Visualising Mental Health

Visualising Mental Health (VMH) is a project I do in collaboration with Match Studio and Communication Design lecturers at the University of South Australia.

We give 3rd Year Communication Design Students mental health and psychology themed topics and get them to imagine novel products, services, campaigns and events built around those topics. They work in groups with assistance from participating psychologists and their design lecturers to understand the topic(s) and then brainstorm innovative expressions of those topics. At the end of the topic, the student groups ‘pitch’ their final idea to the VMH team. This consists of a live presentation, pre-recorded video pitch and poster design.

These pitch products are then exhibited during Mental Health Month (October) at the Kerry Packer Gallery. In 2021, the VMH content was co-displayed with material from the 2021 Match Tournament.

The process is repeated each year with a new cohort of students and we change the topics regularly to try and keep them fresh and relevant.

The bigger vision is to re-imagine how we embed conversations about mental health into the broader community and even clinical practice. We know this is possible because the VMH process (collaboration between designers and psychologists) yields all sorts of amazing concepts that wouldn’t be created by either profession alone. It is a pure example of the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration.

We recently published a paper on the project in Design For Health. We were very excited to be able to finally tell the story of VMH in this format.

The current VMH team consists of myself, Jane Andrew (Match Studio), Ian Gwilt (Research Professor), Doreen Donovan, Lynda Kay, & Lucas Shaw (Communication Design lecturers) and psychologists Richard Oborn, Rachel Reilly, Sarah Burton and Simeon Jones.

I’ve also been incredibly thankful for the support of the following people and organisations in the past: Cre8d Design, Australian Psychological Society, Institute of Private Practising Psychologists, The Hawke Centre, SA Health, Australian Graphic Design Association, Psychology and Health Forum, Daniel Purvis, Dr Jodie Harris, Dr Alison Robb, Carly Sutherland, and Karen Davies.

The best place to see some of the past few years’ project is the Visualising Mental Health website.

In 2023, we are hoping to expand the VMH concept beyond UniSA and see if we can run it across the 3 universities in South Australia. Wish us luck!!

If you like any of the ideas you see and want to discuss collaboration around taking these ideas to the next level of production, please contact me at gareth [dot] furber [at] gmail [dot] com.