"SJUOK?" is a campaign at  St. John's University focused on promoting positive mental health. This project started in the Fall of 2015 as part of a federal grant to universities for messaging around mental health. As part of the design team, my responsibilities included branding, type design, illustration, graphic design, layout, presentations, and more. 


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The research for this campaign was conducted by the Healthy Minds Study from 2014 to 2015. The study was very thorough and in the first section covered the basic numbers of the campus based on degrees, majors, demographics, etc. Following this were percentage breakdowns as to the number of students reporting depression, thoughts of suicide, positive mental health, and the impact of mental health on their studies.

The main takeaways for us on the design team were the amount of students that agreed with the stigma "Most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment," which was more than half, meanwhile the actual number that would think less was around 10%. Other important pieces of data were the number of students aware of on-campus counseling facilities as well as the number of students not taking their medicine, who need medicine to manage their mental health.




Based on the research results, and what we thought were the most important topics to address, we decided that the campaign must be approachable, friendly, and fun, while still being serious enough to discuss the matters at hand. For the identity we came up with multiple ideas that we then narrowed down to 6 names. The focus groups chose "SJUOK?" and expressed a preference for the one on the right (see image below). We thought that the round type seemed friendlier, but the sharper one seemed modern and more mature for a college audience. Liking certain aspects from each of these, I was tasked with redesigning the logo to address these issues.

The result can be seen below both by itself and in comparison. I left the general skeleton of the letters intact because they had this quirkiness to them that was quite inviting such as the narrow "U" the stance of the "S" and the overreaching top arm of the "K." I opted for rounded corners to suggest friendliness while keeping the maturity of the previous sketch, and lastly adjusted the weights so that there was a  clear separation between the "SJU" and the "OK?"

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For this campaign we don't have a set typographic palette. We use Montserrat as our primary typeface with all others acting in a supporting role. Having to provide some guidance for new workers on the team in our brand book, I chose to include a secondary sans and serif. Roboto pairs nicely with Montserrat because its narrow width contrasts Montserrat's wider forms, while also offering a more organic tone. For the serif recommendation I wanted either a slab-serif or something with very thick serif approaching a slab. In order to maintain the proper look and feel I felt that anything too far from a slab did not provide the right feel for the campaign we were working on. For a while I considered using Bitter by Huerta Tipográfica, but went with Aleo because it had a light weight on top of regular and bold, giving it the capability to operate alongside Monserrat and Roboto which span the weight spectrum all the way to thin or hairline.

A personal project of mine was turning the letters of the "SJUOK?" logo into a working font. The result can be seen below: 7 weights, no italics and alternates for "a" and "g." This is not necessarily meant to be used for the campaign but I think it could be useful in very specific situations if used sparingly, otherwise it would overshadow the logo.



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Our biggest decision was to use characters for a majority of the messaging. During brainstorming sessions, we anticipated situations we wanted to message around and considered the reactions to photos of other students versus illustrations of characters. We all felt that using photos makes it harder to relate to the emotion being expressed due to the lack of similarity between the viewer and the person in the photo. Using cute, colorful, and simple characters will move past appearances and allow each student to form a relationship with that emotion, making the materials more effective and more approachable.

For the first rollout of materials we show the characters with a diverse range of people to show that they correspond to how we are feeling. This was also done so that future materials were not completely restricted from using photos




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What's Next

This project is set to continue into Fall of 2019. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, with much admiration for the characters I designed. In my personal time I have been exploring the possibilities of using 3d in some of the messaging, offering even more capabilities to the campaign in terms of how we message and what we can depict with the characters, maybe in the form of toys or even  animated skits.