Sprout application screens.
Reece Van Houtven
Feb 8 · 7 min read

The virtual plant that helps me remember to eat, and how it came together.

Sprout wordmark with logomark animation incorporated.

Sprout started with hundreds of ignored or missed phone reminders saying “eat!”. I found with a busy schedule I often got so submerged in my work that I would go full days without eating. After a full day of working or doing anything really, forgetting to eat really starts to take a toll. I would be frustrated and overwhelmed and really just starving. I needed to find a way to keep track and on task. A habit tracking app helps to organize and simplify life. The focus on mental health and support was an important drive in the creation of Sprout.

Mind mapping and name exploration.

Sprout is a habit tracking and support app focusing on mental health without the clinical feel or similar medical applications. Sprout works by giving daily tasks or accomplishments which when completed, let you water a plant or your “sprout”. To avoid being just a karma or award point system, as you grow or “level up” your plant, you get closer to a “final stage” where real life wildflowers are planted in a real-world ecosystem in need. While helping regrow deforested areas, taking care of your spout ultimately means taking better care of yourself.

The effectiveness of a concept like Sprout depends greatly on the platform. The inspiration for Sprout came from the ineffectiveness of iPhone reminders. I wanted to create an application that you didn’t want to ignore and didn’t annoy you into using. I decided a mobile application was the best platform for Sprout as a phone allows the most constant availability and use.

My first step before designing or even too much research is always mind mapping. Getting every idea out of my head and onto paper is the best way for me to narrow down what works and what doesn’t as well as the general direction I want to do. For Sprout, I started with “Mental health habit tracker” and explored connected thoughts.

Rough concept work.

With the conversation on mental health and wellness expanding and changing every day the research behind Sprout was imperative and abundant. I started by reading about habit tracking and the psychology behind procrastination and healthy actions. I studied in detail what people found to be the most needed reminders and the tone in which these reminders should be in. While researching I found language and tone were very important if not the most important in the mental health community. People react differently to certain tones and with reminders, it was important not to sound condescending or patronizing. I wanted people to feel comfortable with Sprout. The more active a user on Sprout the better, and no one would go on a health app they were uncomfortable with. Focusing less on illness and more on progress and growth was also a major part of the communication of Sprout.

Next created a few mood boards, exploring the visual identity I wanted Sprout to have. I wanted the app to feel organic and natural as well as competent and trustworthy. I tried two distinguished different looks — one darker and more soil inspired and the other more greenery and lively inspired. This led me to my next step of imagery and colour. While picking a colour palette that worked, I found a few that didn’t.

I started with a grey and green palette that looked professional and trustworthy. However, after some revisions, I decided professional wasn’t the prioritized look I thought Sprout needed. The grey also drained all joy and playfulness from the app, so I steered clear.

My next pallet was a monochromatic green which looked cohesive and worked with the concept, however, it proved itself difficult to work with. With a monochromatic palette, hierarchy becomes difficult without using the lighter shades which I had already decided drained the happiness from the app.

The finalized colour palette is a bright combination of two different greens, a strong yellow, and a warm blue. This palette projects joy and has a diverse enough selection for simple distinctions. The combination of green, yellow and blue gives a natural yet bold impression. I wanted a colour palette that comforted the user without being clinical and even though Sprout is an organic application I still wanted the user to trust it.

The logo for sprout is a simple wordmark. I chose to keep the logo simple as to not distract from the important content. If I had once again forgotten to eat all day, I was grumpy and frustrated and received a notification from an app beautifully decorated with an eccentric logo, there’s a good chance I’d get distracted once again. Sprout isn’t necessarily for everyone and especially not for everyone at their best. I know when I’m healthiest I don’t need reminders to eat, I just eat. So a simple logo was the best for Sprout because the content is what is really going to make Sprout worth it.

The font I chose for Sprout is Museo. Museo is a unique font with many variations. I wanted to use a strong yet fragile font that can be interpreted in different ways based on the views mindset. Museo comes in a slab setting as well as a sans serif, however, I chose to use the original Museo that looks as if it has smaller slab serifs but is actually still considered a sans serif. This unique font was my first choice display font because of its unique look — Museo is soft and strong at the same time, the same as people are.

So with my solid concept and research, I started laying out my content and creating wireframes. First I set all the static components; the status bar and navigation. I decided simple and clean navigation was best with three balanced icons. I utilized the logomark sprout as the centre icon which would allow me the opportunity for motion within other screens and used a circle to draw attention to some of the most important content. The circle acts as a progress bar that fills with water when actions are completed each day which draws attention to the apps main purpose of watering your sprout. The larger centre icon creates a sense of hierarchy that interests the user and also pulls the user to the corresponding screens in order to grow a successful sprout.

Sprout’s goal isn’t really to grow a virtual plant — it’s to grow happier healthier users who can take care of themselves better. Creating Sprout was a real learning experience in people first design.

The profile and tracker screens are equally as important, and the navigation simply helps lead the user to where they need to be. The profile screen, which is also considered the landing page or home screen. On the profile screen, you can add medical reminders, trusted contacts and check on your plants level. The profile screen connects the user to the Sprout. This screen is crucial to making the user feel welcomed, included and more importantly valued. The tracker screen is meant to be visited only a few times a day depending on the users’ schedule or app usage. On the tracker page, you can select what you have or have not done each day which will decide how much you water your sprout that day.

Flat Sprout application screens.

Sprout only takes moments out of your day to use and can bring a sense of stability back to your life.

Sprout works as a self-help application. Reminding myself to eat was where the concept came from, and it turned into an all-round habit tracking remedy for busy everyday people. Sprout only takes moments out of your day to use and can bring a sense of stability back to your life. Sprout is an effective and unique application that serves a simple and often overlooked purpose. Not everyone will find a need for Sprout, but the people who do know how easy it is to forget to take care of yourself, and having a virtual plant to take care of acts as a reminder.

This project was, in the beginning, quite a bit out of my comfort zone. I’ve never made anything in this type of genre before, and self-help has often been somewhat of a taboo to me. I always thought this to be the type of content people share anonymously or keep to themselves, but the research for this concept really brought me to a lot of understanding of the conversation behind mental health. The importance of language and tone was something I had never worked with before and I feel that I’ve learned a considerable amount about being open and transparent with design, and how putting people first really does take your work to another level.

Sprout’s goal isn’t really to grow a virtual plant — it’s to grow happier healthier users who can take care of themselves better. Creating Sprout was a real learning experience in people first design.

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