Nova Scotia designers offer up cheeky self-isolation calendars

Nova Scotia designers offer up cheeky self-isolation calendars

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the first shots are set to roll out, but public health precautions and quarantine periods are still going to be a way of life for many months.

As the co-founders of District Design Co. might say: “It is what it is.”

It is stories of self-isolation fatigue that inspired the creative minds at the Halifax-based company to launch a rather unique, of-the-moment side project: isolation calendars.

“We thought, you know what would be great, is create an advent calendar for self-isolation. It’s just so in line with the process. You’re home. You’re counting down the days,” said co-founder Gord Morrison, also the company’s director of product design and environments.

The calendars are brightly coloured, carry bold sayings, with positive messages inside and enough calendar windows or flaps to carry you or a loved one – at one flap a day – through a two-week stint.

Morrison acknowledges the calendars are sarcastic and edgy in their comments, but hopes people with a darker sense of humour will see the joy and find their bit of relief through them.

District co-founder and creative director Tyson Hynes said they were created with real people in mind, with the understanding repeat periods of dutiful self-isolation have really challenged individuals and families.

He mentioned a friend who has spent almost two months in self-isolation over the course of 2020 and District clients who have shared their own struggles.

“So our thought was really what can we do to make that process just a little bit less painful and hopefully raise some money for a good cause while we’re doing it,” he said.

Morrison said the product itself came together quickly. It went from idea to an active company project between a Friday and a Monday.

“We brainstormed the content and the look and feel and we said let’s just produce it ourselves,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll sell some and be able to raise a little bit of money for mental health in Nova Scotia and just make people smile I guess.”

In seeing them for the first time, psychologist Janine Hubbard said she thought the calendars were “a brilliant idea,” but added gifters should just be sure going in that the recipient will appreciate the style.

The sarcasm won’t be a fit for everyone, but Hubbard said the calendars do fit alongside other products like playful adult colouring books with swear words, or games like Cards Against Humanity.

“It’s that same kind of humour. It’s that finding a way to relax a little bit with some dark humour, which quite frankly is a coping style for many,” she told Atlantic Business Magazine.

Generally speaking, she said the ongoing stress from COVID-19 is real and people might approach isolation in very different ways, but there’s no hard “right” or “wrong” approach.

It is a good idea to check in with yourself during required isolation periods, she said, to be sure you are avoiding “maladaptive coping strategies” like excessive drinking and poor eating, developing harmful habits.

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out.

In the meantime, if it’s just about that standard stretch required on turnaround, or the university student who has to self-isolate before enjoying the holidays with family, maybe a quarantine calendar gets a chuckle.

The calendars are priced at $26, selling online and offline at the Biscuit General Store in Halifax and direct through District Design Co. A portion of each sale (all profits after covering production and retail costs are covered) will be going to support mental health programming and outreach.

There’s no standing partnership, but Hynes said the company plans to approach the Mental Health Association of Nova Scotia with the proceeds.

District’s bread and butter is not in retail product. The team can usually be found deep into work for clients on regular contracts and special projects. The company picked up a handful of gold awards at the 2019 ICE Awards (for creative excellence in Atlantic Canada), mainly for its work on the Fortune Doughnuts brand for Freak Lunchbox. It also was able to take home a Bronze Lion from the international Cannes Lions‘ “Change For Good” Hackathon, for an effort in partnership with Wunder Inc., for a campaign centred on using Amazon’s Alexa to walk users through water testing.

Despite COVID-19, Morrison said the company has fared fairly well.

“In our industry, the horizon for projects is not very far out at the best of times. We’re used to only having a window into what we’re doing a few months in advance for the most part. So for us there’s always kind of an ‘OK, so we’ll see what happens in the next few months,’” he said.

But keep those vaccines coming.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Call Any Day, Any Time:

24-Hour Mental Health Lines

Nova Scotia: 1-888-429-8167

New Brunswick: 1-800-667-5005      

Prince Edward Island: 1-800-218-2885

Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-888-737-4668

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