A new approach to sexual education for today's young generation.
Bachelor Thesis, Industrial Design, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, 2019
Frustrated with my own experience of sex education during high school, I decided to tackle this massive topic for my Bachelor thesis. Sex education affects everyone throughout their lives and can have an immense impact on our personal development. It should help young people to gain competence in social, practical, ethical, and health issues rather than cause even more anxiety and confusion in one of the most crucial stages in human maturity.
So I asked myself, what should contemporary sex education look like? I decided to completely question this topic and discard old methods and approach it with a fresh, modern perspective. The goal was to use new media, language and methods to make knowledge accessible and to create a new relationship towards and with sex education. I was really happy to receive quite positive feedback from my mentors but also to create a lot of thoughts and awareness of this cutting-edge topic within my audience.
User-experience/ui design, ethnographic research, concept development & refinement, animation & presentation
5 months of individual work, supervision by Prof. Trauernicht & Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hemmert
“Most young women are very relieved when they learn that everything is nomal with their body and looks the same as everyone else's.”
– N. Linck, Gynaecologist
Research Phase -^
Who teaches sex education these days? As I began my research I first looked up where to find sex education nowadays. One of the most valuable documents was a study of the Federal Centre for Health Education in Germany (BZgA) about Youth Sexuality 2015 - The Perspective of 14 to 25 Year olds. The investigation provides an overview of important positions as a mediator in sexual education in Germany. During my further research I talked to teachers, sexual advisers, parents and most importantly teens. After a couple of interview sessions I realised a decisive potential - a private, online and very active solution does not really exist yet.
The main problem of sexual education today is the usage of outdated methods which are therefore not suitable for young people anymore (actually they’ve never been). Furthermore, the wrong medium is often used and it can happen that values and personal norms are imposed.
What should contemporary sexual education look like?
Social media and external influences in a connected world have changed the demands placed on modern knowledge transfer. There are inadequate conversations about the growing pressure on young people. This non-communication is based on shame and embarrassment and can lead to insecurity and anxiety.
Plan of attack:
① Using new media to reach youth
② Visualisation is key to make seemingly complex content easily understandable
③ In order to educate about sexual development successfully, feelings and emotions must absolutely be part of the conversation
Take away pressure -> Create safety -> Build confidence
The requirements of the users are very divers, as everyone learns differently. In order not to exclude any user, I decided that an app which is able to adapt to several situations is indispensable. Every single user should be able to use the software as it feels right for them – in every single situation. How the content is communicated is a crucial point and should have the perfect balance between a playful yet serious approach.
User Testing & Evaluation -^
To really evaluate such a sensitive topic user testing was absolutely required. An early app prototype was tested in multiple iteration loops with Jasper (15), Javla (14) and Cosima (15). The gained insights helped me to refine my concept to perfectly address the target group. One personal wish of Cosima that stayed in my memory was, a guidance to understand feelings better and the way in which they work. During my concept phase we had an ongoing exchange and I had the chance to implement their valuable feedback into my concept and design decisions.
“It is sad to see how more and more young people are craving for love and understanding in this digitalised world.”
– S. Franken, Biology teacher
Design Process -^
The process of designing ‘the pal’ itself was the most challenging part of the design process. Different graphic styles have been tested and evaluated with my user group to detect which they could identify with the most. Strong colours that have been used in combination with playful, candid and vivid forms stood out the most and met a positive resonance from different sexes. The app should be loud, fun and cheeky. The composition of the shapes should feel playful but still transport the serious aspect of this topic.
Name origin: Pal = Mate
Meaning: Your pals are your friends.
Other metaphors: coach, mentor, contact person, friend, companion, role model, guide.
pal is a digital mentor for young people and accompanies them on their way to adulthood.
Designing Emotions -^
As our feelings are in a constant flow the emotions should appear as organic and fluent as possible. A slight level of transparency visualises how several feelings can overlap and influence each other. The steady and vibrant motion creates the imagination that something personal, a perfectly tailored pal, is configured. A mixture of analog drawing and subsequent experimenting in Sketch helped to design an animated, coherent and balanced form. Afterwards I started to characterise the ‘emotion’ to give each of them its own, unique personality.
Onboarding Experience -^
The onboarding process is the first touch point for the user and therewith of extreme importance. Through the abstraction of emotional changes users can tell the app how they currently feel, where they stand in life, what they might need in the moment and what they expect from this digital mentor.
Learn gestures -^
In three steps the user is taught how to get to the emotional side of the pal. By holding the pal down, the waves form small circles. By dragging the finger in to the circles, a pop-up header shows the feeling behind them. By lifting the finger, the pal is coloured accordingly to the selected dot and the feeling moves into the spotlight.
A perfectly tailored pal -^
After finalising the onboarding process a short animation appears, in which the pal emerges and is configured. The pal stops and the home screen is built up around it. From here it is possible to reach the Feelings via pal, play a randomly selected game by clicking Start or access the other two menu items: The Library and the Forum.
Intro to the feelings -^
When you click on fear for the first time, you get a little intro to this feeling. In combination with a short explanation the picture moves as an animation.
Library & Forum -^
Another subcategory is Library. This is intended for when the user wants to read something short and sweet. The Library is divided into different subcategories, if you click on one in this case the body then produces different topic suggestions, which are illustrated. The illustrations should be gender neutral and so abstract that nobody feels personally addressed by them.
The third subcategory is Forum. Here you can browse or ask questions sorted by topic. The questions are answered by an expert and are completely anonymous. In the presentation, it was especially important to use short, concise keywords mixed with illustrations and not to scare them off with huge texts.
Play games -^
The start button takes you to a game, shown here is an example. A new game on a certain topic is randomly assigned to you again and again. In this way a playful examination of the topic should be created. After each game, a topic is explained and clarified by a visualisation. The x in the upper right corner takes you back to the home screen.
Keep track -^
If you scroll down on the start page you will get to your personal history about your experiences in the app. There is also a calendar. The calendar tracks your wellbeing and the peaks and troughs of the users moods. If you swipe horizontally you can see a history of the last months. The calendar collects the results using push notifications. There are also suggestions or relevant topics, which are coordinated to the user and his experience history. You can also access the settings from the start screen.
Meet pal -^
Throughout my research phase I quickly realised that a physical object wouldn't help to solve the issues around sex education. Therefore I created an app because the outcome should not be an industrial design object just because I studied this, but rather the best possible solution for the end user. This might have been the biggest push at that time outside of my own 'industrial design comfort zone' and my first entry point towards interaction design. I am grateful that I could explore my strong conceptual skills and pair them with visuals that would support the end result. I am still very proud of the outcome and overall concept.
Colophon – Linda Kraft © 2021