Remember to Breathe

The summer started off with a bang as I made significant progress on the direction my thesis will take in Critical Making. Needless to say, I took on far too much this summer and was left not having any time to work on my thesis. The last couple weeks I have been disconnected from everything desperately needing to recharge my being. Rested and ready to move forward, I can feel the urgent tug of my thesis reminding me it is time to get to work. When you step away from something for a period of time it can be anxiety-provoking to begin again. Yet, begin I must. Due to the significant workload I have taken on, I have decided to push my thesis defense date to Spring 2017. While the date is not set, I am leaning toward late March or April next year. Today, I plan to reassess and redefine my logic model. When there is much to do, breaking everything up into manageable chunks is imperative. Once my logic model is complete I will post it here: Logic Model: V2

Despite the fear of falling behind, I feel confident in the direction my thesis is moving in. In Critical Making, I made leaps and bounds exploring different directions Mindful Design can take and the route I could pursue for my research. Here, I would like to reiterate and define my focus.

Thesis Statement—Mindful Design: An investigation into how mindfulness-based digital media facilitates mindful user experiences through a designer’s decisions.

XYZ—Investigating mindfulness through breath awareness through designing a web-based tool to facilitate mindfulness using design and to better understand mindful digital experiences.

Aha Moment—After asking the question, what is the connection between design and mindfulness, I discovered the missing link—the breath. When people are aware of their breathing, they are mindful. By designing a tool that focuses the user on their own breath, a user’s mindfulness may increase as a result. 

Looking at the concepts of “screen overload” and “screen apnea,” there is an opportunity for designers to look at how design affects a human’s quality of attention. Since 2000, the human attention span has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds. In 2015, the average American spent 9.9 hours using screen-based technologies with 5.2 hours on mobile/desktop/laptop devices (Meeker, 2015). Screen apnea is a term coined by Linda Stone, technology consultant. 80% of people experience shallow breathing or breath holding while doing email, or while working or playing in front of a screen. This creates increased stress levels, impacts emotional well-being and attitude, and affects productivity (Stone).

Goal—We live in a fast-paced, busy culture, and users are not getting off the screens any time soon. My goal is to meet users where they are (on screens) and help users in the midst of multi-tasking.

How—A breath awareness design tool: After brainstorming potential directions to take, I felt pulled to explore the creation of a desktop application that will help to facilitate breath awareness (mindful moments). How it works: (1) This application will use subtle, non-intrusive notifications to remind the user to breathe. (2) If they choose to further engage, they can click on the notification to launch a breathing exercise. (3) By focusing on an animated visual, users can become aware of their breath in the moment. The design of the visual is inspired by fractals, slow-motion imagery, and sacred geometry. The application itself will be customizable to meet user preferences including visuals, breathing speed, colors, sounds (breathing, music), text prompts vs. audio guidance.

Moving Forward

  • Continue research & writing
  • Develop notifications: is this the best method for soft interaction?
  • Integrate breath counting (used as a metric to assess mindfulness)
  • Develop more visuals
  • Sound: record voice-over guidance
  • Anonymous surveys: assess how tool affects mindfulness

One day at a time. Pressing forward…


Meeker, M. (2015, May 27); Microsoft Canada, 2015
Stone, Linda. “Diagnosis: Email Apnea?” OReilly Radar. N.p., n.d. Web. June 2016.

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