Wellnest is a gamified journaling app created by college students who were tired of old, clinical mental health tools. The app is rated 4.9/5 stars, won an Airport Design Award, and was distributed at schools like UPenn, Boston University, and Carnegie Mellon. I worked with Reade Plunkett, Mars Hovasse, Drew Pilat, and Tommy Searle to design the app and visual identity.
When designing the visual identity, our goal was to resist neutral, clinical palettes and create something more welcoming, joyful and energetic. The Wellnest brand is made up of vibrant colors, fun characters, and a sometimes humorous tone to make journaling more exciting.
The Wellnest app builds a delightful environment around a structured daily journaling practice. The app is filled with fun interactions, animations, and rewards as you complete guided journal entries.
We experienced the mental health crisis first hand as college students. Our friends and classmates were stressed and anxious, the university counseling department was swamped, and many students weren't seeking clinical help because of social stigma. We asked university therapists about common tools that they recommend to students, and learned about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and journaling.
These methods help people write out thoughts and feelings in order to cope with stressful situations. They are effective, but we found them unapproachable as college students. When we talked to friends who had tried journaling, they had two major complaints that kept them from continuing:
"I don't know what to write."
"Journaling is boring."
In a series of focus groups, we learned more about our friends' experiences with mental health, what they struggle with, and how they cope. These discussions helped us hone in on specific situations that students need help with like moving away from home, failing an exam, or getting over a breakup. We also identified day-to-day needs like managing busy schedules and finding time to unwind.
We first focused on helping people to start writing. Using responses from the focus groups, we created deep dive question sets on key issues that students face. These sets, much like CBT worksheets, prompted students to write down their thoughts on a given topic in order to move forward with a clearer understanding of the situation. We started with 12 journaling courses, vetting them with a board of psychologists before testing with students.
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We also knew that students struggled to stick with journaling because of how monotonous it could be. In order to make the habit easier to keep up on a daily basis, we created an alternative to the deep-dive question sets that were composed of just a few questions about what was happening that day. We also introduced a reward system where students could earn coins and use them to buy new characters.
After testing the idea with a website and two beta versions, we released Wellnest on the App Store. The app got a great response from students all over the country, and surprisingly a lot of adults. We rounded up some of the most devout users (making 4-7 entries a week) to ask them about their experience, what they found useful, and what they struggled with. Here is what was important to them:
Ease of use - The ability to create a healthy routine in a few minutes. Having good journaling prompts delivered to them without having to look.
Customization - The ability to customize the look of their journal and the kinds of prompts they receive.
Variety - Unexpected, thought provoking prompts. An experience that isn't the exact same every time. The Daily Conversation feature, which delivered three random prompts each day.
Productivity - Being able to set intentions for the day in the morning, process busy days in the evening, and keep track of long term goals.
Evidence of Progress - Celebrating milestones, resurfacing old entries to show a change in thinking, and personalized reports that show how entries have changed over time.
Sense of Community - Knowing other people were journaling too. Journaling courses written by popular therapists and psychologists.