SIAT students win Design & Art Direction award

July 23, 2020

By Clare Slipiec

With their app, Mindful Barclays, three SIAT students have won the Wood Pencil Award at the British Design & Art Direction (D&AD) New Blood Awards, an internationally renowned design and advertising competition for students and up-and-coming creatives.

The Mindful Barclays app, created by SIAT students Calvin Cheng, Polina Chzhan, and Cassey Peng, placed among the top 7% of entries to receive the award and was the sole entry from Western Canada to be recognized.

In the D&AD Awards competition, clients provided briefs rooted in real-world problems and participants conducted research and designed user-centred solutions to the proposed problem. In this competition, Barclays, a British financial institution, asked participants to design a digital experience that would help vulnerable customers with mental health issues to better manage their money.

For their submission, Cheng, Chzhan, and Peng created Mindful Barclays, a financial wellbeing mobile app targeted towards university students with anxiety. The app is designed to change how students think and feel about debt by using an assumption activity that encourages them to question their negative beliefs through interactive financial learning activities. The app also includes a wellness component after each financial topic that utilizes meditation to ease one’s mind.

“As many existing financial apps on the market focus solely on helping their users to make more money, we saw…an opportunity for Barclays to prioritize their clients’ financial and mental wellbeing,” says Cheng.

The students were inspired to create the app for their course IAT 438 Interactive Objects & Environments with instructor Andrew Hawryshkewich. The design brief began as a component of a course project but the group, along with assistance from their course teaching assistant Stanley Lai, chose to continue to develop the app outside of the course and enter it in the D&AD Awards competition.

“Our team decided to come together again during the pandemic and work remotely to push the concept even further,” says Cheng. “[We] knew we wanted to challenge ourselves to understand a domain that we were not entirely familiar with—mental and financial health—to see what kind of design solution we could propose to Barclays. “

The group was personally motivated to develop this app because of their own experiences with financial management and mental health as university students.

“Students are left on their own figuring out specific financial terms and how, for example, a certain loan works. They feel ashamed of their lack of knowledge, which prevents them from talking to their parents, peers, or financial advisors,” says Cheng. “This constant pressure affects students' mental health as failures and mistakes prevent them from thinking positively about money.”

In creating the app, Cheng and his teammates wanted to provide students with a platform to not only learn about financial management but also to facilitate better mental health and a healthier outlook towards financial management. “We wanted to…help them understand that they are not alone and that the struggle they experience is a shared one,” says Cheng.

For Peng and Chzhan, who normally find themselves drawn to the user experience side of projects, the Mindful Barclays app allowed them to experience other sides of the design process. “After engaging in this project, I feel urged to step into the product designer field and explore ways to benefit the users with innovative design,” says Peng.

The group is grateful to their mentors and the invaluable feedback they received from SIAT teaching staff, particularly instructor Andrew Hawryshkewich and their course TA Stanley Lai who supported them throughout the project.

“Coming to the final year of our SIAT journey we wanted to make the best of every single opportunity,” says Chzhan. “Winning a Pencil [Award] at a contest like D&AD New Blood Awards helped me to gain more confidence in my abilities as a designer.”