How to Make Call-to-Action Infographics

The call-to-action infographic is a type of graphic that partially illustrates a point, but also has a larger job: to incite readers to action. A visual representation of a problem can make the problem feel more understandable and immediate than words alone, which is why nonprofit agencies and charities use these types of graphics frequently to solicit donations or get people involved in their cause.

Because the underlying goal of a call-to-action infographic is to get people to act, the information you select and how you organize it needs to be tailored to that purpose. That makes the call-to-action graphic slightly different than graphics created, say, to go with a newspaper article.

Where the thesis of a news graphic might be implied but not stated outright, the thesis of a call-to-action infographic will usually be spelled out prominently. A strong call-to-action infographic also tends to dispense with nuance in favor of a blunt, direct approach.

Your call-to-action is your focal point

In a call-to-action infographic, you’ll likely want the appeal to the reader to be the center of attention. The first place your readers’ eyes should go is to the call that directs them to act. Think of it this way: If you have your readers’ eyes for only a second, you want the message they walk away with to be, “Go! Act!”

The data you present now falls into more of a supporting role: It helps convince the reader to act. The design elements we mention earlier — real estate, location, and colors — are very important as you design your call-to-action and any charts you’re including.

Maximize your impact with minimum information

A call-to-action infographic needs to convey its message as quickly and briefly as possible.

The point, again, isn’t to provide a nuanced view of a complex topic, but to prompt the reader to act.

As an example, say you have a client combatting poverty in a particular city, and you have a dataset showing the gradual increase over the past 20 years in that city’s poverty rate. You could show that rate with a fever line — a line that charts the change in a single value over time.

The figure below shows a fever line on the left. Or you could create a full bar chart, but that’s not ideal for this information because the gradual increase won’t look dramatic.

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The best option for this graphic is using a bar chart with just two bars (shown on the right in the figure above): the first showing the percentage of the population living in poverty for the first year of the dataset, and the second showing the same population in the last year of the dataset.

(You may want to experiment with your visuals to see which approach is most effective in your situation.) The rise in poverty will be stark and instantly apparent, making the need to act more urgent. You can see the difference between the two approaches in the figure above, and you achieve that impact by actually cutting all the data in between and using visuals to emphasize the change.

Favor individual stories over statistics

Research shows that appealing to people’s emotions rather than their intellects is more effective in getting them to act, and stories about individuals tap into readers’ emotions more powerfully than statistics. The reason is that statistics are abstract. They deal with people and events en masse. But individuals, including the ones you’re trying to incite to action, don’t identify with whole populations: They identify with other individuals.

The point is particularly apt if you’re creating a graphic for a nonprofit or charity that’s soliciting donations. Showing readers the plight of a nation in charts doesn’t generate the same response as showing them the plight of one identifiable victim.

In fact, a 2007 study by a University of Pennsylvania professor was titled “Sympathy and callousness: The impact of deliberative thought on donations to identifiable and statistical victims.

The researchers found that even including statistical information beside the story of an identifiable victim resulted in fewer donations. The takeaway: Charitable giving isn’t based on reason, so appealing to reason won’t work. Avoid the head (logic); go right for the heart (emotion), as shown in this figure.

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