Social cause advertising is not your traditional advertising

A framework for designing social change


  • Rafaella Maria Lakeridou PhD student
  • Christos Karpasitis


Social cause advertising, Graphic design elements, Graphic design


When designing advertisements, designers use a framework created by principles (guidelines) that form the foundation of the design. However, based on the literature, designers apply existing graphic design frameworks in social cause advertising without acknowledging that such advertisements differ from traditional advertising. These advertisements are designed not to promote a brand name but to influence the public and attempt to change social behaviour towards a cause. When designing for social change, designers should differentiate their advertisements and apply a tailored framework with the most effective and influential graphic design elements. Although some academic studies exist on how advertising can initiate social change, further investigation is needed on which graphic design elements are the most effective. Such research can add new knowledge to the multidisciplinary fields of graphic design and advertising and to the existing literature. This paper describes how social cause advertising differs from traditional advertising and presents the need for a graphic design framework for out-of-home social cause advertising. The objective is to identify graphic elements that can be applied specifically in the design of out-of-home social cause advertisements and build a tailored framework. The research followed a mixed methods approach: quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (interviews) data. The findings indicated that specific graphic design elements (like monochromatic colour schemes, geometric shapes, etc.) can be applied in social cause advertising to build a tailored framework targeting different age groups/genders. Such findings lead towards more public engagement and action towards the social cause advertised; but also add new knowledge to existing research, which suggests that elements like image and typography are the most effective visualization techniques. This research is part of a PhD in Graphic Design inspired by social cause advertisements. The researchers, who lost a loved one due to ischaemic stroke, devote this research to create awareness for different social causes and design for social change.




How to Cite

Lakeridou, R. M., & Karpasitis, C. (2022). Social cause advertising is not your traditional advertising: A framework for designing social change. DISCERN: International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 3(2), 58–78. Retrieved from