Designing something from scratch usually sparks an incredible rush of excitement. But when presented the results of how the pandemic is impacting people and then asked to help, you’re forced to pause. Surveys of people’s mental health are showing around 1 in 5 to be having problems nationally. Here’s the scary bit. When you look at a younger demographic specifically, that number rises sharply. Somewhere between 3 and 4 in every 5 young people are currently experiencing worries about their mental health. So, no, this design process doesn’t begin by jumping up and fist punching the air. It begins by asking questions. Not least, “can we do it?” and if so, “how?”.
There’s a head start. Squaring up to the challenge are the combined resources, expertise and tech of the UK’s leading mental health networks: The Mix, Young Minds and Shout 85258. Together for the first time, they can operate one service across helpline, social media, face-to-face counselling, dedicated content channels and 85258’s own unique AI-powered text messaging platform (one of the most advanced of its kind). Our job was to join these forces into one cohesive brand that would be recognised quickly and easily by over 7 million young people in the UK in need or not.
We found recent precedent for this kind of work. Kind of. In May, Paula Scher and Pentagram created a new identity for Kenneth Cole’s Mental Health Coalition in the US. Their concept is a pop-fashion take, using an icon or ‘blip’ that’s inspired by 1980s AIDS awareness posters. In other words, the primary goal of their identity is to raise awareness of the issue rather than tackle it head-on. It’s a great piece of work but in many respects all the things we shouldn’t do in our case.
We quickly realised we would need to establish some rules for ourselves. First, make it clear this is a service brand, not a flag-waving one. Second, don’t create lots of design nuances — people don’t need another tab opening up in their brains. Third, emphasise that this is a one-stop-shop, open on any channel. And finally, create the feeling of a doorway in, a safe space to be.
Neutrality became the single, guiding value. Which is strangely difficult. Being neutral is a paradox — you can’t just be neutral — it’s arrived at through very specific and deliberate choices.
So we created a place — a no persons land if you will. “One Space” was a name that had emerged through detailed conversations between ourselves and the teams at The Mix, Young Minds and Shout 85258. “One” implies ‘oneness’ whilst “Space” implies the creation of space or ‘mental space’. Together, they form a destination point, a coming together of support services and young people. Like an inclusion zone, in an otherwise socially-distanced world.
The extended ‘O’ of the logo form is very simple, symbolising a safety ring or halo that insulates those in need from negative influences, insecurities and thoughts. Created primarily for use in social media, it allows the name of the new service to be the most prominent element, whilst still allowing for additional messaging. Being able to use photographic portraits of young people was also important so that they could quickly identify it as a service for them.
The choice of the colour palette is calming but also distinctive. The brand sits a world away from the primary colours of hazard marking tape and other pandemic related imagery peppering our news feeds and communities. It doesn’t ask anything of you. It simply meets you openly, confidently and supportively.
At the launch of One Space this week, Chris Martin, CEO of The Mix said that the current situation is “cataclysmic for young people as the silent victims of the pandemic”. Emma Thomas, CEO of Young Minds echoed by saying “they miss friends and have lost their coping mechanisms”. Victoria Hornby, CEO of Shout 85258 described One Space as “providing an accessible portal for [young people] to get the support they deserve, in the right place and time in which they need it.”.
Knowing the size of this problem, our intention is that One Space opens that portal for the UK’s young people to walk through and find what they need, big or small, now or in the future. An example of where design is not an end but a service to a greater goal. This isn’t a brand you wear, drink or buy on-line. It’s a shortcut. A button you press for help. Can a brand help young people tackle their greatest mental health challenges to date? Yes, it can.