Self-devided project | Non-profit organisation | Campaign proposal     2023


Identify a problem within the industry, and develop creative solutions. The topic I chose to focus on was THE TYRANNY OF POSITIVITY: SMILING SO MUCH IT HURTS, researching around the question of HOW CAN MAINTAINING A POSITIVE OUTLOOK IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES BE DETRIMENTAL.



A belief in a positive future is especially embedded in everyday ideas of Western cultures, and given that as humans we have an inherently negative bias, it is understandable that we would want to promote positivity. Additionally, positivity is a powerful short-term coping mechanism. However, it has been taken advantage of and therefore, has become a profitable multibillion-dollar industry where a dazzling smile is valued more than a complex human being. Beyond us as individuals, it is foolish to imagine that thinking positively may provide a solution to pressing global issues as the tendency to underplay, hide and avoid the negatives is catching up.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbol for how near humanity is to destroying itself. In 2021 and 2022, the clock’s setting was left untouched, but in January 2023, it was moved to 90 seconds before midnight. The Climate Clock is another representation of that. Located in the always vibrant New York City, I analysed how people were acting around it... Shockingly, most were not even acknowledging the clock. One person said, “Showing negative emotions is acceptable, but you are expected not to.” This ignorance proves that the world is in desperate need to be looked at from a more pessimistic perspective. Time for a reality check.



Although it seems like we are moving closer to a world where vulnerability is valued, we still have trouble expressing emotions when times are tough. Not to state that the quest for happiness is a bad thing, it is very much needed, yet we must strike a balance between our optimism and our readiness to face pressing difficulties in our personal lives, our communities, our world.
Toxic positivity becomes a mask to avoid talking about those heavy-hitting issues that might make people feel UNCOMFORTABLE. Yet we should feel uncomfortable not when we are lacking positivity, but when we are overdosing on it. Therefore, the big idea- to meet the current demand for realism, by defying the exploitation of positivity with the use of discomfort.


In the early days of photography, keeping a natural face was considered to be dignified. Only when cameras became widespread, companies pushed people to use them solely in joyful moments in order to insure happy associations with the product. Later smiling became the de facto expression when posing for a picture and continues to be to this day.

The phrase “Cheesing” is believed to be mentioned for the first time in The Big Spring Herald newspaper, where it is explained that saying “Cheese” is a formula for an automatic smile. Although the origins are not certain, most agree that the word itself forces you to smile, as whilst saying it you make a facial expressions that resembles a grin. Nowadays, most of us still associate saying “Cheese” with the meaning of smiling.

Lactose intolerance is a feeling of discomfort after consuming too much of foods containing lactose. Cheese is a dairy product that has lactose. Within this project, “Lactose intolerance” is a metaphor for how the world is in desperate need to decrease its utilization of “cheese” or smiles, as positivity can be anti-positive and a toxic narrative of positivity currently exists. Despite extensive etymological research, no literal connection between the phrase “Say cheese” and the definition of the word cheese has been identified. Therefore, why not play with it?

Concept 'Lactose Intolerance'


A non-profit organisation called Lactose intolerance with its first campaign & social media trend: #SpreadTheFrown.

A light pessimistic campaign to encourage a discussion about the ignorant acts of toxic positivity.

An audience who feels pressured to maintain a positive facade no matter what and are jaded by an over-corporate industry that uses positivity as a tool of profit.

Raising awareness about toxic positivity by reminding the troubles the world is in and directly mocking the fake picture-perfect aspirations of the Western world.

A movement on social media with its own hashtag and a home website, that reaches out to audiences with cutting edge engaging projects to induce societal change. To start a conversation of any kind, in the last years social media has proven to be a powerful catalyst when it comes to advocating for societal change and is a virtual megaphone that can be heard throughout the world.

The campaign would be launched on the 20th March, the United Nations International Day of Happiness, to promote the idea that expressing negative emotions is also part of a human experience. 

On this day, the UN calls attention to the importance the pursuit of happiness and invites everyone to observe the day in an appropriate manner with, for example, organising awareness-raising activities. The day is saturated around mindfulness and kindness, therefore, it is a great opportunity and an appropriate time to note how a dose of positivity could be beneficial, but only if you allow yourself to feel bad as well.

#InternationalDayOfHappiness is an existing hashtag that people use to share what they are doing to be a part of creating a happier world. It is a day when people stop and revaluate their actions. By spreading the message of #SpreadTheFrown alongside #InternationalDayOfHappiness, there is a bigger chance for recognition, reach, and most importantly- change. The campaign would be timely, innovative, and relevant.

