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Incorporating artistic expressions into mental health

An app designed for people living with depression






hours on research

and data analysis

techniques used 

for data analysis

people participated 

in research




As time passes, more people are diagnosticated with mental health disorders. In Canada 1 in 5 individuals will experience some kind of mental challenges in a 1 year period and 1 in 3 of them will not receive adequate treatment.

As Mental Health is a broad subject, I decided to focus on a serious subcategory that affects negatively how people feel, think and act; and 1 in 6 people worldwide will experience at some time in their life, this disorder is depression.

depression 1.jpg



People experiencing depressive episodes will write about what triggered the episode and move to an activity to distract their minds and avoid negative thoughts taking over them. They will achieve to reduce their episodes and learn how to manage future ones.  


• Almost 40% of individuals have experienced depression episodes for over 3 years.

• Over 55% of people have experienced depression at least 4 times in their life.

• People experience depression by themselves and​ look for possible solutions on their own.

• Depression episodes scale to a high level.


Not all people living with depression are receiving the type of support they need which may lead to deeper depression episodes


Present a solution for people in the early stages of depression who are experiencing episodes frequently and by themselves, where they can journal their episodes and distract their minds with activities and artistic expressions to create wellness


There are many people who are affected by depression, from teenagers to the elderly and from the person living with depression to therapists.


So, to have a better understanding of who was the best target audience I did a preliminary research and analyzed it with using a Clarity Canvas method.


As expected, the findings were broad but a particular group called my attention.

Students and work professionals between 20 and 40 years who are alone during their depression episodes and their negative thoughts could take over their minds for long terms affecting their overall performance.


My role

On this project, 5 parties were involved during the process. I was the sole designer during the discovery, define and design process, as this proposal was created as a final project for a Product Design Strategy Program.


Discovery: supported with a Clarity Canvas facilitation (an exercise with stakeholders to define their goals and outcomes), performed online research, produced a competitive analysis and a survey (with over 20 participants)


Define: organized and synthesised research using cards sorting, personas, empathy mapping and journey maps


Design: Planned the app navigation, created a sprint plan to stay on track with the deliverables, designed wireframes (started with speedy 8, the most interesting ideas became sketches then moved to mid and hi-fidelity  wireframes), created a prototype and performed usability tests


In order to create a designer-client experience, we worked with fake stakeholders who role-played as members of a healthcare company, providing their insights, challenges and requesting at the end of the program to present the solution designed 

Fellow designers

Fellow designers took part as team members who critiqued the findings/designs, provided feedback and assisted to choose design ideas

Survey participants

After defining the target audience, an online survey was sent via social media in which individuals were asked to participate, by answering open and closed questions regarding a time when they experienced depression. Over 20 individuals participated. 

Test participants

At different stages in the process, I approached  individuals and asked to complete a task to determine if the designs were clear enough and learn about their insights 



Depression can be triggered by different factors at any given time affecting not only the person living with it but also their relationships with others and their overall performance. When looking for support, many fall into these categories

1• can't afford medical treatment

2• can't afford a therapist

3• only a few people or no one at all knows about what they are going through

4• can afford a therapist and/or medical treatment

5• people know about what they are going through

For the top 3 categories support doesn't seems to be an option, but even if they can afford to pay a therapist or talk with someone, chances are that not everyone will be able to express what they feel as there's a part of the brain involved with speech that doesn't work as well for some people when they are trying to talk about their experiences




Cards Sorting: showed useful insights on alternatives that users have used to reduce or avoid depression episodes.

Personas: helped to empathize with people who have experienced episodes, as they show their motivations, goals and frustrations.

Empathy Maps: provided a deep understanding of how episodes are triggered in personas and the thoughts presented during episodes.

Journey Maps: gave an insight into how depression affects daily on people lives.  From feeling on their best to feeling on their worst, showing areas of opportunity and possible improvements

The insights from the analysis served as a guide when thinking on a list of possible solutions for people who experience depression episodes


A • Chatbot to talk to when having an episode

B • A specific chat for people living with depression

C • A 24/7 one on one chat with a therapist

D • Meditation app

E • List of activities happening nearby

F • An app to draw or paint

G • Journal

H • Help button to alert an emergency contact about an episode

I • Cards with optimistic thoughts

Effort vs Impact


impact-effort graphic.png

Prioritize & Choose Idea

G • will be the main app feature as is an activity most people used when experiencing episodes, could have a great impact on people and not much effort to deliver.

F, E and D • will be the secondary features of the app as they were also recurrent activities people relayed on but have less impact or more effort to be developed than G

C and I • will be implemented as an option in one of the features, functioning as nice to have

H, B and A • will not be taken into consideration anymore as they offer a big effort for the low impact they could bring.


Keeping in mind that when people use the app they'll be about to or experiencing a depressive episode, the colours provide tranquillity, the navigation is simple and with familiar assets so they can focus on their well being.


Speedy 8



Mid-fi wireframes

Hi-fi wireframes


As for the research, I decided to do a competitive analysis, create a survey and navigate online, to find out what professionals say about depression, what are the treatments and how efficient they are; also reviewed articles and posts from people who have experienced depressive episodes.

Methods used to organize data, analyze findings and understand what individuals have experienced

Taking into consideration that 1) most treatments are seen as professional support or medications, and 2) people have achieved to overcome their depressive episodes using alternative approaches. I decided to move forward with the option of an app used as a safe place, where users could reduce their episodes by expressing their feelings and emotions through writing, painting and/or drawing and meditation (music): and also, if the person wants to spend more time with other instead of being alone, there'll be a list of activities happening in a close proximity to them.


• Some people understand treatment as medication or professional help (i.e. a therapist) and it's hard to convince them that there are also other approaches to overcome mental health (i.e. artistic expressions)

• Was hard to find people who wanted to participate in a survey or who were willing to talk about their experience, as it's a sensitive topic

• Keep the pace of the process as it will lead to user centred solutions, instead of jumping to a fast solution because stakeholders want to know the end result from the beginning

• It was challenging trying to incorporate several activities in an app and still make it feel light and easy to use

• Find a solution to improve mental health sounds ambitious, but after understanding what has people gone through and how they've overcome depressive episodes by themselves solutions are easier to find and more accessible than what most people think.


• We shouldn't confuse existent treatment with affordable treatment, as there are options to treat depression but not all people can pay for it

• Not everyone is able to express what they feel by talking about it, and that's why alternative methods are necessary so all people can express in their own way.

• Only when empathizing with the user we'll understand what they are going through, and find out that they may not need a solution but options to choose from

• When a decision is based on feelings the response can vary from time to time (i.e. one day a person listen to Hip Hop music and the next day to instrumental music).

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