PROJECT

Brave Expressions

Brave Expressions is a mental health storytelling platform that empowers people to express their experiences through creative outlets – including written forms, music, art, and anything in between. Our goal is to create a space where people can express their mental health stories, learn about others’ experiences, and know they're not alone.

NON-PROFIT STARTUP, UX/UI,
DESIGN RESEARCH, VISUAL DESIGN
MARCH 2019 - PRESENT
CO-FOUNDERS: BRIDGET LEWIS + SARA TIEU
INTRODUCTION

I co-founded the non-profit Brave Expressions alongside two other designers, and we launched the platform June 2020. I helped lead the design research (develop session plans, synthesize insights, strategize launch plans), design the platform experience and visual identity, and coordinate the non-profit and legal aspects of launching a platform where people share vulnerable stories. This project has been a year-long ongoing effort, and we are working right now to expand the site and conduct user testing to assess the impact of the design.

Have a story or experience you want to share? Check out our site: braveexpressions.com for more details on how to submit, and then send us an email at hello@braveexpressions.com

WHO WE ARE

Empowering Expression

Everyone has a story to share, but there is not always a supportive place to express your story. Brave Expressions was built when a group of three women realized the healing power of sharing their struggles and triumphs with each other, and felt inspired to build a space where deep, authentic, and empowering stories of hope could live.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS
No items found.
METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)

Color Palette

Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

Typography

Colors were selected that create a warm and inviting atmosphere, but don't overpower the rich visuals created by story submitters. The primary color was selected as it is more gender neutral, an insight we learned from user testing a variety of palettes. The dark green is calming, and used with the warmer tones for other branding applications.

Iconography

Hand drawn icons echo the organic lines used throughout the site, and unify the brand.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS
Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)
METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Design System

We developed the platform to scale across all devices, and created a comprehensive design system to help unify our visual language and decision making.

We also took careful considerations to add community values that appear on the footer of the website, and as a pop-up when people first enter the community. These values are integral to creating a supportive, welcoming and encouraging environment on Brave Expressions.

There are categories for each story, and from our research we learned that people wanted a form of trigger warnings -- but that too intense of warnings could cause more harm than good. So, each story features a brief overview of the key topics and acts as a barrier before people scroll to read the rest of a story.

People can choose to have varying levels of anonymity, another key aspect we found from our research. People can be listed under the Brave Anonymous account, use a pseudonym, or showcase their full identity.

Typography

Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

Color Palette

Colors were selected that create a warm and inviting atmosphere, but don't overpower the rich visuals created by story submitters. The primary color was selected as it is more gender neutral, an insight we learned from user testing a variety of palettes. The dark green is calming, and used with the warmer tones for other branding applications.

Iconography

Hand drawn icons echo the organic lines used throughout the site, and unify the brand.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS
No items found.
METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Ideation

Our first round of research helped inform the need--that there was a longing for an online space where people could share their stories with others in a safe, inviting, and empowering way. We learned that participants wanted a space where they could read authentic and raw accounts from others, and be able to express themselves in a variety of mediums--from videos to art.

We ideated as a group to brainstorm the different qualities of the online space, paying close attention to what kinds of principles and sense of community would be created.

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)

Typography

Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

Color Palette

Colors were selected that create a warm and inviting atmosphere, but don't overpower the rich visuals created by story submitters. The primary color was selected as it is more gender neutral, an insight we learned from user testing a variety of palettes. The dark green is calming, and used with the warmer tones for other branding applications.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)

Design System

We developed the platform to scale across all devices, and created a comprehensive design system to help unify our visual language and decision making.

We also took careful considerations to add community values that appear on the footer of the website, and as a pop-up when people first enter the community. These values are integral to creating a supportive, welcoming and encouraging environment on Brave Expressions.

There are categories for each story, and from our research we learned that people wanted a form of trigger warnings -- but that too intense of warnings could cause more harm than good. So, each story features a brief overview of the key topics and acts as a barrier before people scroll to read the rest of a story.

People can choose to have varying levels of anonymity, another key aspect we found from our research. People can be listed under the Brave Anonymous account, use a pseudonym, or showcase their full identity.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS

Ideation

Our first round of research helped inform the need--that there was a longing for an online space where people could share their stories with others in a safe, inviting, and empowering way. We learned that participants wanted a space where they could read authentic and raw accounts from others, and be able to express themselves in a variety of mediums--from videos to art.

We ideated as a group to brainstorm the different qualities of the online space, paying close attention to what kinds of principles and sense of community would be created.

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)

Typography

Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

Color Palette

Colors were selected that create a warm and inviting atmosphere, but don't overpower the rich visuals created by story submitters. The primary color was selected as it is more gender neutral, an insight we learned from user testing a variety of palettes. The dark green is calming, and used with the warmer tones for other branding applications.

Iconography

Hand drawn icons echo the organic lines used throughout the site, and unify the brand.

UNDERSTAND

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

METHODS: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS,
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
11 PARTICIPANTS

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

Ideation

Our first round of research helped inform the need--that there was a longing for an online space where people could share their stories with others in a safe, inviting, and empowering way. We learned that participants wanted a space where they could read authentic and raw accounts from others, and be able to express themselves in a variety of mediums--from videos to art.

We ideated as a group to brainstorm the different qualities of the online space, paying close attention to what kinds of principles and sense of community would be created.

