Master Thesis Evaluation

Helping People Through the Grieving Process

Danai Asteriadi 

The Estonian Academy of Arts

Degree and submission
Interaction Design, May 2021

Riina Raudne
Tanel Kärp
Nesli Hazal Akbulut 

Level of design
The design of the thesis accentuates the topic of mental health. It is friendly and easy to understand due to graphical support. However, viewed from a design perspective it is not particularly outstanding but rather the basic standard.

Degree of Innovation
The aim of the thesis which is to explore ways to help people through the grieving process is quite unique and rarely researched on I suppose. The outcome on the other hand is an interesting interactive board game that focuses on the time spent together while thinking of memories, which is a positive outcome but not necessarily innovative from my point of view. 

The author was intrinsically motivated to research on the topic, and was apart from inspiration completely independent.

Outline and structure
The outline and structure of this thesis are very good indeed, since it is based on the well-known double diamond design approach. It is a fluent order which makes a lot of sense in terms of understanding the methodology and the research process right up to the concept development of the author.

Degree of communication
At every section it is perceivable what the author means and wants to communicate. The language used is accurate yet colloquial. The content is enhanced by graphics and pictures which make it even more understandable.

Scope of the work
The thesis consists of 169 pages. To me it is well balanced, not too much, and not to little. For the aim of the author as well as for the reader the amount is perfectly sufficient. 

Orthography and accuracy
The thesis is very well written and it seems like there are no orthographical mistakes. I find the accuracy relative to the outcome of the board game totally fine as opposed to the research topic of the grieving process, which could’ve been described in a more accurate and scientific manner.

The author declares 53 references, which seem to be reasonably cited. The major content deals with design processes, and unfortunately the author has stated not too many references dealing with psychology.

Cultural body

When discussing the mind we also need to discuss our body. Interactions are not only processed in our minds but always use our body as the vehicle. In this article I refer to a paper that discusses the body and its cultural conjunction as well as and interesting gesture controller design that shows a designed outcome of of a philosophical point of view.

Sara Sithi-Amnuai has developed a custom built MIDI glove interface called NAMI that is designed for live electro-acoustic musical performances. It is a tool that extends her own multicultural background. Nami utilizes a force-sensitive-resistor, flex sensors, buttons, hall effect sensors, and a photoresistor. The purpose is to allow the user to use their own gestural vocabulary while being culture general and flexible valuing cross-cultural exploration and accommodating a variety of cultural gestural language.

In Sithi-Amnuais paper “Exploring Identity Through Design: A focus on the cultural body via Nami” she discusses the cultural body, its consideration in existing gestural controller design, and how cultural methods have the potential to extend musical/social identities and/or traditions within a technological context. She starts off by describing the metaphysics of agency, identity, and culture. The identity of a human-being is deeply linked to culture and sustained through creation and performance of music and dance. The agency describes an “… active entity constantly intervening in the course of events ongoing around [them]”. Our mind is inseparable from our body, while the body being the physical material through which we have access to the world. Sithi-Amnuai refers to a study by Steven Wainwright and Bryan Turner that shows that the identity of former dancers in Royal Ballet in London is deeply rooted in their own body. Once their career has ended, it is exceedingly challenging to reinvent themselves outside the company.

Sithi-Amnuais take on gestural controllers is very philosophical. Once again, I thought how important it is to have philosophical and meaningful foundation for the execution of a design. But also, the gadget itself is very interesting and makes up for an inspiring controller that enables users to put more of themselves into the music. She sparked my curiosity to explore and extend my own cultural body. In that regard, cultural etiquettes, movements, and experiences through sense, sight, and feel are affecting our instruments and tools as well.



