Branding/UX Case Study

For many college-age adults, time management and mental health care are intimately connected. Nimbus is an app that combines both for a practical approach to care.  

Read the full case study on Medium

Faculty advisor
Courtney Spencer

Image of two hands holding a phone with a screen from the Nimbus app

The brief

  • An intensive user research process following Design Thinking techniques (i.e. the Double Diamond method).
  • A research-based design system detailing the brand’s mission and guidelines alongside UI elements and components.
  • A complete mobile app prototype created based on the design system.
  • Integration with an external device besides a phone or laptop.

The problem

In a 2018 study, the WHO found that about 1 in every 3 college students suffers from a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.1

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this problem, with rates of stress, anxiety, and mood disorders skyrocketing between 2020 and the present day.2

Clearly a solution was necessary, but with mental health care often difficult to access, how could students take care into their own hands?

Survey results from Nimbus research. The survey asks, "with 1 being poor and 10 being excellent, how well does your current wellness strategy work for you?" Most people answered 6; no one answered 1 or 10.

Survey results from Nimbus research. The survey asks, "How are you taking care of your mental health now?" Most people use a support network, therapy, or prescription medication.

Value proposition canvas graphic showing notes about the nimbus brand

Research outcomes

Nimbus originally began as an app that focused on alternative therapies for mental health, such as yoga and meditation. However, a number of our interviewees cited time management as being more important for their mental health and a major area of improvement. As such, the app pivoted from alternative therapies to time management as a form of mental health care.

Many people experience financial barriers to mental health care3, so there are major opportunities for accessible technology such as apps to level this playing field.

Graphic showing the Double Diamond research method as applied to the Nimbus workflow
Summary of research conducted using the Double Diamond method: Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver.

Nimbus is an app that combines self-care and time management to help its stakeholders build mentally beneficial routines. By balancing to-do lists and schedules with breaks for eating, drinking, and getting off screens, Nimbus is a tool for college-age adults to reconnect with themselves.

Its integration with a personal device (the Raindrop water bottle) and the Internet of Things makes it more effective than competition for creating healthy mental habits and beating burnout.

Diagonal grid of phones showing various screens in the Nimbus app

Layout of 4 app screens

Mockup showing three different notifications from Nimbus app

Mockup demonstrating tiles in the Nimbus UI
Mockup demonstrating tiles in the Nimbus UI

Design outcomes

  • Simplicity, accessibility, and intuitive navigation are the core of the Nimbus brand.
  • Adding a self-care dimension to a productivity app was a complex challenge for the design. Nimbus solves for this by using progressive disclosure to organize information and create intuitive user habits.
  • A natural, calm color palette was applied consistently to the UI in order to define patterns of use (for example, Navy #26466F was only used for clickable buttons). This was intended to create clarity within the app design and build habits in how the user interacted with and understood the app.
  • Color-coded notifications integrated with the user’s phone and environment (i.e. smart lighting) would help users maintain routines and transition between flow states.
  • The app would also be integrated with Raindrop, a smart water bottle that would act as an extension of Nimbus's notification system.

Row of three water bottles with LED stripes

Learning outcomes

  • Using a human-centered approach to solve design problems and create a good user fit.
  • Integrating Design Thinking methods into the problem-solving process.
  • Practicing agility by using research outcomes to pivot the focus and result of the project.
  • Demonstrating skills in research, organization, prototyping, testing, and branding.

Site map and user flows for the Nimbus app.

All components of the Nimbus UI kit
The design system for the Nimbus app.

Graphic showing components of the Nimbus UI
UI components for the Nimbus app.

Next steps

Many people experience financial barriers to mental health care, but there are major opportunities for accessible technology such as apps to level the playing field. Nimbus is a study in how an app can encourage self-care. How else could UX create better access to mental and physical health resources?

  1. Auerbach, Randy P et al. “WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: Prevalence and Distribution of Mental Disorders.” American Psychological Asssociation 127, No. 7 (2018): 623–638,
  2. Ebert, David Daniel et al. “Barriers of mental health treatment utilization among first-year college students: First cross-national results from the WHO World Mental Health International College Student Initiative.” International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 28, no. 2 (2019),
  3. Changwon, Son et al. “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students' Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 22 no. 9 (2020), doi: 10.2196/21279


©Audrey Lee 2023