Promoting Mental Wellbeing Through Design: An Interview with Rajlaxmi Jain
This article, by Eden Spivak, is brought to you by our friends at Editor X
The cultural influences that find their way into multidisciplinary designer Rajlaxmi Jain’s works are many and diverse. During her time around the world, working and studying in India, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S., Jain absorbed different styles that have each left their mark in her practice.
The designer's Indian roots are one such contributing factor to her personal aesthetic. “India is a very visual country,” she explains, describing lush scenes of hand-painted murals and rickshaws adorned with flowers and birds. “The visual language is extremely uplifting, and makes you feel like you're part of a celebration.”
During her studies in London, Jain homed in on the European design tradition as part of her training. “My lessons were heavily based on the Swiss International Style,” she says, mentioning the grid system and the principles of reduction and functionality.
Upon moving back to India and then to New York, Jain started experimenting with breaking these rules in favor of a sense of play and surprise.
Together, these various backgrounds constantly inform Jain’s work and keep her attuned to the cultural implications that come hand-in-hand with creative practice.
Designing for Mental Wellbeing
Jain feels strongly about the power of design in enhancing emotional wellbeing. “I think design can improve mental health in so many ways,” she says, noting how it can shape everything from our environment down to our very sense of self.
These ideas are at the forefront of Jain’s thesis project, “One Mindful Mind.” This award-winning interactive print toolkit fosters positive psychology among children. The toolkit was further developed and published at the creative agency where Jain worked at the time, TBWA India.
While working on the project, Jain educated herself on the topic of pediatric mental health through extensive research and conversations with school counselors, pediatric psychologists and social workers.
By browsing the children’s sections at bookstores for hours on end, she gradually identified the key points that were later integrated into the toolkit. One notion that came from her research was the bright and vivid color palette. Similarly, her use of various materials and textures are meant to evoke a sense of tactility.
“More and more, children are missing out on the tactile experience that only print can bring,” Jain says, explaining her choice of creating a printed product. She notes how, on screen, “you cannot feel textures, tear a page, smell freshly printed paper, paste stickers, scribble with crayons.”
She also points out that “children like having things in abundance with options to pick from,” leading her to break the kit down into five distinct formats. This allows kids the freedom to make their own choices, so that they can “navigate and explore their way around the kit.”
Amplifying Voices in Mental Health
As part of her mission to advocate for mental wellbeing through design, Jain also took on the website redesign for nonprofit organization I’ll Go First, in collaboration with Aanya Gupta and Karla Cullen. The project was created during her studies in the 2020 Wix Playground Academy.
Founded by Jessica Minhas, I’ll Go First provides resources and support around the topics of mental health, trauma and healing. At the core of the website redesign was the intention to shift the organization’s messaging from a more solemn approach to a cheerful and optimistic tone.
Another important design direction was to highlight the personal stories shared on the I’ll Go First podcast, by prominently displaying photos of the real people behind the episodes on the homepage.
This design choice is in line with the organization’s mission of inviting people who deal with trauma, abuse or illness to step up courageously, dispersing the prevalent stigma and shame.
“We tried to make the site welcoming, uplifting and energetic,” says Jain, “because the very spirit of the organization is not being afraid to go first and take charge.” The visual language chosen for the design is bold and colorful, in testimony of the I’ll Go First community.
A Creative Vision for Web Design
Having recently completed a summer web design program at the Wix Playground, Jain describes a fun, inspirational learning experience. “I think my biggest takeaway was not to be afraid and keep trying new things, because that’s the best way to learn,” she says.
As her final project for the academy, Jain created her own portfolio website on Editor X. “Editor X is an extremely powerful platform,” she says. Her portfolio website uses code to create microinteractions, such as small animations and hover effects that add a playful touch to the otherwise sleek and elegant design.
Speaking of her use of code, Jain shares that “it’s a first for me, so bringing my vision to life and learning to code was definitely an exciting experience.”
Nonlinear Design Processes
Jain has recently joined the Brooklyn branch of digital product agency Work & Co as a product designer. She describes the agency’s working environment as nonlinear, with all teams working in parallel.
“Once you get a brief, you dive straight into the design without having to wait for the strategists or writers to get the content to you,” Jain explains. The result is a creative process that’s in full gear from the very early stages of the project.
“We start concepting and putting together fully fleshed, high-fidelity designs and prototypes on day one.” This way, by the time a project comes to an end, “you’re going with the best ideas from the thousands you’ve tested. I mean, how amazing is that? You’re always three steps ahead!”
As a product designer, Jain is excited about creating digital products that become a part of people’s daily lives and affect them for the better. She’s also inspired by the talented team at Work & Co, who are constantly pushing her to keep learning and growing.
Eden Spivak is a design expert and editor at Shaping Design by Editor X. She is also a freelance illustrator, with a love for editorial and children’s illustration. Working at the intersection of text and image, she is passionate about putting visual concepts into words and dreaming up imagery to accompany written text.