UW Design Health and Wellbeing

A research report and call to action


April 2020 – June 2020


Capstone, Passion Project


Audrey Desjardins


Researcher & Publication Designer


Academic- and work-related stress and burnout is pervasive among young adults around the world. Hustle culture be found in the UW Design program, which is known to shape its students to become excellent designers; however, there has not been research done to understand the health and wellbeing of its students. This research report is the first formal research done on the health and wellbeing (H&W) of UW Design students, offering a look into the student experience in order to enact positive change.

Just here to view the report? Click here.

The Opportunity

This opportunity area first came to mind when I became a senior in UW Design and reflected on my previous years in the program. Through personal experience, I felt how being a design student took a toll on my health and wellbeing, and learned how many of my peers felt a similar way. Before leaving the program behind, I wanted to create change. The first step was to find a way to tell the health and wellbeing story of students to those who could make institutional change.

The Response

By researching and talking with UW Design students about their experience with health and wellbeing, I designed a research report targeted towards the faculty and administration of the UW Design program. The report aims to form a portrait of the students’ experience with health and wellbeing, identifies recommendations to better support students, and serves as validation of students’ stories and the voices that have spoken up to tell them.


Due to the nature of this project, my design process was heavily oriented around research, content and visual communication. However, I applied the human-centered design process as a tool for me to continually focus the project around UW Design students as a collective. I talked to and worked with students, alumni, and faculty all throughout the course of the project, resulting in a highly collaborative process.

Primary Research

My research phase was a crucial point in my process, as it informed the insights I would go on to communicate in the report itself. I conducted interviews with students and alumni to learn more about what their experience with health and wellbeing is like, as well as faculty members to learn how to make the report more valuable for them. Additionally, I sent out a survey to gain a more quantitative perspective.

Research Synthesis

I used 3 levels of analysis to organize my data: interview quotes → insights → themes. I externalized raw data and snippets from interviews, grouping them together into affinities that formed insights, then extrapolated insights into overhead themes. Hours of parsing through interview transcripts and many, many sticky notes later, the synthesis yielded the insights that formed the UW Design health and wellbeing story.

Repurposing my bedroom wall for affinity diagramming!

Research insights

There's an abundance of valuable resources in the library, but they're scattered and difficult to locate resources in the physical space.

Navigating within the library is confusing, resulting in patrons getting lost and librarians constantly answering navigational questions.

The Central Branch library is a hub for other libraries, leaving other branches also unclear about how to navigate the Central Branch.

Secondary Research

After receiving feedback that this report could be applicable to other academic programs and workplace settings, I conducted secondary research to learn more. By researching analogous spaces, I was able to contextualize the report among similarities to professional- and career-oriented programs (e.g. medical or business majors) and learned about existing frameworks to cultivate wellbeing in workplaces.

Research findings & validation

There's an abundance of valuable resources in the library, but they're scattered and difficult to locate resources in the physical space.

Navigating within the library is confusing, resulting in patrons getting lost and librarians constantly answering navigational questions.

The Central Branch library is a hub for other libraries, leaving other branches also unclear about how to navigate the Central Branch.


As I began shifting my focus from researching and gathering content to communicating my findings, I defined design principles for the report that would help guide the project towards having the desired program impact.


When crafting the wording in the report, I organized my information using the research synthesis framework as a guideline (quotes → insights → themes). I wrote themes that captured the overall message of each chapter, breaking those down into more detailed insights, then chose quotes that best encapsulated the tone and meaning. By breaking down the information into different tiers, I considered the reader's experience and how larger themes broken down into smaller pieces would be easier to digest.

Page Outline

I created a page outline to map out where kind of content would go and in what order. Creating this outline not only served as an architecture to help me organize my thoughts, but also helped me think through how I could craft a cohesive and compelling narrative around student health and wellbeing. In this way, I considered how the reader will understand the story as it unfolds as they read from cover to cover.


I began ideating around ways to best represent and communicate the research insights. I started by hand sketching reading layouts and data visualizations, then created low-fi wireframes to experiment with type treatments using real content. While ideating, I considered typography as a core part in the reader’s experience, and thought about how to use principles of typography, such as visual hierarchy, as a way to balance the depth of content with the ease of reading to direct the reader around the page.

Follow-Up Ideation Workshop

As I continued working on the report, a gap emerged in the content I had collected during research: recommendations for improving student health and wellbeing, and things that are currently already being done well by faculty and admin. To collect this information, I conducted virtual ideation sessions with previous participants and asked them to ideate specifically around recommendations.

Visual Language

After several iterations, I designed a visual language that strikes a balance of professional and personal. This is reflected by the use of a classy and modern serif combined with a sans serif, and a set of colors that are playful yet mature in concert. The report visuals follow the concept of a grid pattern in the background as an homage to the Swiss style design that the UW Design program is known for, but superimposed with circles that break out of the grid, symbolizing this report as a deviation from the norm.

Iteration & High-Fidelity Pages

Throughout the process of creating this publication, I consistently sought and received feedback that helped me improve my designs and the communication of the data. Below is particular feedback that was instrumental to improving my designs to their final state.

Final Design

Below is an overview of the six chapters in the report and the kind of content that can be found in each chapter.

Cover page

Each chapter represents a main research theme, and is introduced by a cover page.

Research insights

Overarching insights are broken down into smaller, more detailed descriptions with supporting quotes from students and alumni.

Data visualizations

Based on survey data, data visualizations support and further illustrate qualitative data in the report.

Visual highlights

Throughout the report, space is used to highlight certain quotes and introduce some breathing moments and visual breaks from the content.


Each chapter has recommendations and ideas to address topics brought up during the chapter, as well as what the program is already doing well.
View Full Report

Handoff & Impact

In June, I hopped on a Zoom call to hand off the report to the UW Design faculty and administration. They expressed interest in continuing the work, and returning in the 2021-2022 school year for me to talk to students and implement some recommendations.

All throughout this project, I've heard how this report is resonant and validating for current students, alumni, and industry folk alike. People I've talked to or shared this project with have thanked me, said it's "much needed," and find it relatable to their time in school or even now in industry. Several faculty themselves expressed their concern and awareness of this topic.


A process pic shot on a disposable camera!

In research-heavy projects, externalize everything and trust the process. Reminding myself of these mantras was helpful for me in this project – especially with the overload of information! There were times where I felt like my brain was short-circuiting with the amount of data I had to collect, externalize, and synthesize all by myself, but falling back on processes and techniques that I've learned in school, such as affinity diagramming in a 3-tier system, led me to some robust insights.

Like digital products, publication design is an user experience too. Content must be curated in a way that's comprehensive and appealing to the reader, and the sequence in which information is shown is necessary to the reader's understanding of the subject. In both print and digital, storytelling is at the core of the experience.

Health and wellbeing is a hidden but resounding topic in the design field. Students and alumni all have different stories and experiences with health and wellbeing, but they each intersect and point towards a shared experience. In holding space to talk about health and wellbeing just in the interviews I did, there was a mutual sense of healing and validation in having similar experiences. I hope to keep holding and creating space to have conversation around health and wellbeing in the future.

In terms of next steps for the project, I hope to continue working with the faculty and administration to implement some of the recommendations indicated in the report, starting with a visit to the program in October.