I think children are in a flow a lot [1]

So far I have analyzed some problems and circumstances not only in our society but also in our minds that lead to a rather negative state of mind or even mental diseases. With this article I want to focus on something incredibly positive, something that is even worth living for: the flow.
I’ve read the term “flow” in the context of psychology for the first time in the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. It striked me because it was absolutely congruent with what I have experienced. By referring to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Kahneman wrote that the flow is a curtain state of mind of effortless concentration which is so deep that you lose the sense of time, yourself and your problems. The joy that you experience is immense and Csíkszentmihályi says with good reason that the flow is the ideal experience of a human-being.

A lot of activities can set you in a flow whether it is making music, writing a book, or participating at a Formula-1 race. Driving a race car at 260 km/h or playing world class chess are without a doubt very exhausting activities. But what’s interesting about flowing is that you don’t need any self-control to maintain your focus on those activities, whereby resources are released that can be used for the activity. [2]

Mihaly interviewed various creative people and scientists to find out what makes them happy, and what makes them strive, sometimes without fame or fortune, and I would like to share two quotes with you here.
A well-known musician said: “You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hands seem devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And the (music) just flows out of itself.”
A poet said: “It’s like opening a door that’s floating in the middle of nowhere and all you have to is go and turn the handle and open it and let yourself sink into it. You can’t particularly force yourself through it. You just have to float. If there’s any gravitational pull, it’s from the outside world trying to keep you back from the door.” [3]

And this is just exactly what I’ve felt, and what just made me incredibly happy. In fact, that is a major reason why I’ve started to pursue a creative career.

Regardless of the culture, education, or the like, Csíkszentmihályi claims that there seem to be seven conditions occurring when being in a flow:

  1. Total involvement in what we are doing – engaged, concentrated and focused
  2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
  3. Inner Clarity – knowing what needs to be done and measuring our achievements resourcefully.
  4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that you have the skills you require for the task at hand.
  5. A sense of serenity – unconscious competence, present and a feeling of growing behind the boundaries of the ego.
  6. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present and in a zone of the fullness of being
  7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

Owen Shaffer proposed seven clear and short steps that are necessary to get into the flow:

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you are doing
  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  5. High perceived challenges
  6. High perceived skills
  7. Freedom from distractions [4]

Being a designer I am interested in getting myself into a flow. But I am also very interested in taking other people with me into a sort of flow. I wonder if it could be possible to enhance experiences with my knowledge about the flow. Is it something that can be triggered through design? I know that the flow is something really powerful not only regarding mental health. It is something worth considering for my master thesis.

PS: While writing this blog-post I was [almost] in a flow.

[2] Kahneman, Daniel (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow
[3] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, TED2004
[4] Schaffer, Owen (2013), Crafting Fun User Experiences: A Method to Facilitate Flow, Human Factors International

Mind food | Collection 01

This post will show best practices and interesting projects, products, and services that benefit mental health.

Emotional First Aid Kit

“What if we treated emotional health equally to psychical health? This kit is designed for very different emotional scenarios.” – Rui Sun

Sun, a graduate of the MA Industrial Design program at London’s Central Saint Martins, developed a toolkit to cope with stress and provide comfort.
The purple breathing mask emits calming scents when the user inhales, allowing them to think clearly in intense situations. The Indigo Third Eyeglasses have three lenses to remind the user to use their “third eye” and look at things from a different perspective, while the Blue Stress Buster is a portable speaker that visualizes sound with blue ink. Should the user get involved in an argument, the Green Meditating Stethoscope helps them tune into their breath and meditate, and a Yellow Confidence Booster is a super-light padded jacket that helps people who “lack the confidence to solve dilemmas or address a situation” [1].


Apple iPhone App of the Year 2020: Wakeout!

Moving is proven to reduce stress, makes you feel more energized, and enhances your mood. Lots of people have no time to work out and spend hours a day sitting on a desk. “Wakeouts” are movements that are fun, brief, and can be done just about anywhere, anytime. The app has over 1000 exercises and hundreds of routines designed in a variety of places over 2 years.
Quick Breaks are 1-minute, 4-movement routines that you start with a tap. Active Work Timer allows you to schedule recurrent active breaks to have a healthier workday. Wind Down routines helps you sleep better with relaxing routines before bedtime. Wakeout for Apple Watch lets you squeeze in 30-second Wakeouts right on your wrist. The new iOS 14 widget lets you start 1-minute quick breaks right from your Home Screen. Schedule up to 4 reminders to make sure you don’t stay sedentary for too long. You can also browse the massive library of location-specific movements and filter by mood (energizing, relaxing, intense, or fun), and by length (1 movement, 3 or 5) [2].

