The Darwin Challenge

Eat less meat. That’s the premise behind The Darwin Challenge — an app designed to demonstrate the positive impact of a simple dietary adjustment. The concept, backers and brand were there, it just needed to be brought to life. Guided by behavioural studies experts, this project took us on a UX-driven journey of making complex information easily digestible in an app that’s not just engaging but life-changing.

  • App design
  • Iconography
  • Illustration

What’s all this then?

Chris Darwin, great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, believes we can solve all the world’s problems by loving ourselves, each other and the environment just a little more. He set out to inspire a little human evolution by using some clever metrics to demonstrate the positive impact of eating less meat. Enter The Darwin Challenge. 

Any insights?

The stats here speak for themselves, really. If everyone in Australia had a weekly meat-free day for a year, we’d save $1 billion, 130 000 cattle, 66 million chickens, a billion fish, an area of forest double the size of the ACT and a quarter of a million Olympic swimming pools of water. Cumulatively, we’d also live 91,000 years longer.

The Darwin Challenge - mobile app

And what seems to be the problem?

With the concept, a long list of backers and a brand ready to go, Chris needed to bring The Darwin Challenge to life. When he asked for our help on its creation and launch, we knew we were in for something special.

So how’d you go about it?

By design, the Darwin Challenge app is simple. People nominate one or more days a week to go meat-free, and log their successful days in the app, which instantly gets to work calculating the benefits — the amount of money and animals you save, the reduction in your carbon footprint, and even an increased life expectancy.

The Darwin Challenge - mobile app
The Darwin Challenge - mobile app

Meat-free motivation in every manoeuvre

We worked hard to make the flow of such complex information as engaging as possible. Working with European developers Work In Progress and talented illustrator Janine Rewell, we created a beautiful in-app world that motivates use by changing each time the user logs another meat-free day. Every UX decision we made was intentional and guided by The Behavioural Architects — experts in behavioural studies.

Why did we separate the selection of one meat-free day with two-to-seven meat-free days at onboarding? It’s one less tap for those who need an extra push to reduce their meat consumption, and supports that even just one day a week without meat goes towards building a better world. 

Copy played a big role too. Working with our friends at White Label Words, we took app users on a journey that felt both motivating and inspiring, while making sense of some complex calculations. It all added up to the creation of an app that’s more than just engaging, it’s life-changing.

The Darwin Challenge - mobile app
The Darwin Challenge cows

Making a game of eating less game

The gamification, competition and creation of a community plays a big role in meat-free motivation too. People can track their progress over time, as well as create groups to help each other and see how they’re doing on global leaderboards.

Part of the monetisation strategy for the first version of the app was giving people an incentive to come first in group leaderboards. Players can become a ‘patron’ by making a contribution to the app (marked by a “P” or “FP” for Founding Patron badge next to their name), and even if they have logged fewer meat-free days than those without the badge, they will come first in the group specific leaderboard because of their support.

The Darwin Challenge success streak
The Darwin Challenge my groups
The Darwin Challenge my groups
The Darwin Challenge groups
The Darwin Challenge my groups
The Darwin Challenge The Chicken Challenge
The Darwin Challenge website
The Darwin Challenge app

Over the many years in business I have worked with many talented, empathic, calm, charming, enthusiastic, amusing, hardworking, efficient, reasonably priced, authentic, trustworthy and helpful people. One hopes that each person has five or six of these characteristics but working with Universal Favourite I have come across a group who has them all. Very rare. Providing Universal Favourite have the skills to do what you need, you cannot go wrong with them. Going with Universal Favourite was one of the best decisions of my life.

Chris Darwin — CEO of The Darwin Challenge app

The Darwin Challenge illustration

And the end result?

The Darwin Challenge launched in time for World Meat Free Day 2017 and was supported by global launch events in Australia, Ireland, Romania, UK and the USA. As a result of the launch’s wonderful publicity, some of the Universal Favourite team were even interviewed on Channel 7 News

The Darwin Challenge has been mentioned on The Sydney Morning Herald, The Courier, ABC’s RN Breakfast and Meatfree Mondays. And, although the greatest reward is the app’s impact the list of design accolades it’s received are a pretty nice bonus.

Since launching, the app has clocked over 370,000 meat-free days, which has helped save over 24,000 chickens and 390,000 fish, fed 14,000 hungry people, and protected 1.76km2 of forest.


  • Illustration • Janine Rewell


  • Fast Company - World Changing Ideas Awards Finalist
  • AGDA Digital Apps and Design
  • AGDA Design for Good, Environmental Responsibility
  • AGDA Digital App Judges Choice
  • Good Design Social Impact
  • Good Design Digital Design
  • Best Silver App Design
  • W3 Silver Mobile Sites/Apps
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