Care Labels For Humans: Help me test version 2



Having toyed with the Care Labels For Humans concept for nearly four years, I decided that 2018 was going to be *the year* when I made some real progress.

If you’d like to take part in the next prototyping on Sunday 14th January, then you can sign up to be a participant here. Please note that although this is Manchester Girl Geeks event it is open to all genders (those under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult).

Care Labels For Humans v1

Back in October 2017, I gave my first paper prototype for Care Labels For Humans its first test at a Geek Mental Help Week event held with Manchester Girl Geeks.

The badge back for Care Labels custom stickers.

Label badge from October 2017

The Care Labels were simple. A standard name badge bearing three slots for labels:

  • A – how the wearer wanted to be approached
  • B – the behaviour desired by the wearer
  • C – an interest as a conversation starter

I really loved testing the first prototype with a small group of engaged people,  it’s amazing how much I learned from a relatively unstructured session.


Inventive use of Care Labels

My favourite thing about testing the prototype is when people break my ‘system’, as it gives me so much insight into how creative people can be when it comes to expressing their needs.

This badge took the ‘toxic’ symbol, offered as one of the A (Approach) labels and repurposed it to express their passion for physics.

OK, so what’s new?

As well as having had the chance to mull over the findings from the October test, I discussed the Care Labels concept with lots of different people.

I’ve been delighted by the positivity of so many people, and these discussions have allowed me to add features which deepen the Care Labels experience.

Bigger = better?

The badge back for the Care Labels is now much bigger and worn on an A6 lanyard rather than fixed to an item of clothing.

Identity matters

  • Space for you to write your name
  • A place to specify your pronouns e.g. she, he, they etc

Asking permission

The B (Behaviour) badge is now used to identify how open the wearer might be to questioning. The options are:

  • Ask me about anything
  • Ask me about some things
  • Ask me about nothing

More freedom of expression

The badge front has space for the wearer to display more than one C (conversation) label, as well as options for those who do not wish to engage in verbal communication.

Participants will also be able to customise their Care Labels to suit their mood.

There’s a back to the badge!

I’ve introduced an extra element which allows the wearer to display some additional label types, but only to those they really want to.

I’m not going to say too much more here or it will spoil the fun!

Don’t miss out…

Please come along and join in the experiment at Virgin Money Lounge in Manchester city centre for our Blue Sunday event.

Tickets are just £3 and include tea, cake and a ‘lean coffee’ talks session.

See you there!

Care Labels For Humans: This time it’s sticky


Why Care Labels?

I can’t believe that it was February 2014 when I first blogged about my Care Labels For Humans idea.

In brief, the Care Labels are applied to customisable badge which serves to communicate how the wearer wishes to be treated.

Our clothes have care labels because our clothes can’t tell us exactly how they need to be treated to be kept in good condition.

Care Labels For Humans are being developed to allow people to communicate their needs without the having to be explicit about their emotional state.

So why have I returned to the Care Labels project after such a long break?

Back in 2014, I had thought about using elements of the Rubik’s Cube or Lego bricks to build the customisable badge. I had also generated a bunch of wearable item ideas.

I also explored how the wearable could become a connected device, sending Care Label signatures to a mobile phone.

There was just so much potential for Care Labels For Humans, and I became convinced I needed to get started with a commercial-standard product. Work ground to a halt.

Why now?

This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Italy on a retreat called F**k It: Do What You Love.

Through a series of workshops I began to uncover some of the things that I’d forgotten I loved doing like writing this blog and creating wellbeing tools.

At the end of the week I pledged to develop the Care Labels For Humans concept.

What are you doing?

So, back in September 2017, I’m committed to prototyping. I also have relatively little time to prepare a prototype in time for Geek Mental Help Week.

Lego brick badges rapidly became replaced with cardboard while custom elements became stickers that I would print myself.

Care Labels For Humans was back in business!

How does it work?

The badge back

The badge back for Care Labels custom stickers.

The badge back for Care Labels custom stickers.

I’ve done some recent development on the concept.

I decided to start testing with three areas where sticky care labels could be applied to the badge back. Each of the letters on the badge back corresponds to a type of care label.

The three types are:

A for Approach

How would you like others to approach you? Are you feeling fragile and in need of being handled with care or are you ‘open for business’. There are five stickers in this group:

  • Approach with caution
  • Do not disturb
  • Handle with care
  • Open shop sign

B is for Behaviour

What kind of behaviour would you like people to have around you. There are six stickers in this group.

  • Ask me anything
  • Ask me about what I’m thinking
  • Ask me about what I’m feeling
  • Don’t ask me any questions
  • Listen to me
  • Speak to me

C is for chat

Assuming the previous two conditions permit it, c stands for ‘chat’ – interests that you might share in common with others. There are twenty of these and I’m not going to list them all here but they range from art & design, to the outdoors and comedy.

The experiment

At this stage in their development, I just wanted to gather some feedback from a small number of people on how Care Labels For Humans worked for them.