Naked Doorway by Marina Abramović


When I first visited an exhibition by Marina Abramović I was shocked – in a very positive way. Her works are dealing extensively with the human mind and intense emotions. Abramović’s performances deal with love, shame, inner demons, and the whole palette of emotions. 0ne of her most popular performances is the naked doorway where two naked persons, a male and a female stand in a doorway staring at each other while visitors should walk through them. I think it helps people to overcome their insecurity about their bodies and sexuality in general. Even though it’s such a brief moment, it definitely has an effect on many people who find it beautiful how this performance creates an intense experience with the outcome of learning to deal with the naturalness of our bodies. Its purity puts the human-being and their relationships in its simplicity into focus, which I find wonderful.


Therachat claims to improve your mental health by offering Journeys which are bundles of evidence-based therapeutic activities to help you achieve specific mental goals. You can learn simple breathing techniques to cope with stress. As a sort of modern diary you can track your emotions to realize how they affect you over time. By reframing your thoughts you could break through common negative thought patterns.

The activity library:

  • Assessments
  • Brainstorming
  • Coping Skills
  • Emotion Tracking
  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness
  • Psychoeducation
  • Skill Building
  • Thought Reframing
  • Trigger Tracking

Therachat can be used by yourself or with your therapist. Using it with a therapist will increase the effect it has on you, so that you get more out of every session. Your therapist will be able to assign you custom activities relevant to your treatment and you’ll be able to securely message your therapist in between sessions.






Virtual reality exposure therapy


Anxiety disorders expressed by avoidance are among the most prevalent mental disorders. Exposure therapy is one of the key components in cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) for this problem. The concept of virtual reality could be a groundbreaking success in curing mental illnesses.
Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) allows patients who suffer from fear, anxiety, pain, phobias, brain injuries, addictions, and PTSD to enter a virtual world in which they are exposed to negative stimuli. The idea is to build resilience and emotional strength or distract the patient from their pain. The earlier a patient starts the easier it is to heal. Avoidance behavior can lead to an extreme so that it interferes with the quality of life.

The procedure

It is recommended to see a therapist first who helps you examine the origin and extent of your fears. Talk therapy should be the start of your treatment to prepare yourself for the upcoming experiences.
Embedded in a larger therapeutic treatment VRT is applied in different stages. Users wear a head-mounted display system (HMD) with binocular screens, stereo sound, and a movement-tracking method to follow the shifting VR environment and the user’s head movements. In many cases, the user can move with manual control when appropriate, feel vibrations through a platform, and be presented with olfactory stimuli through a scent machine that uses compressed air to diffuse scented substances.
The carefully designed virtual environment contains stimuli that have been associated with fear and in each state, those stimuli increase in appearance and intensity so that the patient’s body and mind can slowly adapt to the situations. In an exchange with your therapist, further modalities will be considered to cure you just right.

Treating various phobias with virtual reality exposure therapy [2]

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

The efficiency of VRE goes beyond simpler anxiety disorders, given that studies performed with panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorders have also shown VRE to be effective [5].
Combining VRET with cognitive behavioral therapy can make up for profound and sustainable healing. VRET could also help to examine the fears you have in the first place when you’re unable to understand the origin. If a child for example suffers from a fear of school the virtual world can help the child express what exactly frightens him or her. Additionally, the therapist could then try to propose different actions the children could take if they are in such a situation [3].

Curing PTSD with VRET has especially shown an effect for Vietnam war veterans. Soldiers experienced a reduction in their PTSD syptoms after being exposed to various situations that provoke fear such as jungles, helicopters or fighting sceneries.


