Five key principles when designing for action

Drawing from our work on, here are a few design principles you can apply to spur movement on behalf of your cause.

January 26, 2023
Marcus, Program Director at Beyond, leads our long standing partnership with The California Department of Public Health.
5 min read
5 min read
January 26, 2023
Marcus, Program Director at Beyond, leads our long standing partnership with The California Department of Public Health.

The mission behind UNDO could not be clearer: to undo the damage – poison, pollution, and prejudice – done by the tobacco industry. And the stakes could not be higher.

With literal lives in the balance, we recognized we had a responsibility to work with the California Department of Public Health to design so that it quickly built trust and spurred real-world action.

Here are five key principles we followed to make good on our goals that you can apply, too.

1. Conduct research

Seek out best practices, look up what others in the sector are doing, and speak directly to the people you’re trying to reach. Take what you learn and use it to shape how you present your cause.

In the case of, we connected with diverse communities in California, particularly those most affected by Big Tobacco’s predatory advertising practices. We looked for insights the could help us better accomplish our aims for the site, which were to:

  • Educate Californians about the urgency of this cause.
  • Inspire the public to learn why it’s relevant — and imperative — for them to stand against the tobacco industry.
  • Invigorate new supporters with a sense of agency through easy-to-take actions.
A group of coworkers having a meeting

2. Build empathy

Ask yourself: Who am I trying to reach? What do they care about? How does that connect with what I’m asking them to do? Having answers to these questions can help you home in on the most motivated individuals in your audience and design for them.

“It’s important to remind yourself that your cause is competing against a lot of other urgent and important causes, and people can only give attention to so many things. Having that baseline level of empathy can help your work better resonate with the people already connected to your cause, as well as those still trying to figure out where to place their time, energy, and resources.”

Marcus Chairez

Growth Director, Program

When you empathize with people, you realize how important it is to communicate a compelling sense of urgency and give clear ways people can support your cause.

3. Use logic and emotion

When it comes to content on a site, the most effective approach often incorporates a balance of logical and emotional appeals.

When designing, we incorporated a healthy amount of research and data — our logical appeals – to show the measurable negative effects of the tobacco industry and build credibility. But we balanced that with our emotional appeal, showing imagery of communities negatively affected by tobacco and highlighting the positive outcomes of people taking action in line with the UNDO initiative’s goals.

Make it your aim — as we did with — to have people walk away from your site saying:

  • “I understand how this cause impacts me”
  • “I understand why this needs action now”
  • “I know what I can do to help”
A screen grab of the website

4. Lead people to ask the right questions

The best sites, apps, and experiences incorporate messaging that inspires people to ask the right questions and challenge their assumptions.

As we developed the messaging for, we wanted people to come to their own conclusions about tobacco harm, not just take our word for it. So, we sorted our messages into three buckets that would (1) anticipate key questions, (2) allow people to find answers as they browsed, and (3) help people develop a sense of agency.

We were inspired by the work of Dan Rothstein, founder of Right Question Institute, who says:

“Agency begins with being able to ask your own questions and continues with the ability to participate in decisions that affect you wherever and whenever they are made.”

Dan Rothstein

Founder of Right Question Institute

5. Give everyone a way to take action

Once your audience moves from simply wanting to learn about your cause to wanting to participate in it, the most effective strategy to get people to act is providing a lot of different ways to get involved.

The people who visit come to the site for a wide variety of reasons — some care most about lessening the tobacco industry’s environmental impact, while others are most motivated by lessening the industry’s influence on children and communities of colour. And, as with any cause, people have various motivation levels to take action. So, it was important that we let people know that they can take all sorts of action at varying levels of effort, from sending a tweet to writing a letter to joining an anti-tobacco coalition.

“Our UX strategy for involved designing pathways to connect with people at all levels of motivation,” Marcus says. “If you are a visitor that is highly motivated to act, we want to make that process obvious and easy. But if you’re time-poor or need more convincing, we want taking quick action or to go on an educational journey to be just as simple.”

A screengrab of the website. There is a family siting on a couch. It reads 'Protect what you love'.

These five key principles have helped thousands take meaningful action on As you design for your own cause, keep them in mind to motivate people to care and empower them to act.

Read the case study to explore the site in greater detail and learn more about an important cause.