The HabitAware Story: Our "WHY" is in our Logo

An Interview with Alison Beattie, Director of User Experience - Target

The past few months have been insanely busy. We finalized our product, shipped Keen pre-orders and had a baby!

We’ve been moving fast but this milestone also lends itself to pause and reflect not only on how we got here, but also honor those who helped us! (P.S. have you seen what Prevention Magazine said about Keen?)

To start, we chatted with Alison Beattie, my friend & UX/graphic designer, on the origin of the HabitAware logo!

Alison & I met while working on a massive branding & website launch at Fallon, one of the top ad agencies in Minneapolis. I asked for Alison’s help because I didn’t feel I had the design chops – or the confidence, but that’s a story for another day – to create the HabitAware logo:  

Why does the HabitAware logo look the way it does? The answer has to do with core logo design principles, and, of course, our own “Why?”

The Design Process

Aneela: Firstly, Alison, thank you for joining us on this journey and being so supportive through it all. I really appreciate you sitting down to take our readers through some of your design choices :) Can you start by tell us a little about the design process?

Alison: Thank you, Aneela!  Sure, the first thing I do when working on a logo is try to understand what the company is about and what they are trying to accomplish. A good logo should communicate this easily, while also creating a bit of an "ah-ha!" moment. I also want to make sure I design something that my clients will like! I always start with a moodboard of sample designs, fonts, markings and colors to gauge client design preferences. From this brainstorming session I take time to sketch by hand before translating my ideas into a vector graphic logo.

HabitAware's Shapes and Colors

Aneela: Can you tell our readers why you choose the colors of green and yellow?

HabitAware is all about strengthening the mental health of their customers.

Alison: Color is an important aspect to design. Color evokes emotion. I chose colors that were pastel and almost transparent to give the logo a calming effect. Green and yellow are “nature colors” that represent health and growth. I chose them because HabitAware is all about strengthening the mental health of their customers.

Aneela: What about the circles? Why this shape? Why not squares?

Alison: If you look closely, the circles of the HabitAware logo overlap slightly, achieving the effect of a spotlight coming into focus. Since HabitAware’s goal is to help people build their awareness, I thought this to be an appropriate metaphor. I stayed away from sharp edges and angles so that the logo would provide an inviting warmth.

Ladders or Letters?

Aneela: Lastly, the center mark is my favorite. I love the meaning behind it...can you share a bit about it?

It’s all about rising up, climbing to a new level, becoming a better you!

Alison: The mark in the center are an H & an A, for HabitAware. I fused them together in a way, to give the visual effect of looking like a ladder.

Aneela: Yes! I love that visual play with the letters & the ladder symbol...Because it’s all about rising up, climbing to a new level, becoming a better you!

****

When people ask me why I gave up the career in advertising that I loved to pursue HabitAware, they chime in with the overused saying “hardware is hard” and similarly dejecting lines about entrepreneurship and customers and lack of sleep, etc. etc. But my answer to their why is always the same: Our why is in our logo. We want to help people like me struggling with body focused repetitive behaviors (bfrbs) like hair pulling (trichotillomania), nail biting (onychophagia), skin picking (dermatillomania) to build their awareness, find their own calm and rise up to a better self.

 

About Alison Beattie:

Alison Beattie is a creative thinker and tinkerer. She’s and experience design maker, honing her skills at various ad agencies (including Colle McVoy and & Fallon), and now runs Digital User Experience at Target. Alison founded Minneapolis MadWomen, an organization hell bent on ensuring career equality for women in creative fields. In her spare time she dabbles in writing and podcasting, oh and she’s also mom to a feisty four year old! In short, Alison is all the things!

 

#origin #design #branding

Ask HabitAware: How do I get my child on board with the Keen smart bracelet?

From time to time we get questions from our users that we can only guess others are thinking as well.

Carrie from Miami asks:

My daughter is a skin picker, mostly on her face and arms. I am wondering, do you have any tips for a first time Keen user who is a teenager? How can I motivate and support my daughter in this process?

Thank you,

Carrie


Answer:

Hi Carrie,

Thank you for writing in and trusting HabitAware as a tool to help your daughter.

I won’t even pretend to be able to imagine what it's like to be a mom or dad watching your child afflicted with skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania) or nail biting (onycophagia).  All I know is that I want to bubble wrap my two children and protect them from any worldly harm. And I assume the same for you! But, I know that’s not realistic or beneficial to anyone.

How will our children learn what they are made of if they do not face adversity? How will they learn to handle the difficulties that make life, well, life?
adversity.jpg

How can you get your daughter on board for Keen smart awareness bracelet? This is a great question, and a very difficult one to answer. I’m not sure there is one answer, nor a right or wrong one. Being a mother, being on Keen’s development team and being Keen’s first test subject, I hope these ideas can help.

