Published Issue 096, December 2021
This is an excerpt from a blog interview with Denver-based designer, Kelly O’Connell, creator of Kind & Funny.
Kind & Funny believes in the power of kindness, and not just kindness as individual gestures, but as an integral part of making the world a better place for everyone. They fuse together hilarious quips with an ingenious approach to gift-giving to produce one-of-a-kind compliment ribbons that’ll make you laugh, grin from ear-to-ear and love harder. We chatted with Kelly O’Connell, the brain behind the brand that we loved instantly, to learn more about the inspiration for the company and the art of being kind and funny.
We typically associate ribbons with awards or as an object that marks a victory of some kind. Why did you choose ribbons to get your message across?
Great question! I love the nostalgia of ribbons and the democratization of awarding ribbons. I remember growing up doing Field Day at school every year and whether I won the race or not, everybody got a ribbon! Obviously there were ribbons for first place and second place, but also there were ribbons awarded for best attitude and coolest strut, and everyone walked out of Field Day feeling AWESOME, on-top-of-the-world, empowered, and just plain happy!
That’s what I wanted to capture with Kind & Funny. I wanted adults to tap back into that childlike joy when giving a Kind & Funny ribbon to their friend, and also that elation of receiving one.
This project came to fruition during an incredibly difficult time in our history as a country and in all of our lives on a global scale. Did you feel a sense of urgency to create Kind & Funny because of everything we’ve been through collectively?
Absolutely! This concept was 100 percent conceived of all that was 2020 and beyond. After so much doomscrolling, months of living in fear of the worldwide pandemic, seeing the social injustices of the world, and frankly feeling inadequate to make any kind of substantive change, I was constantly questioning, “What can I possibly do to make this world a little bit nicer?”
Looking at the big picture was overwhelming for me, so I started to break it down into manageable steps I could make in my daily life to make a small difference in my little circle of the universe. I started telling the people in my life what they meant to me. Texting friends how their ability to pull off mom jeans was something to be celebrated or Slacking coworkers how much I appreciate their work ethic and admired how much they loved their cats. And it was in that practice of gratitude where I thought, “Hey, what if the whole world started being kind and funny and appreciative and vulnerable with each other? Could that actually create just a little bit of meaningful change?” It was the realization that every single person in the entire world has the ability to be kind that sparked something in me. That was the inception point of Kind & Funny.
How do you come up with the hilarious, completely relatable quips featured on each ribbon? Are they inspired by people in your life?
Yes!! Many of them are based on real compliments I’ve given people or people have given me! Like my friend Alyssa — she’s that memorable plant person in my life. She names her beloved plants, she Instagrams them, she sings to them, and her love for her plants is something I love about her! And I wanted to celebrate her for that. That’s where my Plant Wizard Ribbon compliment came from because we all have Alyssas in our lives, right?
What is your hope for Kind & Funny, and your hope for the recipients of one of your compliment ribbons?
Wouldn’t this be cool? Someone gives their friend a ribbon that says,”Pretty much the best person I know. At least in the top 3.” Both of those people feel happy and empowered, so they practice a little more gratitude to a few more people, and soon it spreads as an antidote to all of the meanness and anger that we see out there on the internet, and in conversation, and in social injustice, and little by little kindness becomes this superpower we all have access to that we can use to create meaningful change for our planet.
Visit mcadenver.org/shop and Instagram @bekindandfunny to view available Kind & Funny award ribbons. Learn and see more at kindandfunny.com.
Rachel Grammes is the Digital Marketing Specialist and Independent Photography Contractor at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
Check out MCA Denver’s November Birdy install, How Art Is Born w/ Podcast Host R. Alan Brooks, or head to our Explore section to see more of their past published pieces.