Designing for Kindness in the Face of COVID-19

The United Nations and World Health Organization recognizes the critical role of designers, communicators and creatives of all types in managing the many health communication design challenges of the COVID-19 epidemic. That’s why, in late March, they issued a joint call for creative work in response to six key messaging areas: 1) Personal Hygiene, 2) Physical Distancing, 3) Know the Symptoms 4) Kindness Contagion 5) Myth-Busting and 6) Do More, Donate. This caught the attention of a group of colleagues from design and health fields, and a diverse team of designers, strategists and healthcare practitioners quickly formed—including Neha Agarwal (Design Lead at Think Company), Lauren Dougherty (Director of Design + UX at FS Investments), Christine Fajardo (Product Design Lead at Liberty Mutual Insurance), Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel (Program Director of MS Health Communication Design / Assistant Provost), MaryLou Manning, PhD, RN (Professor of Nursing at Jefferson), Kim Mollo, OTD, OTR/L (Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Jefferson), Natalie Nixon, PhD (Owner at Figure8Thinking), and Beth Shirrell (Program Director/Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Communication at Jefferson). With only a small window of time, the group relied on their professional expertise, collaborative spirit, and purpose-driven motivations in order to ideate, prototype, and finalize the concept.

From the UN’s 6 messaging themes, the group chose to focus on “kindness contagion” resulting in the creation of a global campaign called Kindness Wednesday. The goal of this effort is simple, yet powerful—to prompt recurring acts of kindness on Wednesdays. In the words of David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief, “these are days to stock up on compassion.” The COVID-19 pandemic is a systemic problem that requires a holistic solution. The Kindness Wednesday initiative’s focus on emotional and social drivers prompts more people to adopt functional directives (e.g., social distancing and washing hands).

Kindness Maker

The Kindness Maker helps you easily create acts of kindness. It sparks kindness in a fun and repeatable way.

Participants in the Kindness Wednesday movement are encouraged to make kindness intentional and visible by sharing the stories of their kindness acts on social media using #kindnessWednesday and by joining the growing community in the Kindness Wednesday Facebook group. Members can also show their commitment to kindness with a Kindness Wednesday profile frame. The Kindness Wednesday creators are supporting this community with tools to help both generate kindness concepts and share the results.

The Kindness Wednesday campaign is designed to have impact and longevity beyond COVID-19—empowering people to see one another more compassionately through support, encouragement, and community.

Please join the Kindness Wednesday Facebook group to learn more, join the conversation and see the project evolve!


Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel

Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel is an assistant provost, associate professor and founding director of the Master of Science in Health Communication Design program at Thomas Jefferson University […]

Beth Shirrell

Beth holds degrees in Visual Communication Design (a BFA from the University of Dayton) and Graphic and Interactive Design (an MFA from Tyler School of […]

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