4 things to prepare as parent before using Keen

1. Know what you can - and cannot - do

As a parent the most important thing you can do is to offer your love and support, unconditionally. If you see that your daughter has been doing well for weeks and then goes on a skin picking spree…Hug her. Don’t punish her. Punishing tactics are for when your daughter knowingly does something wrong - lies, breaks curfew, speaks rudely etc. But when she does something that is beyond her control, like skin picking, punishing only makes it worse.

Your daughter needs to know that you are on her side.

2. Take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of your child.

Your daughter needs you to be strong, in those times when she is weak and gives in to those skin picking urges.

"But how can I be strong?" you may ask. Simple. You need to take time for your own self-care so that you have an outlet for your frustration with this disorder. If you take out your frustration on your daughter, she will see it as you being frustrated with her. She will take that in and tell herself that she is the cause of her parent’s pain and she will slowly shut you out. You need to show her that it is the skin picking that is robbing your joy, not her. 

3. Join a support group

Another thing you can do is to find support with other parents going through similar pains. BFRB.org has a support group listing. There are closed Facebook and Yahoo groups specifically for parents to connect. Knowing you are not alone in this and just talking with others can lift the burden and help you regain your sanity. 

4. Understand what Keen can - and cannot - do

Keen is not a cure to your child’s undesirable behavior, it is a tool to help them manage it. Keen's primary intention is to help increase awareness, simply because you can't change what you don't know is happening!  After that, both you and your daughter need to understand that it is still HER CHOICE to move her hand away. But we find once “awakened” by Keen’s vibration, it is much easier to make that new choice.

 

How do you know if your daughter is ready for this change? How do you prepare her to be ready to use Keen and make that new choice?

Help your daughter understand her current relationship with their behavior

To start now, your daughter should try to take stock of where she is, what she is doing, how she is feeling when she is hair pulling. This may help her identify her triggers. If she knows what is causing her urges, she can then begin to preempt the urges using more positive replacement strategies, like deep breathing, exercise or fidget toys.

In my case, it took me a long time to realize that exhaustion and tiredness were my big triggers - I would stay up late working on my computer and pulling away.  Now I've found ways to manage my day better (so there's less to do at night) and to just be OK with shutting down and going to sleep, even if something is time sensitive. I know now, that this is not just ok, but better! Because even though the work will be there in the morning, so will my hair!

Ensure your daughter’s readiness to change

No strategy is going to help if your daughter is not ready to take action and make the effort to make their own life better. To get her interested in Keen, I suggest sharing our website and letting her review it on her own. I also encourage parents to watch two of our videos together:

How Keen Works:

The story of our journey: “Meet Keen”

Ultimately, using Keen needs to be her decision. And when she is ready to take control of skin picking with Keen, we will be there for her because we know first hand that if HabitAware can help her strengthen her willpower and replace the behavior with our push-button deep breathing guide, she'll be set up for success against future challenges life may throw at her.

3 tips after she begins using Keen

1. Wear Keen every day.

Just like it’s important to brush her teeth, wearing Keen should become part of her daily routine. At first you’ll have to remind her, but over time with the right motivation they’ll learn on their own. Hopefully that motivation will be seen in the reduction of redness from the skin picking, but if needed, there's no shame in implementing an external reward system! 

2. Talk about the behavior, as much as she is willing

There is so much shame associated with trichotillomania and dermatillomania. It doesn't have to be that way. Through open conversation, this shame can be quelled.

Asking your daughter how many times she picked in a day is likely a tough discussion, since she might be frustrated or anxious if confronted. However, the more discussions you have the more aware she will become and the stronger your relationship. Getting her perspective can help you understand progress and maybe even understand more about when and why she is doing the behavior.

Using Keen as the hook can help jumpstart the discussion. Instead of asking "Did you pick today?" you can simply inquire "How many times did Keen vibrate today?” Keen comes with the ability to track activity, so you can together, review the app analytics. In this way, the conversation is shifted from perceived blame directed at your daughter to the bracelet's activity log.  

3. Take advantage of Keen's tracking data

From there, you can then ask questions about the patterns that emerge from the data. Another conversation starter could be "How can you make Keen vibrate less?" From here you can work together to come up with suggestions for replacement behaviors.

***

We know you are creative and can find many additional ways to motivate your child. We’d love to hear them and share with the rest of the community. The main thing to keep in mind is to stay consistent, positive, and supportive. There will no doubt be ups and downs throughout this process, and it is OK to be disappointed or frustrated at times. When she understands the importance of changing her behavior she’ll take a more active role and hold herself accountable. This is how you know you’ve made a healthy impact on her life and given her the tools to take on challenges in the future.

