Coming To Terms

A pop-up storybook on mental health.


How might I drive awareness and empathy on mental health through an interactive storybook?


About The Project

Coming To Terms is an interactive storybook that aims to drive empathy and understanding on the stereotype against people with mental illness. The  story is about a young girl diagnosed with ADHD. It takes you through the journey of her struggles, including the stereotype placed upon her, her diagnosis, and eventually her realization and her self-acceptance on having ADHD. 

The project focused on pulling stories from the conducted primary research. This includes creating story maps and storyboards to create the final prototype of the storybook. 



DATE Spring 2018, 2 Weeks
TEAM Individual
TOOLS Sketch, Paper Engineering, Rapid Prototyping
FIELD Interaction Design, Prototype


Topic Exploration

I found it interesting to explore the story of people experiencing mental illness because they are widely misunderstood in our society. I’ve always been curious of society’s standards and what is deemed “normal” that people with disabilities and illness are placed at an external group. My desire to empathize with this group stems from the fact that I come from a family who battles disabilities and illness. 


Interview Profiles

I interviewed three individuals, all of whom are clinically diagnosed with mental illness ranging from ADHD to PTSD. These are their profiles. From their stories, I was able to gather insights and aligned it with their personal quotes that I strongly believe brings more impact to what I have discovered from my conversations with them. 



ADHD, Anxiety

She is a 19-year-old student from California College of The Arts. Her ethnical background is Chinese and she's originally from Dominican Republic. 


ADHD, Dyslexia

She is a 19-year-old student from California College of The Arts. Her ethnical background is American and she's originally from South Carolina.


PTSD, Depression

She is a 48-year-old retiree. Her ethnical background is Filipino and she's originally from the Philippines.


Research Findings

During the interviews, I also asked each one of them to share with me a stereotype they believed were held against people with mental illness. It was either something they have personally experienced or have simply heard of. 


Kerry's Stereotype Belief - 01

People with mental illness use it as an excuse.

“Recently, people have been saying that I’m only using my diagnosis or symptoms as an excuse for not being able to do things.”


Victoria's Stereotype Belief - 02

People with mental illness are lazy.

“People percieve those who are diagnosed with ADHD are simply lazy, that they lack the initiative to do certain things.” 


Belle's Stereotype Belief - 03

People with mental illness are overly dramatic.

“Whenever I mention my trauma, people think I’m being dramatic and they simply brush it off and laugh about it. They don’t understand the severity of someone diagnosed with mental disorder and how it affects us.” 



From the interviews, I gathered a few insights that I used as a driver to create a character and a plot that conveyed the stories that were shared with me. 


01 Individuals with mental illness strongly feels misunderstood, frustrated and insulted.

02 Individuals with mental illness feels the need to accommodate and adjust to other people’s expectation despite their situation. 

03 Individuals with mental illness suppress their voice in fear of what others might think. 

04 People assume that those with mental illness simply make things up. 

05 Mental illness is considered an ‘invisible handicap’ which society can’t fully grasp because they can’t see it.


Story Map

I first created a story map to have an idea of the overview of my story and which direction I wanted it to take. Having a clear line of where the story goes helped me build the story details in between.



My storyboard consists of the key scenes in my story. These were the defining touchpoints that I wanted to have in my story and which it ultimately drove it forward.


Directional Sketches

These sketches are my guide to creating and organizing my thoughts on how I would want to incorporate the interactive elements into my story. By mapping it out scene by scene, I was able to have a clear idea of how I would create my physical prototype.


Early Prototype

When I had a play testing session, I was able to gather some feedback and observations on how my peer interacted with my storybook. It helped give me an idea on what I could improve and change and  made iterations as needed.


Peer Feedback


Give Importance To Key Moments

Key moment should be a page of its own as opposed to having it an "additional element" by making it as a pop-up. 


Give More Expression To Characters

Give more clarity to what I'm trying to portray through my drawings by giving the characters expression or being direct with my visual illustrations as opposed to using symbolic elements. 


Layers and Multiple Interactions Were Engaging And Interesting

The multiple interactions happening in a single scene or page and added more meaning and enriched the engagement of the story.


Consider Hierarchy And Placement of Text

Making the text linear will give it it more clarity as opposed to having it randomly placed in a page. 

Connect All The Elements Together To Create Cohesion

Multiple information should be connected, such as notes and timelines. It would help if these things were more chronological to make it understandable. 


Create Contrast And Tension To Add More Feeling And Depth

By giving it some pages more tension, like using symbols like arrows or drawings of people with an expression of judgment, I could show the further context for my character and my story.


Consider The Flow of Story And The Missing Details In Between

There are a few scenes that my play tester felt like it jumped from one moment to another without any context of what happened in between. I was given a suggestion to add minor scenes in between to connect the gap and make it more understandable and cohesive. 




In the pursuit of understanding mental illness through the stories of individuals, my desire is to create empathy and understanding by creating awareness through this Interactive Storybook. 



This project has taught me that impact we can make as a designer. We design the platform and give a much needed voice for others to share their story and experiences. As someone who is passionate about empowering others, this was a project that I felt strongly about. Being a designer, storytelling is a powerful tool and doing this storybook has taught me the value of telling stories in design.