Geek Mental Help Week is run in Manchester by fellow Girl Geek @Gem_Hill, creator and host of Inner Pod mental health podcast (among other things), and developer @mikebell_

ThoughtWorks generously hosted us in their brand new home at The Federation.

Geek Mental Help Week is a week-long series of articles, blog posts, conversations, podcasts and events across the web about mental health issues, how to help people who suffer, and those who care for us.

As the guests arrived I handed them the badge back to pique their curiosity. It was a small group of around 15 people, ideal for talking about mental health.

carelabel3After very brief introduction from me, we encouraged people to select their A, B and C stickers. We did this during a food break so that people had lots of time to choose their care labels and chat to each other.

I encouraged our guests to talk about their care labels to each other, and after the break we reconvened to share comments.

The main findings

  • People didn’t always follow the A, B, C order I suggested (which is fine!)
  • Some labels needed clarification on their meanings, for example:
    • How is ‘talk to me’ different from ‘ask me anything’
    • C (chat labels) need to have some way of making them easier to identify
  • When I pointed out to someone they shared an C label with another participant they felt ease about approaching that person
  • Several people wanted to use multiple C labels

The discussion afterwards focused a lot how people interacted with each other at large industry events such as conferences. These events can often seem quite cliquey, and there was a suggestion that people often hide behind their technology to avoid the self-consciousness of being alone outside talks and workshops.

It was felt that Care Labels For Humans could be particularly helpful in these kind of scenarios. Naturally, the conversation extended to how the Care Labels could be connected to other devices.

I shared my thoughts about how the wearable items could be adjusted physically but communicate digitally to produce Care Label signatures which could be embedded in messaging and other social tools.



I was delighted with the feedback and insights I had from the group. I can make some immediate changes from the feedback on the clarity of individual care labels.

I’m particularly interested in different sequences of Care Labels (other than A, B, C) could work and how I could build flexibility into the concept.

There is still lots more testing to do with the Care Labels For Humans. I am particularly delighted that I managed to put together the prototype with a spend of around £30. I have lots of badges or labels left over so I will be looking for different places to test.

Crazy In Love & The Chimp Paradox

Wedding attire.

Looking posh

OK. Life got busy but now I’m back!

This picture is of me at my friends’ Kas and Nalin’s wonderful wedding in Oxfordshire last week (one of things keeping me busy).

The Care Labels project is still very much in my mind and I’m planning to do some research with people who face challenges when trying to express difficult emotions.

I’m really interested to find out the kind of emotions and needs people find it hard to express and how they prefer to communicate.

I am looking at how best to do this, so in the meantime here’s a few other thoughts on emotional expression and psychology.

I have been reflecting on the emotional states and how these relate to two different models of how we think and behave in the world.

Thanks to Kate Norman (@sarahkatenorman) for pointing me the direction of this TED Talk by Dr Helen Fisher – ‘The Brain in Love’.

Dr Fisher studies people in different stages of romantic love, using MRI scans to look at brain activity of subjects, ‘17 who were happily in love, 15 who had just been dumped’.

In those happily in love, the research identified activity in the ventral tegmental (VTA) area of the brain. The specific cells concerned generate and distribute dopamine to other bits of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which relates, among other things, to pleasure.

What is interesting to me about this finding is she describes this activity as ‘way below your cognitive emotions’, in other words we have very little conscious control over whether this area is activated or not.

Dr Fisher likens the effect of this brain activity to the craving and excitement which we experience as when we are ‘in love’ with someone (similar to the effects of some addictive substances).

This might be something that we’d suspected all along but this work has provided some more concrete data on brain activity and love.

For all the self-help books, TED Talks, magazine articles and blogs out there offering to help us meet more suitable partners, make ourselves more attractive and hold onto romantic relationships, this research suggests there will always be a part of the attraction formula we can’t control.

Perhaps this is the reason, like it or not, that so many romcoms are based on this premise – a genre that remains ever-popular.

The second psychological model of the week comes from the excellent executive coach I have been working with for almost a year now.

He has a strong interest in the theory behind what drives our behaviour in the workplace, and recommended that I familiarise myself with the work of Dr Steve Peters – in particular his book The Chimp Paradox.

Steve was the psychiatrist that support the GB cycling team to success in the London 2012 Olympics.

I’ve not yet read the book, but this short film gives an idea of how we can be enslaved to the primal (chimp) part of our brain which has a tendency react to situations before we have a chance to think through a rational response to whatever is happening.

The reason I am connecting these approaches is that they highlight a primal part of the brain in a similar way. However much we know about ourselves and master our emotions there may always be that part of our minds that our beyond our conscious control.

Dr Peters looks to help us to tame our, often too quick to respond ‘inner chimp’ in certain situations, and Dr Fisher’s work suggests that there may be parts of the primal brain that rule our hearts no matter what.

Underlying both of these approach is the need for self-awareness – we may not be able to have complete control over the emotions or responses stemming from the old brain, but by being ready and willing to recognise these feelings we can deal with them in the way that serves us best.

