The Kindness Calendar is the brain child of an innovative charity called People United. They work with artists, academics, and activists, to help make a difference in the world through the Arts, by growing kindness, and a sense of common humanity and empathy. People United wanted a site to document their impact on people, as told through story submissions, but which could also itself become a catalyst for good.
Portraying acts of kindness often runs into the problem of appearing overly sentimental or saccharine, which can appear patronising and thereby reduce its impact. The challenge then was to present stories in a way that maintained integrity and commitment at their core, so that this would then help inspire further action. With this in mind, we defined four themes (Giving, Witnessed, Received and Challenged) to help bring focus to the submitted stories by connecting them under an umbrella. With the public submission of stories, a strong moderation platform was also needed, that would be simple to use and low on admin time.
The guiding principle that informed the core design of the project was the four themes. I designed a unique franking style mark for each one, suggesting a sense of achievement in an ongoing journey. The practical, almost industrial aesthetic also kept integrity present, avoiding sentimentality. With the potential for thousands of stories to be documented, it was vital to ensure casual browsing could be fast and engaging. Building on Wordpress meant we had an array of functions at our disposal to sort and display content in a number of interesting ways. The development of a one-click moderation queue also meant the admin could sort through batches of submissions in mere seconds.
The franking marks were designed to replicate those found on mail, passports or legally binding documents – all places where the symbol indicates journeys, commitments or gifts. Strong functional typefaces were used to maintain the plain-spoken format and also help legibility at small sizes. As with traditional date stamping, a monospaced font was used for the punch of the date stamp on the franking mark. Angling the date stamp helped give an authenticity that people would immediately recognise.
Breaking away from standard chronological listing, I designed a page format that displays the stories in different way: each story is represented as a simple dot on a grid, encouraging users to explore randomly, rather than by title or image. As the calendar fills up with submissions, there is also the possibility for correlations to appear on the page, as patterns emerge between times of the year (the location on the grid) and types of story (the colours of the dots).
A simple submission process
As with any platform that is built on user-submitted content, a frictionless submission process was the top priority. It was vital the form did not intimidate users either in its length or format. With this in mind, I split the form into two separate stages, maintaining the design style of the rest of the website, using graphically led radio buttons, custom checkboxes and upload fields.
To help People United with future campaigns and monitoring engagement, the form gives users the choice to opt into various mailing lists, integrating with Mailchimps API and adding details to a variety of different People United mailing lists.