DURATION
TEAM
MY ROLE
TOOLS

Overview

We created homio, a sensory water bottle that is uniquely designed for individuals experiencing a panic attackepisode of intense fear that triggers severe psychological and physical reactions or extreme anxiety. The inspiration for the name comes from the Greek word homeostasis, and supporting the body's return to stable conditions.

Homio leverages aromatherapy by dispensing scents associated with relaxation and stress relief. It also comes with tactile, interactive attachments that help individuals ground themselves in reality and regain a sense of control. Through our website, users can try out sample swatches, customize and build their own bottle, and order additional add-ons.

Homio: bottle, website, and sample packaging

Problem space definition

Ages 15-25

Adolescent and young adult age (15-25) is when panic attacks typically onset and peak.

The classroom

Many struggle with handling this mentally and physically debilitating experience in public settings such as classrooms. We are focusing on classrooms because among our target users, this is where they spend much of their day and it is where stress tends to come from.

Real time, in the moment

Our response is in no way meant to be a replacement for therapy and long-term recovery methods. Rather, we want to support individuals in the highly focused moment of a panic attack, when they feel least in control.

Panic attacks in classroom settings

OPPORTUNITY

How might we enable young adults to promptly and discreetly ease their panic attack symptoms?

Deep dive into research

Cultural probes

Secondary research gave us a general, medical understanding of panic attacks. However, as panic attacks are such uniquely individual occurrences, we knew it was important to capture information on behaviors and attitudes surrounding panic attacks and get a closer glimpse into people's experiences. Two cultural probes were distributed to six participants with a history of panic attacks.

Probe #1

Our first probe aimed to address the following research questions:

First probe and participants' responses. The probe featured an outline of the human body and instructions that read "Indicate where you feel affected by a panic attack, and how. Feel free to shade, draw, and/or write short descriptions."

Probe #2

Our second probe was aimed at understanding:

Sample participant response from the second probe. We instructed participants to sort people in their network based on their level of awareness and support. Participants placed circular cards with various members listed on them (e.g. "therapist", "partner", etc.) along with any blank cards anywhere along this spectrum.

In general, we found that people like teachers, supervisors, and school counselors fell to the "no awareness, no support" side of the spectrum. Partners, parents, and therapists tended to be the strongest supporters. Friends, siblings, and peers landed somewhere in the middle.

With the supportive group, we have the opportunity to provide tools so they can better support people with panic attacks. For the unaware group, we can help educate them in order to bring them into the supportive circle.



What does the circle of influence look like?

Through a stakeholder mapping activity, we identified the primary, secondary, and tertiary actors that are impacted by panic attacks. From this, we outlined connections between stakeholders as potential design opportunities and categorized pain points, desired outcomes, and negative outcomes.

Stakeholder map

Ideation

Brainstorm

We each individually brainstormed about 30 ideas for a total of 90 ideation candidates. Together, we shared out our ideas and clustered them according to themes.

90 affinitized ideation sketches clustered based on response strategy

Down selection

To narrow our ideas down, we identified the following selection criteria: Feasible, Relevant, and Exciting. Our ideal design response would fulfill all three criteria. We each had three dot votes for each category, and this resulted in narrowing to the following design concept:




Initial Concept: Sensory Cube

Our sensory cube concept aimed to distract the user with various sense-engaging visuals, scents, and textures embedded into each side. This was meant to be portable, perhaps attached to a keychain for easy access.

Sensory cube concept

Prototyping, testing, and iterating

Leaning into the power of grounding exercises

Our sensory cube concept was aimed at facilitating grounding exercises. Therapists have recommended grounding exercises as a strategy to bring people’s attention back to the present by connecting them with the physical world around them. It encourages the users to focus on something they can touch, hear, smell, taste, or see. We believe a solution that leverages this can help divert people’s thoughts toward a more relaxed state, so they can recover from the symptoms of panic attack discreetly.

Grounding exercises engage the five senses

Low-fidelity prototyping

To learn what sensory materials users would like to engage with, we created different samples, which people could touch, smell, see. We asked participants to tell us what they liked and disliked and if they felt comfortable or uncomfortable about the materials in the context of anxious situations.

Rapid prototyping to create sample swatches

Prototyping insights

We found strong positive responses to smell and interactive textures from our participants. Many were familiar with scent and the benefits of lavender. Others enjoyed soft, smooth textures that relaxed them.

The size of the cube keychain was slightly too big, and participants felt it could be difficult to access. People felt somewhat comfortable interacting it with in public, but any close-up interactions (such as smelling it or holding it up to the eye) felt awkward.

Participants interacting with our prototype

Adapting our form factor

Since the general response to the keychain was that it was awkward and could be perceived as childish, we had to rethink our form factor. We wanted to explore objects that already exist in the everyday life of a student. We held a mini co-design session where we asked participants what they carried with them on a daily basis. Looking around, we saw one thing that pretty much everyone had on the table was a personal water bottle. We decided to go forward with a water bottle concept as it promotes hydration, is easily accessible, and integrates seamlessly with the classroom setting.

Design principles

Final design concept

How homio works

User flow diagram and website architecture

Bottle

The homio bottle is designed to be discreet, minimal, and sophisticated. The texture attachments sit at the base of the bottle where the user can easily access them. To make the attachments as inconspicuous as possible, they match the color of the bottle by default. The cap contains a small, twist-to-open compartment where scent concentrates can be applied when they run out. The bottle was 3D modeled using Blender and comes in 5 different colors, the default selection being white.

Bottle 3D model design

Sample box

Everyone has their own unique reactions to different textures and scents—what's helpful and relaxing to one person may not be to another. To account for these differences, we designed a sample box for users to try out attachments before choosing their final customization. We developed the following scent and texture assortment based on our prototyping insights and secondary research. Our scents not only range in their benefits, but also cater to people’s preferences—varying from sweet to more herbal and earthy tones. The textures we provide also range from being passive and soothing to more interactive.

Sample box packaging and assortment

Website

The following screens demonstrate how users request sample swatches, customize and build their own bottle, and order additional add-ons. The typography and colors of the website are intended to feel warm, approachable, and comforting.

Landing page


Customization screens where users can select different colors, textures, and scents and preview their bottle


Page where users can see what's included in their sample box and try it out


Shop where users can browse individual parts and add-on attachments

Next steps

Reflection

This was a challenging, yet rewarding experience that taught me a lot about designing for a product with multimodal touchpoints and working closely with sensitive populations.


The importance of sensitive design

Mental health comes with a lot of stigma, trauma, and characteristics that vary from person to person. We kept this in mind throughout our process, from problem definition to the final design response. I discovered that co-design is a particularly powerful method to connect with your audience's needs. In participant research, it was important to craft questions and activities carefully and get feedback on them to ensure they weren't potentially triggering or uncomfortable. In our design, we wanted to counter traditional cold, detached mental health tools by making ours feel warm, approachable, and accepting.


Working across physical and digital mediums

This was one of the first times I designed for a physical product, which meant there were a lot of opportunities for personal learning throughout this process. Everywhere we looked, there were constraints with regards to material, durability, and costs. I learned that rapid prototyping with recycled materials is a great way to test out ideas quickly and inexpensively. Additionally, with three different touch points of our product (the physical bottle, the website, and the packaging), it was a challenge to make the overall user experience feel seamless throughout. However, thoughtful branding and a unified design language helped in creating a more connected experience.