

Today, consumers want to see what brands are up to behind the scenes, and want to know that purchasing from them is somehow contributing to a better world.

TOMS is a recognized leader in this regard, donating a pair of shoes for each pair bought, while H&M continues its ethical venture with dosomething.org to promote global textile recycling.

Meanwhile Patagonia is even encouraging customers to hold onto their old items until completely worn.

Watch Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear Stories’ that offers a look at the lifestyles of the adventurers re-wearing Patagonia:

These brands focus on leaving a legacy and doing good now, so that future generations can benefit.

2. Empowerment

Brands are shifting away from showing people who look hopeless and in desperate need. Instead, they are using positive and empowering visuals to illustrate charitable work.

Brands such as Prudential and the Co-operative Bank represent the charitable beneficiaries as skillful and looking toward a brighter future.

Take a look at the latest ad from The Co-operative Bank:

Another good example is the Ikea campaign – in which they collaborate with the United Nations to provide 10,000 flat pack homes. 

3. Tech Cares

Tech companies are getting involved, too, and creating products that are a conduit for care and healing.

Intel’s ”Look Inside” campaign builds 4D hands and arms, showing technology morphing with nature for a better world.

Similarly Skype’s ”Turning the Tide” campaign shows their technology being used to help fight the effects of climate change on the island of Kiribati.

These brands are using technology to marry compassion and innovation.

4. Volunteerism

People are taking more responsibility for their communities and sites such as ‘Do it be more’ are helping people find ways to volunteer.

In fact, at Getty Images, over the past 5 years, licenses of images containing the key word, “volunteerism” have risen 91.3 percent.

We’re seeing this visualized in advertising with images of people rolling up their sleeves, getting dirty and pictures of groups coming together to support their neighborhood.

This Microsoft ad is a great example, showing how one woman is helping to connect vulnerable kids with Microsoft technology:

5. Entrepreneurs

Vanguardians ignore outdated hierarchical systems, office politics and established rules. They seek out innovative channels to find their inspiration and also to improve at their craft.

Whether they are individuals or part of an innovative team, they have lofty ideals, an openness to alternative methods and a drive to make a difference.

We’ve seen images with the “entrepreneur” keyword rise 33% over the past five years – not surprising given this trend.

Watch how ANZ Australia showcases innovators in the ‘Welcome to Your World, Your Way’ campaign:

Meanwhile, Apple shows how they’re giving entrepreneurs the tools to innovate:

These visuals show determined individuals with the grit, skill and optimism required to invent a better world.

This is an exciting time when the images we create and use to visualize The Vanguardians can be used to inspire and encourage them. Just as brands and individuals can use their power for good, powerful imagery can also be used as an agent for change.

Explore more visuals that embody the Vanguardians trend on Getty Images