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1st floor, 68 Sackville Street
Manchester M1 3NJ

Wellcome Trust

Using design to increase mental health research

In this 6 week project we spoke with over 20 people with lived experience of anxiety or depression, mental health practitioners and advocates; and through co-creation sessions crafted usable design tools for the Wellcome Trust. These tools are now helping the Trust teams write billion-pound worth bids and prioritise projects for the coming years.


Changing the way people engage with mental health research is challenging. Ethical requirements and public unawareness of the field create a separation between those researching and those able to help.

“How might we make public engagement a core part of mental health science? ”

To tackle the above design challenge in a limited amount of time, we took a human-centred approach, synthesised as we went and broke into sub teams to maintain collaborative pace. We looked at public engagement in the field, interviewed experts, experienced best-in-class products, created prototypes and facilitated workshops to inform understanding.


We investigated and understood the challenges those with depression and anxiety had when engaging with mental health research.

We also mapped the experience of researchers when recruiting participants for mental health studies.

With interviews and workshops we were able to map the mental health science landscape locally and internationally. We created persona archetypes, mindset flow diagrams and system maps among other design tools to shape and visualise our thinking.

This way we managed to look at our design challenge from the lens of the organisation, researchers, patients and general public.


To test assumptions, tackle secondary design challenges and gain new insight a clickable lo-fi prototype was created.

Ideation sessions based around assumptions and hypotheses enabled a huge amount of ideas and design concepts to be drawn out. Distilling the focus around to on-boarding and engagement we designed an online experience that would be calming, reassuring and motivating for people with anxiety and/or depression.

Prototyping ‘Andi’ was a low-risk cost effective way to create a tangible discussion point with participants. In person and remote testing with 15-25 year olds helped prioritise and inform next strategic actions.

Facts about the prototype:

  • Ideated on paper sketches & then made interactive
  • Validated the preference for calming and reassuring style
  • Unearthed preferences around security & privacy
  • Visual style animations were considered friendly & inclusive
  • Tested with people in the UK, USA, Canada & Costa Rica
  • Tested in person with participants with lived experience


Insights from this project informed the Mental Health Priority Area billion pound bids and helped prioritise areas of focus for Wellcome Trust.

The desire to co-produce mental health studies with participants is valid, but the gap between looking for help and helping develop the field is broad. We created a set of tools to enable Wellcome Trust to narrow the  scope.

The toolkit was first launched during a collaborative ideation session with UK-based charities McPin Foundation, MQ Mental Health, YoungMinds.

To really scale engagement in mental health science we believe the voice of the public can be amplified by leveraging platform technologies to crowdsource ideas, data and participation from around the world.



  • Public engagement should aspire to create a conversation based on values and not on a specific health diagnosis
  • Salience of information about mental health studies needs to be addressed - by everyone producing such content
  • Mental health academic fields need an approachable, personable, culturally-diverse and inclusive channel of its own
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Get in touch

We’d love to hear from you. We’re always interested in meeting new people, businesses and organisations.

0161 236 9898

Find us

1st floor, 68 Sackville Street
Manchester M1 3NJ