The story of the #SpreadTheFrown campaign follows Thomas, a pragmatic individual, participating in a sarcastic photoshoot that mocks the action of fake smiling for the camera. His inner monologue can be heard out loud with the words “I’m so happy! Aha! Happy go lucky me. I just go my way, living everyday” ridicule the ignorance that fuels a large portion of todays society and how people are programmed to turn a blind eye when it comes to negativity. Finally, he takes out his wallet of cheese, a slang for money, and shows his disapproval, urging others to cheese that smile by spreading the frown.

Additionally, one of the most important stimuli for influencing human perception is light. To the human eye, a flashing light source appears “brighter” than a consistent source of the same light. For this reason, flashing lights are utilized to draw attention. With the use of flash photography, a call for action is proposed, whilst still staying relevant to the story line.

1: social media [from 20.03.23.]


MISSION STATEMENT: Use Instagram to raise awareness and crush ignorance with the use of visual codes.

Instagram is known for its flex audience, yet lately on this “live your best life” social platform younger generations have been pushing back against hyper-curated content, and because of that Instagram has also become a place for psoring simple everyday moments.

“Add Yours” Instagram Story Stickers are an engaging way for users to join a chain of responses, building a sense of community. The campaign would start two original stickers, prompting people to post a moment where they have been caught off-guard, as well as a smiling-free expression, that would go alongside other International Day of Happiness initiatives. To insure reach, adding the #InternationalDayOfHappiness and #SpreadTheFrown tags would makes the prompts, stories and profile more discoverable. Hashtags are an essential tool for growing your audience and by using them in own stories, they can then be found in the Stories and pages of these hashtags


MISSION STATEMENT: Use Twitter to increase societal knowledge of the problem and keep enquiries volumes down.

Twitter being a more adaptable platform that requires less upkeep for those who are always on the go, is a playground for the rich and famous, and that is why this is the platform where the campaign is most likely to reach those sitting in their comfortable bubble of positivity. Twitter is not only a place for entertainment, but a micro-blogging platform to stay informed and express opinions. It is not just about spreading the word, but also about being informed.


MISSION STATEMENT: Use Facebook to inform those less pragmatic about the landscape of toxic positivity.

To communicate the same thing, there can be multiple outcomes created to reach different audiences who still have something common. As one of the worldwide most-used social media platforms, Facebook has the potential of reaching a wide audience, especially older generations who are not as pragmatic as Gen Z. Although they might not be quick to join the latest trends, it is important for the campaign to reach them at least on an information level basis.
MISSION STATEMENT: Use TikTok to invite others to show support for the cause by creating own playful content.

TikTok is a social platform known for its emotional realism- a safe space for anyone. Additionally, it is a trend hotspot, where not only a hashtag can become trendy, but even a sound, dance, or an effect. When a trend becomes popular, users “hop on” it and recreate the popular TikTok videoor theme, and thanks to the algorithm, the content reaches the right audiences.

A campaign TikTok effect “Spread The Frown” would be launched with what users could play with, allowing them to step inside the visual landscape of the campaign in that way not only showing support, but also becoming a part of it. To push its popularity, relevant hashtags are put underneath it, such as #ToxicPositivity, #InternationalDayOfHappiness, and, of course, #SpreadTheFrown. Alongside the effect, a TikTok account for the campaign would become active, reposting the videos of other users applying the effect.

Additionally, a promotional post showcasing the campaign video would be put out, heightening the chances of the campaign being scrolled up on. 

2:  [from 20.03.23.]

The official website for the #SpreadTheFrown movement. This would be the foundation place of the campaign where information is gathereeffe. A play on Windows XP default wallpaper Bliss- one of the most viewed images of all time. The photograph radiates a dream like quality- perfectly cut grass, the blue sky.
Putting this photo in a not-so-joyful environment would be a clever way of flipping positivity on its head whilst still reaching the right problematic audiences with its colourful quality and factor of reminiscence.
Website home page

#SPREADTHEFROWN PAGE: general information about the campaign. Contains the campaign video, information about the use of the hashtag, a “Look out for what's next” section where information about campaign related events would be put up, as well as links to social media pages.
#SpreadTheFrown page

TOXIC POSITIVITY PAGE: information about the problem. Contains an embed of an audio article about toxic positivity, a link to a personality test about toxic positivity, some scroll through embeds of selected articles, as well as a link to the Reports page for further information and studies.
Toxic Positivity page

WHO ARE WE PAGE: information about the organisation. Contains a link to the #SPREADTHEFROWN page for further information and a link to the *CLICK* page for playfulness.
Who Are We page
TOXICITY WHEEL PAGE: an interactive wheel that once spined shows a toxic positivity phrase of the day, in that way informing the audience who might not be aware that they are a part of the issue.
Toxicity Wheel page

REPORTS PAGE: links to studies relating to toxic positivity and the issues in our current landscape.
Reports page

*CLICK* PAGE: a playfulpage imitating someone taking photos of the one behind the screen.
*Click* page

3: playlist  [from 20.03.23.]

