Pre–COVID-19 at Dropbox HQ, we ran several in-person events quarterly: workshops, book lectures, peer-to-peer learning sessions, speaker series, breakfasts, and community gatherings. Our favorite events were small, intimate community dinners for 20–25 people. We would host a reception for a group of designers, researchers, design leaders, or writers, followed by a dinner discussion, to foster meaningful connections and create lasting relationships. The events we’ve hosted over the past three years have built a strong network of connected individuals across design disciplines and beyond.

With the pandemic shifting us into a work-from-home scenario, we were suddenly challenged to rethink our approach to bringing people together. We wanted to explore ways outside of online event programming to make our community feel supported, appreciated, and connected.

We have always been fans of snail mail and printed goods at Dropbox. We love to break away from our screens, and often send handwritten cards following our events.

To keep our community united during the pandemic, we decided to try something new (yet old-fashioned!) and combine all of our favorite things—community, crafts, and snail mail—to create Community Care Kits. We piloted a small mail drop to our Ladies Who Create (LWC) group (a forum for women and nonbinary creatives at Dropbox and beyond). The kits contained a custom notebook with blank pages for writing or drawing, a pen, some whimsical stickers, and a postcard from Dropbox Design. We packaged it all in a beautiful box with a cover image from the poster for an in-person event that was canceled due to the stay-at-home order.

The response was joy! Our LWC community loved having something small yet thoughtful delivered right to their door, and appreciated the spirit of playfulness that the kits brought to the work-from-home experience. Our inboxes were full of messages of gratitude, and we saw social media posts tagging our kits over a period of several weeks.

photograph of community kit

After the success of our pilot mailers, we decided to further harness the power of the mailbox by revisiting our friends at the USPS and local mail center in Oakland—this time with a carful of packages!

This second version of the Community Care Kit featured a custom Dropbox.Design notebook from Shinola Detroit (again with blank pages for writing, drawing, doodling, and sketching) and pen, a vibrant and fun sticker sheet designed by Berenice Méndez and Jonathan Holt from our HelloSign team, and a small card with a message about the kits—all wrapped up in a green box with a cover image designed by Olenka Malarecka from our Brand team.

photograph of design kits, showcasing notebook from Shinola Detroit, pen, sticker sheet
Box illustration by Olenka Malarecka, sticker design by Berenice Méndez and Jonathan Holt.

This time we sent a form to a diverse group of designers so they could sign up to receive a kit—and so they could nominate another person in the creative community to receive one as well. The nominators could also provide the reason for their choice: friend or colleague, an inspiration, “I love their work!”

Our hope in producing the mailer as a “get one, give one” experience was to combat feelings of isolation after an extended work-from-home period. In the past, a nominator might have invited their nominee to an event, but now they could send the party to their front door!

From my dining table to your mailbox

I assembled 200 kits that took over my dining table, living room, coffee table, hallway, and closets for several weeks, and drove them to the post office in batches. The kits went out across the US and also reached South Africa, Israel, Colombia, France, and Canada.

The response to this second round was excitement, inspiration, and, again, joy! We received a flood of messages and social media posts, and it brought us so much happiness to share something with the community during this strange time in the world.

The tenor of 2020 has been constantly changing, and a recurring theme for us at Dropbox Design this past year has been reconnection with our values and exploration of new ones. While we’ve been enduring social unrest and reckoning in the US and a worldwide health crisis, we wanted to inspire people to take time for reflection and introspection and to think about what is most important to them.

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