Mental Health Awareness Week: the next gen’s focus on wellbeing in design

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and we’re shining a spotlight on a number of innovative graduates who are pioneering design with a focus on the impact it can have on our wellbeing. Keep reading to see how they’re re-shaping perceptions of how future products, spaces and visual resources can play a pivotal role in improving our mental health and addressing the challenges faced by countless individuals.

Visit New Designers this summer to meet the graduates and learn more about their work.

Jess Day - BA (Hons) Illustration, Arts University Bournemouth

‘For my Final Major Project project, I opted to create a children’s book focusing on navigating emotions and behaviours associated with anxiety. Through metaphorical short stories, I aim to address experiences like feeling lost or facing daunting challenges solo. My objective is to provide informative yet easily digestible narratives for children to understand. Alongside this, I intend on building on techniques for coping that will run alongside the stories. Childhood anxiety is very real, and my aim is to provide parents and children with a platform to initiate dialogues about coping mechanisms and mental well-being—something I and many others did not have as children’

David Talhadas - MA Graphic Communication, Nottingham Trent University

‘The MISO exhibition is a graphic design installation aimed at supporting individuals with Misophonia, a mental health disorder that affects sensory processing and daily interactions. Representing about 20% of the UK population, this condition currently lacks a cure. The exhibition offers an immersive, interactive experience through various sections featuring sound, tactile objects, augmented reality (AR), and other activities, to enhance understanding and tolerance of Misophonia. This initiative not only raises awareness but also explores potential coping mechanisms for those affected.’

Jemima McCaffrey - BA/BSc (Hons) Product Design, Bournemouth University

‘Kin is a home device designed to aid students in managing homesickness by helping them to: acknowledge emotions; share feelings non-verbally; receive comforting messages when loved ones are unavailable; enhance focus on academics and social interactions by overcoming emotional hurdles. 70% of first-year university students suffer from severe homesickness affecting their mental and physical health. Through surveys I found that the most common cause of homesickness in students is the lack of connection with the people and environments from their family home. An expert in psychotherapy led me to the concept of Transitional Objects; which bridge the gap between the old and new environment.

Kin allows a student to choose from a full range of emotions. Kin’s arms and light respond to their selection and a blue-tooth signal sends the motion and colour to the Kin of their family members. Kin also has a ‘record message’ feature which can be used to capture a message from each family member, when reassurance is needed. Kin’s design features customisable colour, grounding textures, safety affirming shapes and magnetic connections.’

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Ryan Awdry - BA (Hons) Interior Design, DJCAD University of Dundee

‘‘First Stage’ is a travelling transportable structure used to help raise awareness of wellbeing to tackle mental health challenges inspired by elements of set design.’

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Sophie Hardyman - BA (Hons) Illustration, Arts University Bournemouth

‘I created hypothetical branding gifs and illustrations for Mind’s #fundthehubs campaign, which centres around providing young people with a safe space where they can go in a mental health crisis. With this campaign imagery I wanted to show that Mind is always there when needed and wanted to show this through the use of line. Colour and texture is also a major part of my work and I wanted to use this to create a campaign that showed that getting help is a positive thing and should be talked about more!’

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Iliana Stoyanova - BA Furniture & Product Design, London Metropolitan University

‘In material terms, ‘UNMASKED’ explores authenticity through an investigation of Scagliola plaster techniques, which also serves as a conceptual metaphor for neurodivergent masking and unmasking. By diverging from Scagliola’s historical role as a mere imitation of marble, the work celebrates its intrinsic textures and patterns, showcasing how the material and technique can transcend imitation to become an authentic expression of itself. The work focuses on the importance of broadening our understanding of neurodiversity and the need to acknowledge the mental health impact of masking for neurodivergent individuals. The constant effort required to conceal one’s true identity can lead to emotional exhaustion, stress, and disconnection. By celebrating authenticity and embracing neurodiversity, the project aims to create a space where individuals feel empowered to express their true selves and find acceptance. 

It’s an invitation to join me, a neurodivergent therapist and designer, on a journey of discovery and celebration of your own authenticity through the play with scagliola.’

Chloe Cunningham - BA (Hons) Illustration, Arts University Bournemouth

‘For this project I have created a series of digital pieces and lino relief prints focusing on homesickness and its connection with mental health. This is the first digital piece called ‘Juno’. There are many ways in which being an international student has been a consistent weight on my own mental health. From being extremely anxious when I first came, to the depression that many of us face, I wanted to connect this with poetry from the area I was raised. You find that the nature where you are from is such a comfort and the wildlife you grew up around hearing you begin to miss immensely. Working through and confronting these feelings through this project has helped me grow and show my appreciation for the environments we often take for granted.’

To meet these incredible designers and learn more about the future of design for mental health, visit New Designers at Islington’s Business Design Centre this June-July.

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