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Quantifying our will to create

Editor’s Note: This article is included in our new e-book, The Rise of the Visual Creators. To download click here.

While the will to create is nothing new, the size and velocity of the visual creative explosion is.

This year, 123 photos will be taken per person on Earth. In 2000, that ratio was 14:1. In 1996, it was 9:1.

In May 2013 it was estimated that 500M images were being shared per day. One year later, that number had grown by 260%  to 1.8B images shared per day; 75M photos an hour, 1.25M photos a minute, 20.8K a second.

One of the primary catalysts for this massive growth in creation is the advent of the smartphone.

In 2009, only 11% of all picture-taking devices were smartphones. In 2014, there will be an estimated 2.31B picture-taking devices sold, and for the first time ever, over 50% will be smartphones. From 2013 to the end of 2014, analysts are projecting a 23% year-over-year increase in smartphone sales.

But devices are only part of the story. Instagram, launched in 2010, has stayed true to its original mission of making “mobile photos fast, simple & beautiful.” Other mobile-first visual platforms followed suit, and in 2013, all of the eight fastest-growing mobile apps in the world were visual in nature.


Instagram has amassed 200M users, who generate 60M photos and receive 1.6 billion likes per day.

From 2013 to 2014, Instagram adoption jumped from 13% to 17% of online adults in the U.S., while curation-centric Pinterest rose from 15% to 21%.


Facebook and Twitter were not originally visual platforms. Early Twitter was powered by SMS (mobile text messages) to such an extent that it “produced a monthly bill for the company approaching six figures.” Today, tweets with image links get twice the engagement rate of those without, as well as a 35% retweet boost. Perhaps most tellingly,  eight of the top ten most favorited posts of all time contain images, led by Ellen’s famous Twitter-crashing celebrity selfie.

After adding photo galleries in 2005, Facebook quickly became a de facto visual platform. By 2011, Facebook had catalogued 10,000 times as many photos as the Library of Congress. Currently, users post  7.5B photos each month, and 87% of shared posts from Facebook pages are photos.

Even the top brands on Instagram are absolutely buried by the visual creation capacity of consumers. For every photo posted by the most followed brands on Instagram, hundreds or even thousands of branded photos are posted by consumers.


The story these numbers tell didn’t begin with Instagram, or even the first camera phone. They simply tell a new chapter in a  story that stretches back to the Brownie camera, and really, to Gutenberg’s printing press. Humans build tools to express themselves better, to reach more people with what they create, and to empower others to do the same.

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