How do we improve mental health and raise awareness?

UX Design  I  Social Design  I  Installation Design



My partners, Sam Ahmed and Jiyoon Kim, and I wanted to address the issue of stress culture at Carnegie Mellon University. We as full-time students, shared insight and perspective on the important factors effecting our friends and fellow classmates. Despite the top notch education, there's no doubt that CMU is rigorous and known for pushing you to your limits. In recent of event of last year's suicide and Katie Chironis's blog "The Happy Mask," the concern for the student's well-being increased drastically. How could we create a system to improve mental health and raise awareness?



We were inspired by Japanese wishing trees and interactive installation pieces that dealt with sharing personal information. The wishing tress are visually stunning because of both their density of submissions and emotional content. Candy Chang, an artist famous for her public installations dealing with social awareness also served as a prime source of inspiration with her use of large scale, color, and emphasis on handwritten type. Aside from the aesthetic, we liked these installation pieces because one could add their thoughts to them anonymously. If we were to apply something similar to a campus, we hypothesized that students would take greater interest and honestly in their submissions because their name would not be attached to their thoughts. 


Concept & Research 

Our concept was to create an installation piece where students could go to share their thoughts. It would be visually beautiful to boost the aesthetic of the campus and have the ability to grow with student submissions. Initially, we wanted to raise awareness of stress but soon realized that could backfire and cause students to self-loathe instead on inspire. We chose to focus the subject of this piece on motivation and self achievement; to direct the student's attention on the outcome of all their hard work.

The first step of creating the installation piece was to choose a prime location that would attract as many students as possible. We hung up test posters in the stalls of men and women's bathrooms asking students "where they go to deal with stress on campus."  We saw instant responses within the first day. Many said they enjoyed going outside, anywhere away from the class room to get some fresh air. We also observed that students were open and honest like we had hoped. Some comments were made in response to other comments, turning the posters into interactive conversations. We would apply this potential for student interaction to  the installation piece. 

Prototyping & User Testing 

We concluded that large section of grass aka The Cut, located in the center of campus, would be the best location for the installations. Between two large trees, we tied four rows of rope. Surrounding the trees we installed picket signs with the prompted question, "What did you achieve this year?" Below the sign, students could select a tag with the color corresponding to their class year. Pink = Freshmen, Orange = Sophomore, Purple = Juniors, Blue = Seniors. Their response could be anything. We also included grey tags which hung from colorful clothes pins. These were inspirational achievements of famous CMU Alumni. Students could take these with them as a reward for leaving a comment. We chose to name the installation, "Leave it on the line." The name was catchy and insinuated a sense of purpose. Good or bad, small or big, this was a place where you could speak about it to anyone. 

To test Leave it on the Line, we began handing out tags to students around campus, asking them to fill it out and then return it to us when completed. When completed we told them to look for their tags when the installation was up. We set everything up on the cut on a Friday morning and let it stay all day. The turn out was phenomenal. Every time class changed students approached Leave it on the Line to leave comments of their own. Anyone walking by stopped to read what others wrote. 


Website and Archive

To complete the system, we designed a website that could be used used to archive the student submissions. You can search the tags by year and then narrow the search by season since the installation would take place twice a year, once in the spring and fall. From there you can select the class and the photos of tags will be filtered. This will allow students to easily find their own submission or read other from a certain age group. We hope they can find inspiration in other's achievements. It also allows Carnegie Mellon University to get an idea of the overall mood of the student body by semester.