  • patient and therapist can share the exposure experience
  • the option of applying exposure and control over the stimuli becomes available
  • VR allows the therapist to individualize the exposure for each patient
  • VRET facilitates the evoking of memories that may be difficult for the patient to relive by complementing those mental images with sensory cues
  • VRET is especially attractive for the current generation geared towards digital technology


  • development of computer programs and the necessary computer equipment are costly
  • the possibility of a system failure is always present and could interrupt a therapy session
  • the therapist has to be trained to use a VR system
  • VR concept itself may distract patients
  • the amount of sensory stimulation that can be used in VR is limited by current existing technology


Momentarily, VRET is not as prevalent due to its costs and simple newness. Very few therapists use VRET as of now, while the infrastructure is not expanded. Probably the availability of VR equipment will increase over time not only because of its benefits for psychic treatment but also for the general interest in other sectors, such as entertainment or education.
Clinical trials have repeatedly revealed that its effects persist after treatment and that it constitutes a valid alternative, or useful addition, to traditional exposure therapy. With the increasing prevalence of mental health assistance and the constant evolution of technology, the future possibilities for VR seem practically limitless.






Getting into your mind

To achieve the aim of benefitting mental well-being, behavioral science and its application to design are essential. Understanding how choices are made is crucial to change user behaviors. To do so, I will take a closer look into heuristics and the behavioral design toolbox.

Humans run, and ruin, the world, and behavioral science helps us understand and drive changes in human behavior.

Monica Parker
Founder, HATCH Analytics


To simplify our day-to-day decision making and to speed up thinking, we use cognitive “shortcuts”. There is a great variety of shortcuts, but here are some teasing examples:

Social proof:
Have you ever matched a response of another person to a social media post, even though you didn’t truly feel the same way? The reason for that is, that being social animals makes us constantly search for social proof and the reward of the tribe.

People create judgments only based on their available information. I.e. hearing of multiple plane crashes in the news might make you cancel upcoming flights. Because plane crashes are relatively rare it could be seen as an incorrect evaluation but generally, the availability heuristic also allows us to draw quick conclusions when needed.

If you read the word EAT, how would you likely complete the word fragment SO_P? Even if you don’t intend to, external stimuli such as words or body language prime your idea of something.

Behavioral Design Techniques

Optimal challenge
If you make a task too easy for someone they might not continue and if you make it too difficult you could induce fatigue or surrender. The right balance between difficulty and ease of use engages users and makes them achieve their goals.

To predict and change behavior machine learning utilizes your data and learns about you. Asking for preferences and making recommendations will make up for a personalized experience you are likely to revisit.

Stopping rules
I oftentimes don’t notice how much time has passed when scrolling through Instagram, which is due to the infinite scroll. It is by design that we don’t know when to stop consuming more content. If you want to reduce the habit of the user you can use the stopping rule vice versa.


UX designers have to ensure that products are being created with fairness and positivity in mind. Heuristic and behavioral design techniques should be applied for beneficial purposes to the users only. The last decades have shown us the tremendous power of applied behavioral science to do good. Applications save our time and some products even save lives. But recently shady manipulations have risen to change our behavior just to consume and gain profit for the industry. It is our responsibility as designers to work on our code of ethics to consider the consequential outcome of our designs.


Taking back control

The individualization shift of the last decades was caused by three major developments. The first is the increase of wealth by which nearly all demographic groups elevated to a higher living standard. Secondly, shortening working hours brought more spare time in which citizens could pursue their interests, hobbies, political engagement, or further education. Eventually, an educational achievement brought social climbing and cognitive competencies that encouraged us to think about ourselves and our lives more profoundly.

Nowadays everybody has to answer their questions in life on their own instead of just following the path of their milieu like it was in former days. Life, death, identity, gender, physicality, religion, marriage, parenthood, social binding – everything is decided in detail by our selves, which can be overwhelming. Since we do not identify with a set of traditions anymore, everything could’ve been arranged differently, everything is questionable, there is always an alternative. We lost the cultural binding that led our way through the jungle of options.

