Introducing our Intern: Keili Koppel

Keili Koppel - black and white image

Design, Research & Practice Internship & Report

One of the priorities for the Emerging Minds Network has been encouraging mental health research across sectors and disciplines. Our leadership team brought together experts with different perspectives and experiences including Professor Sue Walker from the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading.

In the summer of 2021, Professor Walker hosted Keili Koppel to undertake an Emerging Minds cross-disciplinary internship focusing on exploring and reviewing how design-led approaches and methods can encourage new ways of thinking about working with children and young people to promote and support good mental health.

One of the outputs of this internship is the report ‘Designing resources to support young people’s mental health’ authored by Professor Sue Walker, Keili Koppel, and Martha Barratt. The briefing summarises the contribution that design-led research can make to understanding, explaining, and supporting young people’s mental health. There’s also an invaluable appendix listing examples of design research projects focused on this field. 

You can download the report PDF by clicking the image or button below.

For more inspiration about working across disciplines in mental health research check out our page on working across sectors and disciplines, or this webinar on cross-disciplinary working from the Mental Health Research Matters campaign.

Keili's 2021 blog introducing the project

Keili received her design masters from the Glasgow School of Art in 2019 and has worked with the public sector to encourage designerly ways of doing research. She is interested in design as a form of inquiry, collaborative ways of working, and creative engagement. Below you can find the blog she wrote in summer 2021 to introduce her Emerging Minds Design, Research & Practice Internship.

Working for the Emerging Minds Network over summer 2021, I will be exploring and reviewing how design-led approaches and methods can encourage new ways of thinking about working with children and young people to promote and support good mental health.

Members of the Emerging Minds Network engage with young people in many different ways, and the aim of this internship is to explore and raise awareness of what design can contribute to mental health research. 

In reviewing design research and practice, I am taking a special interest in projects that are exploratory, generative, and collaborative, involving children and young people into the process.

Collaboration can come in the form of co-design, co-production, co-creation, collaborative design, or participatory design but the exact categorisation matters little. What does matter is how the research projects generate rich knowledge about lived experiences and capture future possibilities where the context and the people involved have the agency to iteratively shape the projects’ directions.

The component of designing in knowledge production, especially in collaborative settings, can help us not solve specific, pre-defined problems but broaden and diversify the ways in which we might understand challenges, ideas, boundaries, or experiences (Mazé and Redström 2007, 10). Complex, rich, and fertile understandings allow us to tackle mental health challenges in effective and impactful ways and ensure that the eventual research project outcomes (interventions, services, recommendations, policies) are relevant to people and contexts they are aimed at.

I am looking forward to sharing my findings with you in the next few months but to start with, here are some examples of how designers are working with young people to produce helpful resources:

  • The design process usually involves different, creative, and critical acts of making, with varied intentions, either to test, question, critique, speculate, inspire, communicate, or propose (Sanders and Stappers, 2014). Powell et al. (2020) co-designed an activity book prototype for 7–11-year-olds with ADHD to teach them about their condition and its management. The prototype was tested in a series of Zoom workshops with open questions and was redesigned considering all the comments and findings. You can download the activity book and learn more about the project here:

  • To better understand young people’s experiences of psychosis, Nakarada-Kordic et al. (2017) created a fictional persona that acted as a conversation facilitator in the workshop and collectively developed a resource that might help support other young people. These activities eventually led to the creation of a website that can be accessed here:

  • To et al. (2016), for example, wanted to encourage thinking through imagination and play and developed a card game called the Treehouse Dreams, that aims to facilitate the interviewing process by inviting young people to imagine a fantasy treehouse, an approach that increased expressiveness, whilst making young people feel at ease. 


Mazé, R. and Redström, J., 2007. Difficult Forms: Critical practices of design and research. Research Design Journal. 1. 28-39.

Nakarada-Kordic, I., Hayes, N., Reay, S., Corbet, C. and Chan, A., 2017. Co-designing for mental health: creative methods to engage young people experiencing psychosis. Design for Health, 1(2), pp.229-244.

Powell, L., Wheeler, G., Redford, C. and Parker, J., 2021. The suitability and acceptability of a co-designed prototype psychoeducational activity book for seven- to eleven-year-olds with ADHD. Design for Health, 5(1), pp.4-25.

Sanders, E. and Stappers, P., 2014. Probes, toolkits and prototypes: three approaches to making in codesigning. CoDesign, 10(1), pp.5-14.

To, A., Fan, A., Kildunne, C., Zhang, E., Kaufman, G. and Hammer, J., 2016. Treehouse Dreams. Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts