Approximately 59% of Canadians aged 18-34 years old consider anxiety and depression to be ‘epidemic’ in Canada. Unfortunately, even with improving mental health budgets , many people suffering from depression will never seek help or treatment. By 2020, depression is projected to be the leading cause of disease nationwide . For this reason, I wanted to discover if there was an opportunity to design a compelling solution to,
“How might we empower individuals suffering from depression take steps to live richer, more fulfilling, and happier lives?
I designed a mobile application called RescU that allows people to book training sessions with rescue shelter dogs and invite other people with depression so that they can experience the benefits of animal therapy, group therapy, and a greater sense of life purpose.
RescU has garnered extremely positive feedback from friends, strangers, and other designers, with many people mentioning that it’s a “great idea”—however, they say ideas are cheap and success comes down to execution. For this reason, I decided to pitch RescU at an investor-pitch feedback event in order to gauge potential investor sentiment and business viability. The panellists were very positive towards my pitch and the concept of RescU, which you can watch here.
I realized that at its core, RescU is a service that connects people with depression and rescue shelter dogs— the mobile application is merely an extension of this service. For this reason, I have shifted my focus away from mobile design and am investing my time into the design of the service as an MVP and am currently looking for the dogs and people required in order to initiate a pilot test.
To learn more about my process, please continue reading further below.
Depression is a mental health disorder that changes how people think, feel, and function in their daily life, often experiencing intense and unrelenting feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and hopelessness; many describe depression as “living in a black hole” . According to a survey commissioned by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in 2018, approximately 59% of 18 to 34-year-olds consider anxiety and depression to be 'epidemic' in Canada. Unfortunately, even with improving mental health budgets, many people suffering from depression will never seek help or treatment.
An application that focuses on getting people with depression to share their experiences with each other and engage in activities will be very beneficial in improving their quality of life because they often feel alone and isolate themselves from other people.
1) Talk to people about their experiences with depression so that I can a higher level of empathy of their situation
2) If an opportunity to intervene exists, design a digital solution that will help people with depression take steps to living richer, more fulfilling, and happier lives.
Money would need to be invested in order to build out the solution, in addition to salaries for the entire team.
I would need to build a team of people related to the development and longevity of the product. This may also require consultancy fees from mental health professionals that would intervene in order to ensure that the solution continued to be relevant and beneficial for users.
How do we get companies, brands, schools, or even the Canadian government to endorse my solution as a useful tool that can be used to combat depression?
I interviewed two men and two women between the ages of 27-37, and asked them to describe their experiences with depression. I then broke down each person’s experience, and labeled what they said into either behaviours, frustrations, motivations, or goals. These data were then aggregated and sorted them into different themes which allowed me to develop key insights which would then go on to inform design decisions moving forward.
People that have had a dog while depressed express a multitude of benefits ranging from getting more exercise, just getting outside the house, to feeling a greater sense of purpose.
People that attend group therapy find the process extremely healing because sharing your experiences with others causes them to share more of their experiences as well.
People want and need to feel a greater sense of purpose in their lives, and just need to be provided with the opportunities to be able to achieve this state of being.
People that are educated about the origins of their depression are better at managing it, and are more hopeful and confident that it can be treated.
A primary and secondary persona were developed as a result of the user interviews. For this project, Serena's persona was what I would refer back to and empathize with in order to design the solution.
David is in his 30s, whose frustrations with depression are due to the fact that he has found the process of finding a helpful mental professional exhausting and that he damages relationships with people close to him. He would love to become more educated about the underlying origins of his symptoms so he can practice self-care and maintain healthy relationships.
Most mobile apps that focus specifically on depression appear are designed for CBT, and mood-tracking. For example, Deprexis enters into a virtual dialogue with you in order to help you assess your own situation, and then find effective ways of coping. It uses simple, scientifically validated questionnaires, which allows you to track and review your mood and symptoms regularly. Then, based on your symptoms over time, you will receive graphic feedback and practical tips that can help you feel better.
The core epic (MVP) was for Serena to be able to book a training session with a rescue shelter dog, and invite another person with depression. This was informed by reflecting on the key insights, current treatments, and current state of mental health applications, where it appeared that this solution would be a combination of animal therapy, group therapy, with a greater sense of life purpose.
The inspiration board was created in order to get potential design ideas for the screens and tasks that a user would need to see and be able to do as part of the core epic.
Exploration into more creative ideas were found, however, I believed that maintaining a similar design to prominent applications such as Google Maps and Trip Advisor would ensure an intuitive and familiar experience for users due to established conventions.
Some early sketches based on the inspiration board of the core epic. I feel like more exploration could have been committed during the sketching phase, however, due to the rationale of maintaining a familiar experience to that of Google Maps or Trip Advisor, this was not conducted.
In order to conduct usability tests, sketches were first developed into greyscale wireframes, and then into a prototype in InVision. Usability testing involved two rounds, each with participants. During testing, participants were asked to conduct a series of seven tasks that were selected as important to be able to perform with minimal issue in order to complete the core epic as easily as possible.
