Interface Design | Video Development | Design Research
Stress is a prominent issue for all people. It can sometimes take over the moments that matter to us and we tend to forget what we care about the most. Stress not only effects yourself personally, but can also effect your relationships. Our goal for The Buddy System was to create a form that could be used during present moments of stress. With so many products on the market that help with time management, meditation and independent stress management, we knew we wanted to concentrate on a new and important problem.
By interviewing psychologists and students, we figured out the best solution to this problem that does not already exist. From all of these discussions, we knew that companions were a significant part to dealing with stress and could encourage healthy lifestyle in sharing when you are distraught. So we created The Buddy System.
The Buddy System opens up effective communication channels between people, helping them notice behavioral patterns among their friends. By creating the Buddy System users are enabled to help themselves by providing control of their stress in connecting with their companions.
How the System Works
The application is used to send messages to the vessel. When you enter into the app, users are asked how they are feeling that day. That response is then logged into the system and is viewable to only yourself and your selected buddies. This system is not a form of social media, The Buddy System is very personal and is all about how you are feeling in terms of stress and helping you communicate those feelings to your closest friends and loved ones that you trust.
Presented above is the user flow and how The Buddy System intervenes into a routine and communication line. This was important to establish where exactly our product fits and how it makes a difference in the existing system.
Mental Health and Stress
The topic of stress is a well known and prevalent problem among the student population, with more than 50% of students nationwide reporting higher than average levels of stress. If left untreated or unaddressed, continuous levels of high stress, otherwise known as chronic stress, can lead to a number of detrimental health effects. These effects can include physiological symptoms such as hypertension, fatigue, and a decreased immune response leading to a greater chance to develop illnesses. Some psychological symptoms are behavioral changes such as an increase in anxiety and aggression, an loss of focus, a decrease in self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness and loss of control.
To broaden our understanding of the issue of stress, we interviewed Kurt Kumler, Ph.D., the director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Carnegie Mellon. From our interview, we learned of the existence of different kinds of stress and that the amount of stress we experience is unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, maintaining a proper balance of sleep, diet, exercise and social interactions enables us to be more prepared to handle the day’s potential stressors.
There are a multitude of tools that currently exists to help users balance their physical activity and lifestyle which can help them to build resilience to handle their stress. However, none of these tools place emphasis on maintaining important relationships, nor do they empower users to take control when they are caught in the heat of the moment during a stressful situation. To address this gap in the problem space, we conducted a diary study over the course of four days by pairing participants with one of their closest companions. Throughout the duration of the study, participants were asked to log how they handled stressful situations throughout the day, as well as how they perceived their companion’s stress levels.
Responses were collected from a total of seven companion groups. These findings were measured against their reported personality traits on the Myers-Briggs Scale to see how different personality traits might lead to different ways of handling stress.
People liked knowing that they were loved and cared for, and that there was someone who was looking out for them. We also found out that some people had considerable difficulty talking about or initiating conversation about their own stress, especially since their companion was not always available to comfort them.
“Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it, but then it’ll come out later”.
“I like it when she notices I’m in a bad mood ... that’s how I know people care. It makes it better, it’s the first thing that’ll help me calm down. I really like that”.
“[Stress] just grows when it’s on your own. I mean I’ve never really been totally alone with everything. I’ve never had to go through anything by myself. I don’t know how well it would go if I dealt with it on my own”.
“Sometimes you don’t know when to share with someone else what’s going on”.
This was a partner project. So what did I do?
I was an active partner in brainstorming, research, application development, and video creator. For research, we interviewed a Carnegie Mellon psychologist, read articles about stress online, and created User Experience Make Tools to get user input. As a group, we created two Make Tools that built off of another. In our first Make Tool, we recruited companions of all different genders, types of relationships and personalities to participate in a Diary Study. During this Make Tool, I was fully in charge of communication with our participants reminding them to complete their Diary daily. I also answered questions and concerns.
To create the app, it was really important to establish what the form was going to be and where technology was going to intervene. In terms of stress, it is important to remain concentrated on a goal in order to stay in control, and therefore we did not want the technology to distract the user, but rather comfort them. I created the User Experience and User Interface for the app.
Then to explain and showcase our product, we created a video. I was an actress and videographer for the video by producing the shots we needed and how it would be best explained. I then edited the video which included cutting film, picking music, and developing the voice over all in a few short minutes.