Better off out than in?



Would you be happy for other people to know that you were feeling vulnerable?

Or that you were feeling angry, or hungry or tired?

I have been reading up on wearable technologies lately, and one of the things that strikes me is that of many people a big deal for other people to know just how we’re feeling. It’s an issue of privacy.

Many wearables rely on interpreting, almost in real-time, physiological changes which indicate that a person is experiencing a particular emotion.

The differences with Care Labels are:

  • They disclose a need rather than an emotion
  • The wearer sets them manually, they do not ‘read’ data directly from elsewhere

My hope is that people would use a variety of different tools to help inform their choice of Care Label at any particular point. This could include tools like mood-tracker MoodScope, or any of the other types of applications experimented with by people involved in the Quantified Self movement.

Depending on how much data you wish to collect about yourself you could track your nutrition, exercise, sleep, mood, heart-rate, blood pressure – whatever you believe can help inform you about what your needs are at any given moment.

You could adjust your Care Labels as often or as rarely as you wished, and, importantly, take them off if you really feel that they will really give away too much about you.

How happy would you be to wear Care Labels? Are there any Care Labels that you would not want other people to see you wearing?

You can find a list of suggested Care Labels here – please add your thoughts in Comments below.

You can read more about the thinking behind Care Labels For Humans on the About page.

Note: Twitter Data Shows When We’re Happy, Sad, Hungover


Last week Mashable reported that Twitter had gathered data about key words used in tweets which indicated the moods and behaviour of people on each day of the week for each month of the year.

Essentially they have aggregated the frequency of the following terms:

  • “feel happy”
  • “feel sad”
  • “hungover”
  • “late for work”

So, what did this reveal?

The most interesting finding to me is that December is a month of highs and lows. While Tuesdays in December often attract “feel happy” tweets, this is the month of the year when users are most likely to use the term “feel sad” in their update.

Why am I interested in this?

Part of the ‘Cheer up love’ care labels project which I have not really explored here is exchanging data from mobile apps with a wearable item like the care labels I have talked about.

So it could be possible that setting the wearable would add a ‘signature’ to your texts, emails or social media updates. This might be the combination that you have set the wearable to that day.

But taking it further, could the wearable item receive data from your texts, emails, social media updates or other quantified self apps or devices which would prompt the wearer to adjust their labels?

I’ve spoken before about using a mood tracking program such as MoodScope to recommend care labels for that day. MoodScope currently only records one mood score per day – but other apps could continue to inform your choice of wearable care labels on a much more regular basis.

Lifescouts: how badges can spark interactions


Enamel badges developed by Alex Day for

I’d like to thank my good friend Phil Bradley for a few thought grenades he’s bunged in my general direction lately.

Most recently he sent me YouTube video by a guy called Alex Day who has started a Tumblr site called Lifescouts. He loves badges and didn’t see why earning them for various challenges shouldn’t continue beyond the world of scouting.

Alex has devised a series of enamel badges which can be earned for a range of activities listed on the Tumblr site. So not only can people wear and share their badges face-to-face but add notes on their experience of each achievement to the Tumblr site.

You can see a full list of all the badges released to date here.

What has this got to do with ‘Cheer up love’?

Well, it’s about sparking face-to-face conversations around personal experiences by using a wearable item that might tell you something about that person you didn’t already know.

Wearing symbols, whether they reflect your achievements (Lifescouts) or your needs (Cheer up love care labels), acts as an invitation to other people to connect with you – even if they’ve never done so before. The physical, wearable object says ‘I am open to having a discussion about this’.

And here’s my badge:

First steps to generating a list of care labels



To get started I wrote a massive list of the kind of needs I thought people would feel the need to express using care labels. They fall into these general categories:


  • have a cup of tea and a chat
  • share a meal and talk


  • call me
  • text me
  • Facebook / Twitter / G+ me


  • handle with care
  • no questions
  • no difficult questions
  • smile at me
  • be patient with me
  • let me be alone
  • don’t take offence


  • ask me how I am
  • be listened to
  • to listen to you
  • smile at me
  • introduce me to a friend
  • include me in your plans
  • tell me the truth

Physical presence

  • just be there
  • share a hug
  • need some space
  • approach with caution
  • leave me alone
  • spend some time together one-to-one
  • spend some time together in a group


  • celebrate with me
  • a good night out
  • have a laugh
  • see some comedy
  • watch a film
  • go to the theatre
  • dancing / clubbing

As you can see there is some room for fluidity in these categories, with several suggested care labels fitting into more than one list. I suspect there may be a Venn diagram in there somewhere and will be having a look at that next.

Mood scores

Additionally, I came up with the possibility of adding a score of 0-100. This is what the mood-tracking website MoodScope allows you to. This level of detail would not be possible with care label beads that only allowed for four variations, but could be stripped down to:

  •  < 25
  •  25 – 50
  •  50 – 75
  •  > 75

Is there anything obvious I have missed? Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

You can read more about the thinking behind Care Labels For Humans on the About page.