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.

Mood Nudges: The Science Bit


bookcoverI’d like to give a massive thanks to everyone who attended my workshop on ‘Mood Nudges’ as part of Manchester Girl Geeks (MGG) event for Geek Mental Help Week.

I’ve written about the workshop in more detail on the MGG website, where we used exercises from Jon Cousins’ Nudge Your Way to Happiness: The 30 Day Workbook for a Happier You to generate simple mood-boosting ideas.

You can read more about what we did in the workshop here.

The Science Bit

At the end of the workshop I alluded to some recent research Jon that suggested the Mood Nudges 30 day programme made a real difference to those who completed the workbook.

Jon has given me a sneak preview of the findings which are outlined below:

We set out to understand whether using the book Nudge Your Way To Happiness can help people who are clinically depressed.

If we measured their depression with a test that doctors use, before and after working their way through the book (which
takes 30 days) would we see a difference?

The test we used, called the PHQ-9 – the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire) – produces a score between 0 and 27, with 0 meaning no depression, and 27 representing the most severe depression possible.

The score range is divided into five bands that, apart from the highest division, are drawn at five-point intervals.

Healthcare professionals use the PHQ-9 to help decide, in part, what treatment – such as antidepressants or psychotherapy / counselling might best help a patient.

They also ask patients to complete the test as one way of determining whether or not a chosen treatment is working.

When the PHQ-9 is used to measure progress, the rule of thumb is that a reduction in score of 5 points or more over a period of 4-6 weeks means the current treatment regime is working, and should therefore be continued.

We asked 51 people to use the book for 30 days, completing the PHQ-9 before they started, and again when they’d finished.

The participants were a randomly chosen subset of readers of the Moodnudges blog who weren’t pre-selected on the basis of being depressed, so the sample included a range of individuals from those who had only the most minimal depression to others who were experiencing moderately severe depression.

The results, which can be seen in graph form, show two important findings:1. Across the board, the average reduction in PHQ-9 score over 30 days was 5.3, suggesting that using Nudge Your Way to Happiness can be as clinically effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy.

2. The greatest reductions in score were seen in those who were most depressed to start with. On average these participants’ scores fell from a level definitely placing them in the Moderately Severe category to one at the very lowest end of the Moderate division: only a whisker away from being labelled Mild.

Future work could involve working with a larger sample, and structuring the study as a randomized controlled trial. But these early results do seem promising.


Find out what we did at the Mood Nudges workshop for Geek Mental Help Week hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks.

Mood Nudges website and daily blog:

Moodscope (free and paid options):

Geek Mental Help website

Geek Mental Help on Twitter

Thanks to Mark Brown aka @markoneinfour and my brother Ellis for helping me develop the workshop format.