Third-year design students are required to take a class focused on designing for codesign research. Our team was able to use this class as a way to supplement our research with DMH.
Our team decided to explore the broader topic of Environmental Effects on Mental Health. Our goal with this was to understand how the environment may impact users and what environmental factors lead to a positive experience for users.
Understand how the environment may impact mental health.
Understand what factors of the environment could contribute to positive mental well-being.
Understand how different research methods and recruitment strategies may affect the type of data gathered.
Within this component, I served as project manager and worked on designing the co-design research methodology, documenting our focus group, and coding, analyzing and translating our data into tangible insights.
These methods were intended to gather a larger scope of data to understand the basic circumstances associated with environment and mental health
Questions were posted around campus buildings to understand the different emotions tied to various spaces on campus.
Two open-ended questions were sent out via google form: "Where did you have your best and worst mental health experience on campus?"
Participants were asked to draw: A room full of things that make them happy or their happy place. This was to understand which components of life bring people the most joy.
A survey to gather general feelings about mental health at OSU was sent out on social media platforms.
These methods were conducted in a focus group setting and were intended to dive deeper into the intricacies associated with the relationship between environment and mental health.
Participants were first asked to draw a map of OSU's campus. Then they were asked to identify where they spent the most time using red, green, or yellow dots that indicated whether these were negative, positive, or neutral experiences. Then they were asked to pick one space and record the different components found in that space.
The purpose of this activity was to identify the most impactful spaces on campus for students.
Participants were then asked to create a space where people could escape from those negative experiences. Participants could use an assortment of predetermined building tools to make their space.
The purpose of this activity was to co-create a space that brings joy to participants. Our aim was to then apply our findings to create a space of joy in parking garages.
Love and Break-Up Letter
Participants were then asked to write a love letter and then a break-up letter to the space chosen during the mapping activity.
The purpose of this activity was to have participants think more critically about their experience in that space. Our aim was to uncover the latent feelings that contributed to positive or negative experiences.
In total, we were able to recruit 208 co-designers. To the right are the different methods and how many participants they were able to garner. Here, we can analyze which types of methods lend themselves to easier recruitment.
Data was split up and coded onto sticky notes.
Sticky notes were then analyzed for patterns and sorted into corresponding groups.
Groups were then analyzed for commen themes.
According to our research, there are two overarching components that contribute to positive well-being: Choice and Connection.
People want to have choices in their life. Specifically, they want choices in comfort and resources.
Our research showed us that the ability to be both physically and emotionally comfortable in a space is a key contributor to creating a positive experience within an environment.
Peace of Mind
Having access to resources and having the ability to choose based on preferences is another key contributor to creating an environment that cultivates positive mental well-being.
Mental health services
Tools for Productivity
Enabling excellence in hobbies
People want to be connected to the people and world around them.
Our research showed us that feeling connected to other people (or animals) who know and care about the person is important to cultivating a positive environmental experience.
Sense of Community
We learned that the aesthetics of an environment can impact an occupant's experience or even their happiness. People enjoy nature in an outdoor setting as well as when it is incorporated into the built environment.
Windows/ Natural Light
Proximity to water
Views to the outdoors
The Oval (Campus)
Mirror Lake (Campus)
Method Contribution Matrix
Throughout our coding process, different colored post-it notes were assigned to each research method. Through this, the team was able to determine which method contributed to the insights uncovered. The saturation of the colors corresponds to the density of data in those categories.
What I learned
Creating a comfortable and open dialogue is critical for co-design research. Especially when talking about sensitive topics.
Focus groups work smoother when activities build upon each other to dive deep into a particular topic.
Focus more energy on recruitment
If I were to redo this project I would focus more energy on the recruitment of participants for the slow method focus group. We found that while we were able to reach a few randomized students, we also had to call on some friends for a large portion of the data. In the future, the recruitment of participants should begin at the very beginning of the research process.
Address mental health more directly in activities
Our methods did not dive too deep into mental health itself. I would personally have liked to conduct more methods to dive deeper into the relationship between environment and mental health.