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Colors were selected that create a warm and inviting atmosphere, but don't overpower the rich visuals created by story submitters. The primary color was selected as it is more gender neutral, an insight we learned from user testing a variety of palettes. The dark green is calming, and used with the warmer tones for other branding applications.

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)
METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

Typography

Design System

We developed the platform to scale across all devices, and created a comprehensive design system to help unify our visual language and decision making.

We also took careful considerations to add community values that appear on the footer of the website, and as a pop-up when people first enter the community. These values are integral to creating a supportive, welcoming and encouraging environment on Brave Expressions.

There are categories for each story, and from our research we learned that people wanted a form of trigger warnings -- but that too intense of warnings could cause more harm than good. So, each story features a brief overview of the key topics and acts as a barrier before people scroll to read the rest of a story.

People can choose to have varying levels of anonymity, another key aspect we found from our research. People can be listed under the Brave Anonymous account, use a pseudonym, or showcase their full identity.

Exploration & Opportunity

Understand how people share their mental health experiences with others, and what kinds of services currently exist in the digital space.

Semi-Structured Interviews

We wanted to gain an understanding of how people share their mental health experiences with others. We interviewed 11 participants about their background with mental health, comfortability sharing their experiences with others, platforms and resources they use for mental health, self-care practices, and what their experience was like sharing their story and reaching out to people in-person and online.

Competitive Analysis

After our exploratory interviews, we conducted a competative analysis of existing mental health platforms. We included services mentioned by participants, and other resources that we felt were in a similar space.

Insights

01. Stories are the most impactful when they feature personal experiences and acknowledge the dark times.

“We need a level of discomfort to learn and grow, talking about hard conversations (uncomfortable, really hard to have); mental health can be a hard conversation to have, need the brave space.” (P18)

02. People are trying to carve out a mental health community on social media and unsupportive platforms. 

“What is missing is the confidentiality/safety aspect (esp. From instagram)...safety net, can say what you want to say and there will be a backlash.” (P17)

Ideation

Our first round of research helped inform the need--that there was a longing for an online space where people could share their stories with others in a safe, inviting, and empowering way. We learned that participants wanted a space where they could read authentic and raw accounts from others, and be able to express themselves in a variety of mediums--from videos to art.

We ideated as a group to brainstorm the different qualities of the online space, paying close attention to what kinds of principles and sense of community would be created.

Visual language in the handwritten type echos the raw and vulnerable nature of sharing about mental illness — and all the imperfectections that come with being human.

METHODS: CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
08 PARTICIPANTS
SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
07 PARTICIPANTS

Co-Design Sessions

Understand what qualities of storytelling mediums & communities elicit the most authentic discussion around mental health experiences. 

Expert Interviews

Understand what safeguards should be put into place when designing an online mental health platform and having people share lived experiences.

Insights

01. Having a creative outlet to express emotions is a helpful coping mechanism.

“To me, music and especially art, it’s like peering into someone’s soul in a way that other mediums can’t. The terminology, symbolism, is hard to recreate in.” (P10)

02. Other people in the world are experiencing the same thing, learning and sharing personal stories is healing. 

“I found a group on Facebook. I’m not alone. The things my mother does. People don’t believe me when I tell people about my mother. After this group, it was mind blowing, I’m not crazy, I felt so much better, I felt like I’m not alone.” (P14)


03. Many mental health resources are impersonal and generalized, making it difficult to find meaningful help.

“Storytelling is an integral part of helping...lived experiences create role models out of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts [or’ attempts, giving others hope.” (P24)

Hand drawn icons echo the organic lines used throughout the site, and unify the brand.

Full scope of the platform
Full scope wireframes (story creation and community pages)
Full scope wireframes (shop page)
MVP scope of the platform
Sample of wireframes adjusted for MVP scope (used in paper prototyping)
METHODS: 
PAPER PROTOTYPING,
CO-DESIGN ACTIVITIES
PARTICIPANTS: 08

User Testing

Evaluate the story submission process, visual atmosphere of the site, reading experience, and community values.

Insights

01. People want options to share their identity with differing degrees of anonymity

“I would love for people to have their option to not put their last name.” (P7)

02. Safeguards (e.g. trigger warnings), should be there for those in need, but shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress

“People are trying to show what is really happening [to them], but I would not assume that level of graphicness from this site.” (P4).

03. Visuals should be unique and authentic, while abstract

“I think the top is a little bit corny...[the photos] are definitely part of it. They’re very stock-image-y.” (P3).

Scope & Prototype

From our findings we were able to determine the site architecture, and started to create low and mid-fidelity wireframes to use in another round of research with paper prototyping methods.


Design System

We developed the platform to scale across all devices, and created a comprehensive design system to help unify our visual language and decision making.

We also took careful considerations to add community values that appear on the footer of the website, and as a pop-up when people first enter the community. These values are integral to creating a supportive, welcoming and encouraging environment on Brave Expressions.

There are categories for each story, and from our research we learned that people wanted a form of trigger warnings -- but that too intense of warnings could cause more harm than good. So, each story features a brief overview of the key topics and acts as a barrier before people scroll to read the rest of a story.

People can choose to have varying levels of anonymity, another key aspect we found from our research. People can be listed under the Brave Anonymous account, use a pseudonym, or showcase their full identity.

Typography