I began my process by questioning the very nature of commuting. What kind of mental space do we occupy while we commute? Why do some of us feel stress on a daily basis, and especially on the TTC? Why do we not feel “present” on commutes? By doing some surveys and asking a number of people more in-depth questions, I discovered that most were stressed even before boarding the TTC.
By zooming out of just the TTC, it occurred to me that the very context of commuting in North America – in an urban city such as Toronto, and perhaps city life in general – is very demanding. There are meetings to attend, deadlines to catch, and time to manage, and they all need to be done effectively or there are consequences. It can often be the complete opposite of “easy-going” – which can inevitably create stress.
Some must take the TTC due to the nature of their jobs or life circumstances. Others take it to meet friends conveniently. Others take it because it is simply there and they need to get somewhere. Others take it because they cannot afford a car and it is a cheaper alternative. Most jobs start in the morning, 9-10, and end around 5-6pm – and most people take the TTC to and from work. Most are stressed in the morning, and in the evening, especially while they take the TTC. So I began to think, how can I help people feel more “present” and focused, instead of distracted by the noise and crowds that the TTC and/or city plagues them with daily, as they have stated in the research I performed?
While researching methods to combat this problem, journaling as a form of meditation came up frequently. Many guided meditation apps exist today such as Calm, Headspace and Pause. How could I make my app different? Daily journaling, according to my extended research, has a grounding effect on stressed individuals. So I decided to create a journaling app to encourage the habit of writing on a daily basis. To let our feelings go, to make a to-do list for the day, to reflect on our values, and to keep us focused in the present moment. This is the idea that the Today app is built on: keeping us grounded, thankful, and on top of our game so we can take control of the present – “Today”.
From the people I interviewed and surveyed, most were working professionals. My ideal persona would be a working professional in Toronto (or another urban city), who is stressed and wants to make an effort to stay more centered, focused, and on top of their day during the times of day that they are the least “productive” – cue commutes. This app aims to help them organize their thoughts and get stuff done while on commutes in the morning, (or really, at any point in time during their day) when they feel they need to take more control. It hopes to offer a simple and accessible way to express themselves through writing and to organize their thoughts.
By using the app, users have the power to create:
The brand aesthetic for the app was inspired by Monocle Magazine and Aesop skincare. Simple, grounded, and static, Today app does not need internet connection to work. Like Apple’s Notes, but more goal oriented and inquisitive. Simple and direct. Muted colours so it is not hard on the eyes. Something that blends into the background of your life. Not meant to have a particularly strong impact, more like a helpful guide behind the scenes.
I chose to use “cards” because it was the simplest and most tangible way to display the idea of “today” and to organize it into a collection of some sort. The Apple App store inspired me of this concept with the way they displayed their content. The content would be user-generated, only with simple prompts to encourage the user to start writing. Since “Today” would be the main focus, the Homescreen would only display one card for “Today” and a brief summary of the Priorities, To-dos, and current Mood. Once tapped, it accesses the full card where it prompts you to write, edit, and view your content. There is no judgment here, these notes are for you only.
The Homescreen also locates the user – their city is displayed as well as the current weather, kind of like a dashboard – again, with the aim to keep the person grounded and in the present moment.
The Calendar icon on the bottom left of the main menu acts like a “log” where you are able to look at the entire month / year and click on any date to access that card and how you were feeling on that day. This offers an interesting opportunity to reflect on past feelings, habits, and goals, which could offer insight on your current situation.
On the Profile page, there is an option to turn SMS notifications on to remind you to create a new note/card each day, at a certain time. I also left some room to write about what you value and your dreams/goals. You can also change the theme colour. By adding these side features I wanted to empower the user to customize their experience in a way that fits their lifestyle, and also to keep it uplifting. The hope is for Today to help you get in touch with yourself to reach the goals you set.
Not featured: I added a Map feature and an Extended Homepage where it would be able locate you and your destination, but in the end, I decided to not include it.
By zooming out and considering the bigger picture of living in an urban environment, this app made me think of the bigger problems our society faces in regards to stress and noise. How can we stay more grounded and centered – away from most of the irrelevant distractions around us? How can we retain our mental health – but use technology, like a mobile app, to leverage it (like Headspace does)? My hope is that this app can champion a more grounded, rooted, and honest way of self expression. I believe that from there, we can be a far more productive and purposeful society.