If you and your daughter choose our smart bracelet technology to take control, know that we are here for you. We very much want everyone to succeed on this journey.  As always, please feel free to connect with us

With love & awareness,

Aneela

Ask HabitAware: How long will it take to retrain my brain? I want my life back yesterday!

From time to time we get questions from our users that we can only guess others are thinking as well (by the way, have you seen the stellar reviews on Keen?).

habitaware-hair-pulling-smart-bracelet-bfrb.jpg

Bianca from Toronto, Canada asks:

Hi, I’ve been using Keen by HabitAware and I definitely notice a huge difference in my habit on days that I wear it and days that I don’t! What would you say is the typical time period it takes for someone to take control of a behavior?

Thanks!

Bianca


Answer:

Habits are tricky and depend on how ingrained they are. We would be skeptical of anyone touting a quick solution or firm timetable, because it depends so much on the particular situation. We have seen good results with the worst habits in 2-3 months with consistent use.  The process works in several stages:

4 steps to retrain your brain with Keen

1) Awareness of the behavior when wearing the bracelet - Most people notice increased awareness almost immediately. With consistent use, you will likely anticipate Keen's vibration before you even do the behavior -- and even before Keen!  This means you are building your awareness muscle!

2) Awareness of the behavior without wearing the bracelet - You begin to notice when you are doing it even when not wearing the bracelets.  In some cases you may be able to pull away, but in others maybe not.  This is okay, and to be expected in the beginning.

3) Determining your triggers - As you develop awareness, you'll then be able to assess the situations in which you are likely to do your behavior.  You can use Keen's app to track your behavior - just push the button on Keen's bracelet when you engage in the behavior. Then, sync back with the app. Over time, patterns will emerge.

4) Replacing the behavior - After you have identified your triggers, figure out what you can do instead of the behavior.  If it's in the office, just realizing you are anxious, stressed, bored, etc. and then proactively taking a walk, grabbing a glass of water, or doing a breathing exercise can help you refocus and curb the urge to pull or pick or nail-bite.  Over time you will build this replacement behavior into your routine, and it will override the undesirable habit circuitry in your brain with more practice.

 
 

If you have a question you want answered, email us and include "Ask HabitAware" in the subject line. We'll always write back and sometimes we just may post your question to our blog!!!

With love + awareness,

Aneela (trichster + cofounder)


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From Sketching to Shipping: Keen's Story

habitaware-sketch-awareness-bracelet.jpg

If you've been following the HabitAware/Keen journey then you know that reaching this milestone has been a long time coming. (If you haven't been following, sign up here for our e-newsletter!)

What started as a fun side project for a husband and wife trying to solve her specific hair pulling (trichotillomania) problem is now a 4-founder company poised to help people around the world.

We are over the moon to have been able to grow our Minneapolis-based team and see our homegrown experiment turn into an international collaboration developing new, interesting products in the health and wellness space.

We know Keen has the power to unleash your awareness and take control, because we've seen it happen firsthand. And we’re excited to be supporting you through the journey, as many of you have supported us through today.

A LONG ROAD.

Homemade prototypes and hack-a-thons

prototype-jingle.jpg

It seems like yesterday we were working on early prototypes and testing if my crazy wish for "something that just notified me” would work.

After being caught without eyebrows and eyelashes, I confessed my hair pulling disorder. Sameer and I then began experimenting with super low tech prototypes to help me. In one option crafted from a shopping trip to Michael's, I wore hello kitty snap bracelets, paperclips and jingle bells.  

Then there was the not-so-genius idea of using magnets near my ears and on a thumb ring. When the two got near each other I was painfully made aware of my attempt to pull my eyebrows, as the two magnetic pieces had such a powerful attraction, they would clamp my earlobe! Ouch.

As we realized we weren't making progress, Sameer & I pulled back to focus on work and a new baby. But the spark was ignited and I began opening up for the first time about my pulling, finding it less shameful to share that I compulsively pull out my hair than I feared.

Once I shared that "I wanted to build something to make me aware" with friends in the Minneapolis tech community, we started seeing doors open. A friend told me about a hardware hack-a-thon and this is where the HabitAware team came together.

Fate worked in many ways to bring us together. But we also have hard work to thank for that hack-a-thon success.

The first device was a bulky, barebones prototype. To be honest, it was pretty ugly! But, it kinda worked! Very early in our testing we were excited to see that I was succeeding!

From there we experimented with 3D printed cases and off-the-shelf hardware to iterate quickly. We learned that if you want to make something right, you must take the time to build it from the ground up, rather than attempting to retrofit someone else's product.

