Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman are judging Print’s Regional Design Annual this year! Enter today for a chance to be featured among the country’s best design work in Print magazine.
When Timothy Goodman first reached out to Print about his latest “super secret project” with Jessica Walsh, we knew we were in for something big. After all, their 40 Days of Dating adventure—first a blog, then a book—quickly expanded well beyond the scope of the design industry into a cultural phenomenon.
Walsh and Goodman’s latest undertaking, 12 Kinds of Kindness, which launched just this morning, embarks on a similarly intimate and surprisingly daunting mission: “to become kinder, more empathetic people” by looking inward, outward and forward in 12 steps, carried out over 12 months.
“Realizing that we’re two self-centered millennials, often focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s around us, we created a series of 12 steps as a way to become kinder, more empathetic people,” Goodman wrote to me in an email. “Based on 12-step programs designed to change behaviors, we took a vow to complete this 12-month resolution, one step per month. We’ve also designed the experiment so that others can participate too. It’s sort of a modern day, non-religious way that anyone can attempt to improve their lives and become kinder.”
Like 40 Days of Dating, this latest project is rich in both design and story. Each step is chronicled on 12kindsofkindness.com, a remarkable web experience featuring a striking visual blend of video, motion graphics and hand-lettered elements. Walsh and Goodman’s vivid, surreal aesthetics fuse familiarly into a site that feels curiously isolating and immersive. Visitors are presented immediately with the 12 steps and left to venture into each one like a series of rooms.
The “12 Kinds of Kindness” are prompted by common idioms such as “Go Big or Go Home,” “Pay it Forward” and “Forgive & Forget”—phrases we use often but rarely put into practice. Goodman and Walsh look critically and boldly at each one in search of perspective and empathy.
The steps are prefaced by short audio-video illustrations that convey both humor and an artistic interpretation of humanity’s struggles. Almost like a choose-your-own-adventure story, each step prompts visitors to choose between Walsh’s story or Goodman’s—though, of course, reading through one leaves you hungry for the other. The stories themselves are highly introspective, but also offer remarkable insight into the shared human experience. Peppered with animated illustrations and often punctuated by videos of their social experiments, each story digs into mindful interactions with others.
In “Can I Help You?” Walsh and Goodman ask strangers on the streets of New York City how they can help them. Amid a series of small acts of kindness—from giving strangers directions to simply hearing their stories—they seek to turn apathy into empathy.
Wrapping up this first step, they invite visitors to participate in the project—and to use the artwork and quotes in the story (all of which can be found on the 12 Kinds of Kindness Tumblr) to share on social with the hashtag #12kindsofkindness.
Walsh and Goodman gave Print a peek at the stories to come. I don’t want to spoil too much just yet, but some of the stories to come are simply extraordinary, while others are intensely emotional and, occasionally, brutally difficult to read.
While the project will certainly interest design enthusiasts and current Walsh and Goodman fans, it offers plenty to the uninitiated as well. Case in point: My design-indifferent husband initially glanced at the site and dismissed it as “hipster bullshit,” but it wasn’t long before he was gazing raptly over my shoulder at my laptop screen. An hour later, I found him scrolling through 12 Kinds of Kindness on his phone.
In case you’re keen for a look at what’s to come, Goodman shared a brief overview of some of the steps you’ll see in the coming days. Fair warning—spoilers ahead:
Forgive & Forget
“We faced someone who hurt us in the past to see if we can let go of the pain or misunderstanding. Timothy’s father abandoned him at birth and he’s never met him before. We tracked down his father and Tim met him for the first time.”
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
“Psychologists say until you learn to love yourself and forgive yourself for things you’ve done in the past, you can’t be kind to others. Jessica is going to open up and face her past struggles with anorexia, self-harm and suicide attempts as a teenager.”
“We took a major personal insecurity of ours and faced it head on. Jessica has an extreme fear of becoming a mother herself, so she did a trial period for parenting and attempted to take care of children by herself for a week. Tim is extremely insecure about going bald one day, so he shaved his head down to the scalp.”
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
“We participated in the liveliness of people we judge the most. Jessica does not understand extremely religious people, so she went to church, joined Scientology, and went to a Buddhist center for a few months.”
If you were at HOW Design Live last year, you experienced the magic of Jessica Walsh’s keynote speech. Don’t miss HDL 2016 in Atlanta—including an exceptional presentation from Walsh’s partner, Stefan Sagmeister. Register today.