Thomas Graham, Sarah-Faye Meyer, William Taylor 2 William Taylor Sarah-Faye Meyer Thomas Graham

  • Tauira / Students
    William Taylor, Sarah-Faye Meyer, Thomas Graham
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Tammie Leong, Don Chooi, Pritika Y. Lal, Jim Murray
  • School
    Media Design School

‘Ko’ is a conceptual practice addressing loneliness afflicted by the pandemic lockdowns on a communal level. It is an outreach program which utilises a variety of mediums such as digital and print, to carry the message of empathy, kindness and understanding in the community. Loneliness is commonly defined as “a state of solitude or being alone”, however, research suggests it is much more than this. Rather, it is an emotional reaction to perceived isolation, which makes it more difficult to form meaningful connections with others. This project hopes to create bridges between individuals in the community.

For many, COVID-19 lockdowns have heightened feelings of isolation and depression. They have also raised sensitivities around what it feels like to be isolated and with limited, if any, companionship. We are more aware of the personal situations of those around us, and with messages asking for empathy and kindness dominating our social media feeds and TV screens, we’re reminded to look out for those who are struggling. The challenge was to design and develop a strategy that addresses the issue of loneliness brought about by these lockdowns.

‘Ko’ is a conceptual platform designed to create connections within communities. ‘Ko’ acts as a facilitator for companionship, connecting like-minded individuals and thus creating thoughtful conversations, the sharing of ideals and shareable, poignant moments. ‘Ko’ helps to instil a sense of purpose among its participants and foster feelings of acceptance and belonging – fundamental human needs which help alleviate feelings of loneliness. A mobile app and a series of print collateral, such as posters and newspaper inclusions, were developed to engage the community at all levels.

The name ‘Ko’ derives from Māori, which carries the meaning “to sing (of birds)”, and “to resound”. The project is branded thus to signify users calling out to one another and connecting with others outside of their comfort zone. Thematically, the project provides a refreshing experience that is an antidote to mainstream social media apps. The design tone is curated to be neutral and non-confrontational, using language that is welcoming and exudes warmth. The typography, colour palette and accompanying illustration style lend to the overall design experience. The app design is developed to be intuitive and caters to a wide section of the community, while giving focus to the target audience. Print mediums are used to place marketing messaging to direct the target audience to the online platform.

This is a social project that seeks participation out of consideration for the wellbeing of others, be it neighbours, family, friends or strangers. It works to benefit the community by creating bridges that lead to meaningful conversations and social interaction, especially post-lockdown where communities attempt to recover from the effects of isolation. ‘Ko’ engages in a design-led approach, where considerations for user experience and interaction were taken into account for a greater level of comfort and ease of use. This project works in tandem with the government’s messaging of treating each other with kindness and empathy within the community.