Eunoia means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Importantly, it references eudiamonia: fulfillment inclusive of the joy, pain, and frustration occurring in the pursuit of something worthwhile. Instead of an idealistic notion of happiness, this is how my design re-defines what it means to be mentally well.
This design is the product of my 9 month undergraduate thesis at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.
The pendant functions as a grounding tool, reminder, and accessible input for moments of emotional reflection. The physical tracker records how long you squeeze the pendant as a representation of how you are feeling and is paired with a digital platform designed from the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy.
It sources contributions from the user, their supporters, and professionals as it builds an arsenal of personalized tools for the user to better cope with adversity. Eunoia is more than just data collection. Eunoia turns input into trends, information, and a long term picture of the individual’s mental wellbeing.
As a system, it raises our value of mental health in a society obsessed with physical fitness.
Because mental illness sucks; I know from my own experiences and witnessing others.' Though as a designer, maybe this was an issue I could do something about.
What does mental wellness mean? How do you achieve it? I read through definitions, articles, research papers, and watched videos to find out.
Turns out, the things that contribute to good mental health are pretty simple: gratitude, exercise, enough sleep, a support network... etc. The difficult part is not doing it once but repeating it enough for it to become a lifestyle.
So I went further down the rabbit hole, burying myself in behaviour change and habit building research. It's there that I learned how important it is to create a system to support you; you can't rely on your motivation or willpower.
In search of more emotion driven stories of habit change I ran a journey mapping workshop. It changed my paradigm of what successful behaviour change looks like and gave me incredible insight to the pain points and struggles people face in the process of it.
My mental health research brought me to cognitive behavioural therapy and through that, mood tracking. I folded a paper star a day for a month. The colour represented how I felt out of five with a sentence on the inside describing the day. Re-arranging the stars allowed me to play with meaningful ways to visual the data.
I dove deeper into colour as a representation of emotion, leading to a survey of the studio. With peers instinctually choosing colours, I placed them on Plutchik's wheel of emotions, creating an visual of our collective feelings.
I sought an advisor in the industry and found Amy Kheong, the Director of Counseling and Access + Student Wellness at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
From my interview with her, I have gained significant insights including an understanding of her modality of mental health. For her, it means a balance between our three different selves: our thinking/achieving self, our emotional/relational self, and our bodily/sensory self.
Before ideation, I continued my research into what has been done before. Sorting through all the precedents, I took notes on what they did well and what I would do better. This exercise helped me create a set of design criteria that I would use as I brainstormed concepts.
A lot of research had to be done while creating the system as well. I dug deep to find different coping mechanisms and habits that contribute to mental wellbeing.
01 | Educate
An aspect of learning, be it a gained understanding of themselves, or of mental health education (coping strategies, tools to reflect...etc).
02 | Involve CBT
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a modality of therapy that involves active work and participation. It involves a lot of reflection and the breakdown of thoughts.
03 | Make rituals easier
The coping strategies, journaling, all of the other activities involved with CBT can be a lot to tackle and require a lot of energy. The design needs to facilitate that process as much as possible.
04 | Normalize mental health care
Many of the behaviour change research was from articles about physical health. There is a stigma that surrounds mental health and it’s prioritization that needs to be addressed in my design.
05 | Build healthy habits
Sustainable lifestyle changes are built upon the small everyday habits. By disrupting old unhealthy habit looks and leveraging behaviour change research, the design needs to create and sustain positive mental health care habits.
I sketched out 40 different concepts following my design criteria.
I created a set of variables to help inspire ideation. They included features like portability vs home-based interventions, different inputs like twisting, squeezing, scrolling, and different fidgets, and different outputs like apps, projections, visualizations, types of representation like light, colour, position, and the scales involved, be it a scale of 1-10 or multi-dimensional scale of emotional state.
I went through an intensive prototyping phase for both the physical and digital aspects of the design.
Read more about the process in their respective sections.
The system reflects my original design criteria in it's features.
