I’ve engaged with the literal word zeal because I often participate in a bi-weekly Design Thinking Zeal community. The community showcases a zebra for its branding so I brainstormed alternatives to illustrating that animal.
The word’s meaning encompasses enthusiasm or determination, so I thought about the following imagery: sparks, leaps, mountains, wings, and a candle burning at both ends. Knowing that zeal is a word for a group of zebras, I explored other animal collectives.
When I combined the imagery of a mountain with goats, I thought I had a winning image. As I researched goats, they expressed less zeal than I thought. So I looped back to the concept of zebras and found these words associated with its personality: passionate, dynamic, determined. Zebras are social which I associate with zeal. Fun fact: a zeal of zebras is also called a dazzle. The final illustration hopefully illustrates zeal (and perhaps some dazzle).
I had a funny observation as I reflected on the word’s meaning. A lot of personality tests I’ve taken, have an aspect of zeal to them. According to the MBTI, I’m a Campaigner and in the Predictive Index world, I’m a Promoter.
The word zeal is often used in a religious context. While that connotation doesn’t personally resonate, I identify with the passion and persistence embodied by the word. That inspired an idea around building something like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Starting up a new religion seemed like too much work at the end of another pandemic year.
Enthusiasm is contagious. What if I expressed zeal for Zs? I could make a bunch of projects featuring words that start with the letter z: zigzag, zest, zebra, zipper, zeitgeist, zany, zero, zodiac, zing, zombie, zenith, zeal, zip, zoom…
Inspired by the results of Alpha Quests, where volunteers completed projects for the letters T-Y, I thought about evolving that experience. As someone fully committed to Alpha Projects for the entire year, I found two weeks to be an achievable yet challenging timeframe for completing projects. That said, I did fall off schedule a couple of times. More important, I noticed each of the six participants in Alpha Quests turned in their projects and write-ups after a two-week deadline but within a month.
Given the value Alpha Quests participants expressed, I conceived Alpha Month, a cohort-based creative experience where 26 people would each complete an alphabet-inspired project in under 30 days. I decided to make a landing page to validate the product idea. Some decisions I made:
- Built in intentional friction. I captured emails instead of sales through the site; with only 26 people in a cohort, I want to personally vet anyone who signs up to ensure each person has a positive experience with the program.
- Leveraged scarcity for intimacy. The alphabet has 26 letters so it’s an inherently limited cohort. It’s also a good size for creating connections among each other.
- Incorporated a testimonial to build trust. I excerpted a heartfelt email I received from a participant in Alpha Quest as a testimonial.
- Developed limited branding and design. I’m not sure yet if the program has a market so I wanted enough design to be pleasing but not perfect. After using Carrd for the first time on the S project, I used my subscription with another template.
- Incorporated color in bold ways. I made a hero graphic showcasing all of the Alpha Projects illustrations. For each section of the landing page, I incorporated color. Finally, I added a bit of zeal to the page with a found confetti GIF I edited.
Here’s what the site looks like:
When I opened up letters for others to do their own version of an Alpha Projects, I kept the letter Z for myself to have the last word. As I approached working on the letter Z, I’ve decided this isn’t quite the last word. Or rather, while it’s the last word of Alpha Projects, I’m actually adding one more project to the site: an afterword and a colophon. You can expect more reflections there.
As someone who’s been exploring web3, I may evolve this project and create what I would call a “maker” NFT or a cohort POAP. I want to get the Alpha Month experience right before I adding another layer of technology. If a project like that excites you, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
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