Why Are Sobriety Apps so Ugly?

Today’s design aesthetic is minimalist and millennial-friendly. Why are sobriety apps excluded?

Tyler Watamanuk

--

Credit: tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus

There’s a sameness permeating much of today’s design aesthetic: monochromatic hues, bold typography, and interfaces that are easy on the eyes and even easier to use. Over the past few years, this ubiquitous — and arguably now monotonous — minimalist style has come to dominate websites, apps, logos, commercials, billboards, and subway ads. From e-commerce startups selling everything from electric toothbrushes (Quip) to period-proof underwear (Thinx), the aesthetic is seemingly inescapable.

Except in one category: sobriety.

The majority of sobriety-based apps are ugly and clunky and lack the veneer of glossy modernism and effortless usability that coats the other apps and websites we use on a daily basis. They feel of a different era, either cheaply designed or out of date, often possessing the aesthetic quality of the internet’s early aughts.

This isn’t to say there aren’t several sobriety and recovery apps available; in fact, there are plenty, and they are wide-ranging — it’s just that most are unattractive and unappealing. It’s surprising, considering that approximately 40 million Americans meet the clinical criteria for addiction involving nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs, according to the Center on Addiction at Columbia University.

Apps have become a part of modern sobriety. I downloaded one when I got serious about getting sober, and I know plenty of people who use them as well. It’s not that anyone is especially excited about a particular sobriety app, but many sober people, whether they’re in a program or not, have them on their smartphones.

“There is more and more stigma being removed around mental health, but I feel like substance abuse is not there yet.”

There are straightforward counters that track sobriety and provide daily reminders of inspiration, like I Am Sober and Sober Tracker. Then there are more robust options like Daybreak, a support-based online program that offers an app with a community aspect and the option for one-on-one chats with a health coach. There’s even…

--

--

Tyler Watamanuk

Tyler Watamanuk is a writer and producer of things. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vice, McSweeney’s, and others. http://tylerwatamanuk.com