Design Change Makers: Jessica Jenkins Winner’s Story

We are very excited to be partnering with London’s Design Museum for a new higher education talk series called ‘Design Change Makers’. The first in the series will be a special event focusing on mental health. Among our various speakers we have Jessica Jenkins who’s mental health project won a Creative Conscience award in 2016. Below she writes about her experience. Unfortunately, tickets are now sold out to the event.

Mental health has always been a prevalent theme within my life. Having a psychologist mother, friends suffering from mental health problems, and my own journey with understanding my mental health, it came as a natural choice to explore mental health within my illustrative work. My project for the Creative Conscience Awards was an animation, the purpose of which was to encourage people who have friends or family suffering from mental health problems, notably depression, to be understanding and kind. Although mental health is being discussed more openly nowadays, I think there are still misunderstandings and assumptions made about mental health problems. Some people can fail to identify mental health problems as an ‘illness’ to the same level as physical illness and so often respond with dismissive phrases like ‘get over it’, ‘just cheer up’, ‘others have it worse than you’ rather than listening and offering help.

This was a very ambitious project as I hadn’t made an animation before. Rather than using animation software I drew each frame in Photoshop and then compiled around 700 images into a video editing software. Since then, I have animated in a much more efficient manner. I think the animation is effective in emphasising the importance of being understanding towards mental health problems, as it shows a consequence of suicide. While it is uncomfortable, I really wanted to emphasise how important it is to help those suffering with mental health problems. I think people have found the animation very poignant because of how hard hitting it is.

Why is it important to design for mental health?

As I previously mentioned, there are still negative assumptions towards mental health problems. I believe that by designing for mental health, these assumptions can be challenged as well as just normalising mental health and helping it to become part of daily conversation. Designing for mental health can also help people affected, to make them feel that they’re not alone, or to encourage to seek help.

Have you created any other mental health related projects?

Since the Creative Conscience project I have continued to focus on themes of mental health within my work. While the Creative Conscience animation had a more serious tone, my later work has taken a more humorous, playful one. I became aware that there was already enough media exploring mental health, or just any difficult issue, in a serious, sombre manner and I found that it wasn’t always very approachable.

I had attended an animation festival and the majority of the films being shown while very inspiring and poignant, were also very heavy in subject and low in mood. In the middle of the screenings an animation was played that was absolutely ridiculous and silly. Everyone in the audience burst out with laughter and it just picked the mood immensely. This animation screening demonstrated the importance of humour to me, even when tackling emotionally challenging subjects. My more recent work has explored the concept of crying and using humour in order to normalise and destigmatise it.

What are your future goals? 

I am continuing to create humorous illustrations. I want to create a comic series as well as exploring themes such as the importance of therapy/counselling, and not comparing people’s mental health. Generally, I just want to continue making charming, cheerful work that brightens my mood and hopefully others’.

Tell us why it’s important to design for a better world. 

Design encompasses so much media that is consumed in day to day life. Through design, positive ideas can be passed onto consumers which will ideally help towards making the world a better place. Not everyone has the talent to design and so I believe designers have a responsibility to make their work have a bigger meaning than just looking nice. They should use their talents to promote positivity and happiness.

Tell us about the Design Change Makers: Mental Health

I will be taking part in Design Change Makers: Mental Health at the Design Museum. The event will be showcasing projects from industry professionals, graduates and students who have used their talents and created positive change around mental health issues. I am looking forward to hearing other people’s perspectives of mental health and how they go about representing it within design. I hope to come out buzzing with ideas and inspiration.