“CHEESE THAT SMILE”- a carefully curated one hour long Spotify playlist that represents the campaign. Either it is the lyrics, the melody or the context of the songs, together they create an environment of toxic positivity and ignorance that the audience can immerse themselves into.

4: postering  [from 22.03.23.]

A cost-effective way of nonstop exposure.

AIM: Introduce the campaign outside the digital world and intrigue the local public of New York City.

ACTION: Designed not to inform but to catch attention with the use of repetitive imagery and engaging content.

RESPONSE: Generating initial buzz about the campaign by reaching all threeconsumer groups with appropriate adaptations of language and location.

Posters in Bronx

Posters in Manhattan

Posters in Brooklyn

5: direct marketing invitations  [27.03.23.]

A cost-effective way to create authentic connections.

Inform certain brands/organisations about the campaign, encourage to support and invite to the upcoming pop-up.

ACTION: Persuading with a tasty meal and a witty lactose-free message whilst strengthening an authentic connection.

RESPONSE: Ignited curiosity about what is happening on 31.03.23., as well as attracting supporters, ultimately increasing the number of converts and a change within industry standards.

6: pop-up photobooth
[from 31.03.23. to 07.04.23.]

With the tagline “Smile, or don’t. We’ll capture it either way”, in support with the #SpreadTheFrown campaign, an unique photobooth would be installed. Resembling a large block of cheese would be eye-catching as well as making headlines. Pop Art- a rebellious act against norms.

On the exterior: information about what the booth is, welcoming anyone to come inside whether feeling happy, sad, or just plain bored, and snap a picture of how they are feeling. Inside: a camera mounted on a tripod, with a screen that displays the instructions. With no countdown timer, a sense of mystery would be insured of when the picture would be snapped. Whilst waiting, some facts about toxic positivity would be displayed, as well as information about the initiative. To set the mood, the playlist created for the campaign would be playing on a loop.
After the picture would be snapped, a slot for people to insert their email or phone number would appear for them to have the option to receive a digital copy of the photo, as well as a thick-box for them to accept/deny the use of that picture within the campaign.

The photobooth would be installed in Union Square, located in the heart of Manhattan, New York City. Within this square, the Climate Clock can be found which serves as a visual reminder of the pressing need for immediate action to address climate crisis. Therefore, the location for the photobooth would be relevant. The call-to-action would be for the public to show support by taking a picture at the photobooth or with the exterior and share it on social media, tagging the organisation and using the hashtag to spread the word.

7: press release [01.04.23.]

To steer the narrative ariund the problem & the campaign.

Announce the new pop-up space, and in the form of sarcasm, address the issues of toxic positivity and how the role of the campaign fits within the topic.

ACTION: Sent out to relevant platforms that cover positivity and activism to engage with the aimed consumers, asking to put the article out on April Fools’ Day.

RESPONSE: A certain reestablishment of the campaigns’ TOV. Driven traffic to the website and pop-up space. And receiving recognition by big brands and organisations.

8: pop-up installation 

[from 09.06.23.  to 16.04.23.]

When the pop-up photobooth would be removed, a temporary installation in the same location would be put up, with the pictures taken by the public inside the booth. This would insure for the conversation to continue for a little longer, as well as mark the end of the #SpreadtheFrown campaign phase 1.


Next step? Phase 2! A new initiative named “WHAT’S IN STORE FOR US?” continuing the story of the #SpreadTheFrown campaign.
The world is not suddenly gonna have a change of heart, it takes time. But this time- a collab with ‘Broken Planet’.


Alternative concept 'Happy To The State of Tears'
Alternative concept 'Trapped In A Cake'
Alternative concept 'What's In Store For us?'
Alternative concept 'Something Smells Fishey'
Behind the scenes of the photostory photoshoot

Models: Thomas Adkin & Reinis Budreiko
Song Credits: Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moon Light by Tiny Tim


“You've taken a relatively broad concept and narrowed it down into a clear and concise vision that is relevant to your audience in a fun and interesting way. The final outcomes produced are a brilliant show of your creative ability and personal visual flair and identity.

Overall, you should be extremely proud of the work that you've submitted as part of your final year on Fashion Communication and Promotion. The creative flair that you've expressed in this piece of work is exciting and fresh- I'm excited to see where your future creative endeavours take you!”
- Nottingham Trent University Fashion Communication & Promotion course representative


Poster design | Campaign assets