New Kiwi Kickstarter project: a diary for the mind, not just the meetings

Five years after the sudden onset of anxiety and panic attacks, a young Wellington designer is making products targeted to help and prevent mental illness.

As a younger man, Ramon Telfer was shocked to find himself experiencing first hand the problems of mental illness. His life was turned upside down with the onset of anxiety and panic attacks. Later, when he started studying industrial design, he realised it was an area relatively untouched by fellow designers, and one where he felt he could add value.

Now in his third year of an industrial design course at Victoria University in Wellington, Telfer’s latest design, recently listed on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, is a more “holistic” approach to the planner/diary. Instead of simply listing daily tasks and meetings, each page of the planner is split into three sections: mind, work and body.

The design is intended so users treat each section with equal importance, creating balance and hopefully improved mental wellbeing.

By February 17, Kickstarter funding for The Calming Planner was edging towards $6000, more than halfway to Telfer’s $10,000 goal, with 170 backers and a week to go.

If Telfer reaches his target, he hopes to manufacture the product in March (having already sourced a manufacturer) and have it on its way to pledgers by April.

Approximately one in six people suffer from some form of severe mental illness, but the prevalence of less severe symptoms is far wider. Telfer estimates as many as 70% of New Zealanders will experience some form of mental illness at some stage.

He says the idea for the planner came because often when he saw counsellors, they would give him sheets of paper to record his sleeping, eating and exercise habits and he’d end up with bits of paper everywhere.

“I wanted to create a place where I could use all these useful tools discretely. A place where I could monitor my day, my mind and my body and easily notice when I was neglecting one.

“I also wanted to be reminded to read my positive affirmations, keep track of my goals and improve my negative thinking habits.”

His planner includes a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) section, where users can track their thought patterns, identify triggers and create positive resolutions. There are also goal-setting pages, a rescue remedy section (a step-by-step guide to follow when you're in a bad headspace), a sleep tracker, fitness planner, nutrition planner, and inspiring quotes, affirmations and healthy recipes.

Telfer says the planner’s appearance has also been designed to make the user calm, by using the yin (black) and the yang (white) colours, and the pages set out clearly and not overcrowded with print. He also wanted a study, well-made planner, which doesn't fall apart – thereby causing more stress. 

Telfer first gained international attention last August with the design of The Calming Stone, a portable device for people experiencing panic attacks. The design went “viral”, Telfer says, featuring on prominent design sites, such as dezeen.com.

“It incorporates all your different senses: sound, scent, touch and so on. It takes you through positive affirmations, it takes you through guided meditations and it releases a cool scented air. In addition, it can light up at night so you can have it next to your bed for if you’re not feeling too good.”

Telfer says it will take more research and development before the Calming Stone’s design is complete, but he hopes some of the money raised by the Calming Planner Kickstarter campaign will go towards the other project.

Telfer says his experience with his own mental illness meant he really saw the value in designing to help people have a more healthy mind.

“It’s such a cool thing to incorporate design, something I think I’m reasonably good at, and mental health, which I have experience in, to come up with solutions to hopefully help people.”