Now, how can design make a difference here? Well, what if there is something that could help us guide the way through all those options? Help either to see the effects of a decision beforehand or simply help feeling comfortable with already made decisions.

One of the beautiful things about machine learning is that massively large data sets can be processed. And instead of using online profiling data for marketing intentions, it could be used to empower the very person whose profile it is. By creating online profile transparency and offering insight through an interface one would be able to understand themself, to make better decisions, and to understand their effects. Like laying out branches of actions that converge to a butterfly effect.

The butterfly effect basically describes how a small event can have a huge impact later on. Using an interface that computes your personal life could either predict the future or will let you understand your past. I personally find that idea fascinating even though it’s unclear how well machine learning and AI can execute it at this stage. I do not propose a destiny forecast but rather a tool to understand themself and to gain an overview of personal behaviors instead of offering it to companies that then forecast your consuming future for you.


Ralf Dahrendorf: Der moderne soziale Konflikt. Essay zur Politik der Freiheit, Stuttgart 1994

I’m down, cheer me up!

At least since the beginning of the 21st century, we can witness a shift in the occurring of mental illnesses and how we treat them. On one hand, we face an increase in i.e. depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorder, and on the other hand an increasingly outspoken society that stands for the destigmatization of mental disorders.

Mental health is without a doubt of great importance since it affects how we think, feel, and act each day. It contributes to our decision making process, how we cope with stress and how we relate to others in our lives.

What is happening?

Our mentality is affected by biological factors, our family history, and life experiences. The interaction between society and ourselves, be it physical or digital, contributes to the changes in psychology. Western civilization is best characterized as a rather individualistic society that is embedded in capitalism, demanding hard work to live a good life.

In search of…

There is an ongoing search for finding inner peace and a true self for generation X and Y, even for people who are not suffering from mental diseases. It seems like a lot of people have a latent dissatisfaction, and that combined with a quantified self that tries to be as good as it can to keep up, makes up a search for “healing”. Recently many different practices got popular, such as yoga and meditation, fasting, taking ice baths while using the Wim Hof (breathing) method, or participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, just to name a few. So people do all sorts of things to approach their mindset, and to be more healthy.

A creative approach

So, to me the topic of mental health is very interesting as you might have noticed, and I want to help. If my final proposal will be located in the medical sector, in the field of consumer electronics or somewhere else is open for now. But to narrow it down I will focus and further discover the following:

Medical VR: Is there a way to enhance the effects of therapy with the aid of technology? I think of a tool for psychiatrists and psychologists to deepen the connection with their clients. A well-designed tool that is easy to use yet effective. To open up in front of a therapist one needs to feel comfortable. To do so it might be interesting to use virtual reality to provide an experience that is a vehicle to better understanding – to feel more empathetic. The therapist could see through the eyes of the client for example with projected POV images.

If somebody suffers from a childhood trauma it could also be possible to generate scenes (with AI) in which the trauma is revisited in a positive way to overcome the trauma. I am curious about creating a journey in which the user goes through different stages, representing an experience that will change his life or at least his mood for the better. With sophisticated tools like measuring the heartbeat, transpiration, eye movement, and so on, the experience could be an answer to the current body situation, always adapting to the user.

Affecting the senses: Very tempting to me as well is the design of light, sound and haptics, and the embedment into our everyday life. A haptic object that calms us down, mood changing lights or touching sounds – our senses need to be approached multidimensionally. Currently, light is used more and more to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a sort of depression that occurs typically during autumn and winter each year. But we are not only affected by the sheer amount of light but by the colors, the combination with sound and haptics. There is more to discover to deal with our senses in a more appropriate way on a multidimensional level.


Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)×675.jpg*r3nk1mgPBKaNEjKeAY6Ptg.jpeg