Mental Health Through a Designer’s Eye

It’s 9pm — I’m sitting in front of the laptop, staring at the screen. Blank. “What do I write?” I scroll through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Nothing. I write a sentence. “Doesn’t make sense.” My chest sinks and I auto-roll myself into my blanket.


Also me: “Shit my room’s a mess. I have uneaten leftovers on my table.”


Also me: “Ughh, this idea is terrible. Stop it”.


Before I continue drifting off with my inner monologue, I’ll just say that I struggled pretty hard with writing this article (as you can tell). Sharing a bit of what’s going through my head is quite nerve-wracking.


So hi, my name is Liyana and I have anxiety and depression.


The Journey

Mental health is a loaded topic. I see it as a roller coaster ride that you are forced to get on against your will. A bit melodramatic, I know. ? But you see, roller coasters aren’t all that scary – it might look it but when you’re on it, you accept the ride and just go with it. You learn along the way and it gets a tad bit easier. Little wins. ✨


I started realising that I wasn’t alone in this and met new friends that felt the same way. They had their own experiences, lived their lives with it, and are still able to adult. Probably most of us have noticed a huge wave of people sharing their mental disorders publicly and created an amazing community with the help of the Internet. 


Mental health is a broad spectrum; one person could have social anxiety and the other could be schizophrenic. I just found out that 1 in 3 Malaysians struggle with mental health. I’m not surprised but that’s still crazy! Yet we don’t have proper channels to help these people in need. Heck, most people don’t even realise they have it.


Creative but Crazy

(Source: Michael Driver)

Creativity and mental health have gone hand-in-hand for a long, long time. Sometimes I think to myself, “Maybe that’s why I’m a designer? ? Famous artists or musicians have expressed their art through their suffering and even sometimes taking their own lives.

Aristotle once said, “No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.”

In a way, areas like the creative industries, for instance being a musician or artist, were fields where being a little crazy wasn’t as much a problem as it was a necessity for the job. The problem with that, is that we end up romanticizing the idea of the “tortured genius” in a way that could undermine the seriousness of such conditions. In reality, we don’t have to be crazy to be creative. We’re all a little crazy inside but it needs a bit of TLC too.


Fundamentally, design is communication. How it interacts and connects with the audience is all part of the design experience. I think it’s pretty exciting to imagine the possibilities of design for mental health specifically. During my mental health journey, I found a couple of things that resonated with me.

Social Media

(Source from left: Gemma CorrellMelanie Johnsson and Adam J Kurtz)

There’s a whole new wave of creatives sharing their work and perspectives on mental health. It’s vulnerable. It’s transparent. It’s encouraging. It’s relatable. I started with browsing through Instagram and found a few artists that made me say, “YEAH!” every time I scrolled through.


I began following more artists, creatives, and even agencies. This was the start of a new discovery and it felt comforting. It opened up my eyes to what designers could do to spread awareness or inform the community. 


Social media can be tricky – you start spiraling down into this deep void of nothingness and feel empty after 30 minutes or even 2 hours of scrolling. It was hard to stop social media cold turkey and instead I unfollowed and unsubscribed unnecessary content and started following substantial content that could help my mental health.


This was when I started watching School of Life! I don’t remember how I encountered it but every time I watch their videos, I feel like I’ve learned so much. The animation is great; I got so into it because of how it was done. Every episode was illustrated differently and the motion graphics behind each video convey the message so well. The topics are somewhat heavy, but the way they communicate the topic makes it nicer to watch.


(Source from left: Fabulous & Headspace)

Lets face it, we’re all on our phones day and night. We work long hours and sometimes have no time or money to go for therapy or even drink 8 glasses of water.


I was targeted with these two apps on my feed once and got hooked! They have personalised activities and you can set how frequent you want to be reminded everyday. These apps focus us in on our thought process, emotions, breathing, and stress levels — all of which have an enormous impact on our overall functioning.


I gave it a go and saw how super user-friendly it was. We’re all visually stimulated with our phones and somehow these apps manage to grab my attention. I think they tick all the boxes for good UI/UX design.


There are tonnes of self-care apps in the market now and a lot of them are well designed and well thought out. We have that choice to use what suits us best and at the end of the day help us with our mental health.


On the other end of the spectrum, designers themselves have done so much to help raise some awareness on mental health. It’s not just about brochures and pharmaceutical packaging; designers can venture into interior, publication, commercials, and whatever you can think of. In the new age of creation, we can use design as a tool for educating society – like some of these notable campaigns:

The Calmingstone: A Panic Attack Prevention Device

Originally designed by Ramon Telfer

Mindscape: the AI voice tool talking to people to ease their anxiety

Developed by creative studio Cult Ldn alongside MassiveMusic

Burger King: Real Meal campaign

by MullenLowe US



Overall, the creative world is a turbulent place and mental health can be a fragile thing. This is where design can be used as a tool to raise awareness, mindfulness and open conversations.


Phewhh this was a lot, kepada para pembaca. Kalau silap cakap atau banyak sangat cakap, saya minta maaf dari kepala ke hujung jari kaki. Sekian terima kasih.


The views expressed by the authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of C27, our CEO, the management, the fish in our fish tank, and/or all the awesome people within the agency. The content and opinions shared are the personal views of the author so please don’t sue us.

…or the author.


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This blog is a first-person view into the minds behind C27 once night falls.

A digitally native, results-focused creative company. We specialise in digital ecosystems, content production and UX design.

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