The input action is squeezing the pendent and is built on the instinct to reach for your neck when stressed, worried, or insecure. Allowing me to attach the new habit of mood tracking to this pacifying behaviour. It acts like a reminder to mentally check in, increasing accuracy of the data with frequent reflection. The input action is many steps easier than checking-in through an app.
The pendant also becomes a grounding tool, similar to a worry stone or fidget.
The physicality of Eunoia is also a statement; subtle, but public, saying “I care about my mental health”. Why can we accept obsession of our physical health if we can’t do the same for our mental wellbeing?
Similar to other wearable health tracker’s, Eunoia includes a digital platform paired with the pedant. The platform has 3 main functions: in-depth reflection, suggested strategies, and progress. The digital aspect provides the education of coping strategies based in CBT and the insights to develop the habit of emotional intelligence.
Theory behind how a design should function is often different than the reality of it. So I got to work validating my design and gaining more insights on the experience.
With new insight from my participants and advisors, I continued to refine my design.
From a systems perspective, I started to prepare the documentation needed to fully articulate the details of the design, especially emphasizing how notifications are used to bridge the gap between physical and digital.
After getting feedback from my sketches, I decided to narrow my direction. Choosing to pursue the pendant concept, I started prototyping the physical forms. The first three prototypes varied in form and scale.
While the focus of the testing remained on the physical form of the pendants, my participants also provided me with insights to how it changed their behaviour as well.
- the benefit of a larger bottom for grip while fidgeting
- preference for size like the medium one
- unconsciously playing with it because a trigger for reflection
- the lack of tactile feedback
From the feedback, I realized I had overlooked the importance of tactile feedback. Wanting to integrate the feeling of compression I began to explore the lamination of different materials like felt and foam, as well as embedding buttons.
Form follows function. Adding a compressible element changed the visual language of the pendant. Keeping in mind the feedback from the user testing, I also scaled them to a more appropriate size and form.
One of the challenges of this project was the sheer scope of things that needed to be done. While I was juggling the physical prototyping, the UX and UI were also being built out. Once the pieces were together, I ran validation tests of the system as a whole. See more in Concept Development.
Feedback for the physical prototype included:
- the need for even more tactile feedback
- there was a disbelief in how the system would work with electronics embedded. So I decided to prototype a charging base for the device.
Version 3 focused on adding tactile feedback. Creating a tiny circuit with a battery, pager motor, and button, allowed me to create a prototype that vibrated on compression.
Version 4 was designed to embody the system that the pendant is just a part of. While the prototypes do not function as conceptualized, it is important to still maintain a looks/feels like real experience. The pendant has a magnet embedded inside that triggers the reed switches in the charge base to indicate the charging of the electronics.
The base took two iterations. The first was cut then cast then milled, the second cast then CNC-ed.
It took me quite a few iterations to refine the information architecture that accommodated for different user flows, including the on-boarding of a first time user.
Starting off like always, with pen on paper.
From the sketches and peer feedback, I created the first mock ups of the digital platform in XD. Linking them together the first prototype was created.
Along with the physical prototype, I ran a series of probes to validate my concept. Feedback from a presentation questioned the necessity of a digital platform and was rather in favour of another physical object. So I created a small book prototype. With it I tested the preference of different features as well as the effectiveness of the copy, as well as other aspects.
With deadlines and presentations approaching, I had prioritized other aspects of the design over the visual language.
Once the presentation was over, I focused back and re-evaluated elements like colour, type, and iconography.
Part of the user experience was understanding the different longevity of the digital verses the physical. How would I keep people engaged past a month or two of use? My efforts focused on the Report feature and the representation of significant information; especially any incentives to keep people engaged like the Achievements/Milestones.
While I worked through improving the entire user flow of a reflection, here is an example of the amount of iteration that each screen went through.
The culmination of feedback from peers and advisors, several iterations, and user testing. This is the prototype of the user flow for a mindful reflection.