© 2020 Elsevier LtdCommunication of climate-responsive urban design guidelines is becoming increasingly relevant in the light of climate adaptation challenges in cities. Widespread uptake in practice of such guidelines can be promoted by visualizations of the principles on which they are based. The “Really cooling water bodies in cities” research project developed and tested the required knowledge on visual communication. Evidence-based design guidelines assisting designers with creating cooler urban water environments were developed and communicated with 3D animations. The animations were shaped according to three core theoretical criteria about visual representations: “visual clarity”, “trust” and “interest”. We assessed in how far these criteria were met in an inquiry with design professionals, the target group of the design guidelines. The article concludes with recommendations for developing visual design guidelines in climate-responsive urban design: to weigh the level of detail, components and balance between site-specificity/abstraction (“visual clarity”); to make microclimatic processes visible without distorting them (“trust”); and to keep timing short and visual attractiveness high (“interest”). It is argued that taking these aspects into account and setting a clear correspondence between theoretical concepts, representation objectives and options, can largely benefit visual design guidelines communicating climate-responsive urban design knowledge.