Usability Prototypes: Round 1, Round 2
Usability testing revealed that the main issues encountered by users was being unable to understand the meaning behind some iconography, difficulties in legibility of type (small font-size and leading), and poor interaction/placement of some content.
In order to develop the visual identity of RescU, the following steps were taken:
1) A list of adjectives that embodied the brand was generated, and then a moodboard developed.
2) A list of possible names or concepts that could be used as the brand name was created.
3) A typographic inspiration board to determine which typeface would be used for the app.
4) The brand name was sketched in different sizes, weights, and orientations.
5) The wordmark was explored in various styles, weights, and styles.
6) Letters and shapes of the wordmark were tweaked in order to add uniqueness.
7) App Icon was designed as part of the wordmark and letter/shape tweaking process.
8) Colour extraction from the moodboard in order to generate a library of potential app colours.
Rescue, ResQ, Rescu, RescU
SaveAll, Save Yourself, SaveMe
“Save a dog, save yourself”
“Rescue a dog, rescue yourself”
I'm not going to lie, I landed on RescU even before this part of the process (due to 1) but conducted the exploration for due-diligence. Now the reasons why RescU as a brand name made it so attractive are quite simple:
After looking through this initial set of typefaces, I narrowed it down to six sans-serif typefaces (Raleway, Avenir, Works Sans, Hanken Grotesk, HK Concentrate, and Space Grotesk). Sans-serif as a typographic style was preferred as it conveys a modern, friendly, and minimal aesthetic.
After much deliberation, I selected Hanken Grotesk to be the typeface for RescU, and one of the main reasons is that its shapeform is very similar to the typeface Apercu, which is used by Headspace (an app focused on mental well-being and sleep). It made sense to me that if they decided to go ahead with a typeface like this, then there must be some sort psychological component that would be beneficial for their userbase.
From the the moodboard, colours were extracted from different parts of each image in order to generate an entire range of colours that could be used for the app. Various colour schemes were explored to try and identify a palette that embodied the five wodrs used in the moodboard (Hopeful, Empowering, Liberating, Free, Happy).
The preliminary palette was then chosen as the initial combination of colours selected to go into hi-fi development. As I started translating greyscale wireframes into hi-fi, I realized that too many accent colours were making the app look less cohesive, and not as aesthetically pleasing as I had hoped, so I reduced the number of accent colours. Additionally, I initially explored using the orange brand colour to indicate interactivity, however, there was poor accessibility contrast between the dark type colour and orange, so a pastel-teal colour was chosen instead.
As an added layer of complexity, I thought it would be interesting to explore the design of the app on another platform, specifically the Apple Watch. What interested me about designing for a smart watch is that there's even less pixel real estate compared to mobile, which means that only the details that are essential should be present on the screen. For this reason, I added the dog stats and max person elements on top of the dog image, and removed the description.
As I have never used a smart watch before, my assumption going into designing this was that the screen had a fixed, finite area, and was not scrollable.
A story-telling format complemented with illustrations was adopted to introduce RescU because I believed that it was the most compelling to introduce the concept, and way to engage with readers. The story follows Santiago, a rescue dog from Spain that needs to be trained in order to better assimilate into a Canadian home, and that this can be accomplished with you booking a training session with dogs like him.
A fun exercise I thought would be interesting was to answer a question from The Tarot Cards of Tech, which would stimulate me to think about the impact of RescU if it was developed into a real application.
I thought this card was extremely important to consider due to the vulnerable state of our initial target demographic, i.e.people with depression. I imagine that a bad actor would be someone that signed up with RescU to intentionally affect our users negatively. This could happen in multiple ways, but the one that stands out to me is that a bad actor would befriend people, develop a friendship and gain their trust, and then be extremely toxic and manipulative outside of the training sessions.
I plan on re-designing the current state of the wordmark to make it simpler. I'm not entirely sure how it will evolve right now, but I still would love to be able to incorporate the "dogified R" and "flotation-device U".
Within the current state of 'Find a Dog', other key flows and screens need to be developed. For example, I believe the two most important features that need to be designed next is the entire notification system (what gets sent to the invited user, what happens if someone accepts/declines etc) and how the user would see their current bookings.
I would like to improve the current state of the background fills to make them more visually appealing. I was thinking that shapes of dog ears, paw prints, and dog bones that were subtly layered in would add a visually refreshing design.
A lot of applications use gamification as a way to incentivise and maintain user engagement. More thought would need to be put into thinking about whether this app needs to be gamified, though I can see how it would enhance the experience by improving the amount of fun had.
If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to go through (or skim) my BrainStation Capstone project. It's been an amazing journey for me so far to see what was designed from nothing, and to be able to look back at all the work that's been done so far.
If anyone has any feedback regarding anything on this project, please feel free to get in touch with me.
© 2019 Ivan Rickard Liow
© 2019 Ivan Rickard Liow
© 2019 Ivan Rickard Liow