This goes for both hardware (the physical awareness bracelet) and software (the bracelet algorithm and training mobile app), which founders, John and Kirk have owned & rocked ever since that hack day!

MAKING SOMETHING RIGHT

A unique awareness device from the ground up

habitaware-keen-smart-bracelet-prototyping.jpg

After much testing, we realized how important it was to address not just a few, but all the challenges involved in making a discreet, safe, reliable, and beautiful wearable product designed to empower positive behavior change.

To build an awareness wearable that facilitates behavior change, we had to ask fundamental questions and get to the heart of the problem. For us, it wasn't "Here's this cool tech we know how to develop, what can we do with it?" Instead, it was "Here's this problem we have and need to solve...what's the best possible way to solve it?"

This exploration took time, we are blessed and grateful to those of you who stuck with us, and are very excited to be providing one of the first truly second-generation wearables out there.

While there are cheap, off-the-shelf wearables out there that can quickly be tweaked to do some of the things Keen does, they couldn't do everything to become an effective tool against hair pulling, skin picking, nail-biting and even thumb-sucking.

If HabitAware went "quick-n-dirty" with our production process we would not have been able to bring you a product that:

  • Can be used standalone from the phone, after training with the accompanying mobile app. This is perfect for kids without smart phone and for prolonging battery life.

  • Is fully customizable, so you can:

    • Train multiple gestures / areas, not just straight up to your face

    • Track detections and see your progress

    • Set your own vibration style

    • Nickname your bracelet for easy in-app identification

  • Incorporates replacement strategies, a core component of successful behavior change

  • Meets global safety certification standards

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By striving for the best, we deepened our commitment to this cause that runs deep within us, and have raised nearly $3,000 for TLC Foundation for BFRBs so far! That commitment has been acknowledged again and again, each time we receive an order or accolade, and we are grateful for it.

While we know there is always room for improvement, we are proud to serve our BFRB community with the Keen we are NOW SHIPPING!!


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My trich is not just a bad habit.

by Aneela Kumar, "trichster" & cofounder of HabitAware, a smart bracelet to help you become aware of your subconscious behavior (whether it be hair pulling, nail biting, skin picking, thumb-sucking or another). With awareness, you are able to gain control, retrain your brain and replace the behavior with a healthier one. (This article was originally featured on The Mighty.)

BFRBs are life-threatening. They won’t kill you — but they sure do make you feel like your life is over.

“What is a BFRB?”

BFRB stands for body-focused repetitive behavior. This is essentially an uncontrollable and subconscious action which causes damage to one’s body. Included in this group are trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking) and onychophagia (compulsive nail biting).

“Come on, those just sound like bad habits. They don’t sound life-threatening.”

Having a BFRB may not kill you in the physical sense, but people with BFRBs who don’t get help can feel like they’re dying inside. I know because I live with a BFRB — I’ve had trichotillomania since my early teens.

In my early 20s my trich was at an all time high after being cheated on and dumped. My heart was broken — and I was taken back to when I first started pulling as a 12-year-old child watching my father wither away from leukemia. My only consolation was pulling out every eyelash and eyebrow hair I had. It somehow eased the pain, but with it came more reasons to shut out the world. I thought I was ugly and undeserving.

So yeah, I can absolutely attest to the fact that having a BFRB is life-threatening. The baldness and scars are permanent reminders that not only feed our internal guilt and eat at our self-esteem, but also gives bullies a reason to have their fun. All of which make it feel like life is over.

Growing up pulling out eyebrows and eyelashes meant constantly worrying my makeup would wipe or wash away. I hid my pulling from everyone I knew, including my parents. I still remember this one time my dad pulled up to a friend’s house to drop me off at her birthday pool party. I got last-minute jitters and ducked down in the backseat, begging him to take me home — I didn’t want to be caught.

The stress my BFRB caused me, the physical marks it left and the mental anguish of going outside “looking like that” all make daily living a chore. The compulsive pulling, picking or biting is trance-like. We aren’t able to live and enjoy life because our time is spent locked in a bathroom fixing a wig or makeup to cover it up. If not locked in a bathroom, we are locked in our own heads — trying to convince ourselves no one will notice and that we should just go out to that party we were invited to — only to finally give in to our BFRB and sit at home. And so we miss out on life’s key moments with friends and family, losing out on the opportunity to share joy and just live.

It’s hard when we feel like no one understands the struggle we endure. When people don’t understand why we can’t “just stop” engaging in our hair-pulling, skin-picking or nail-biting behavior, they:

  • Judge us.
  • Stare at us.
  • Whisper about us.
  • Laugh at us.

All this isolates us from the world and strengthens the narrative in our minds that there is something wrong with us and we are worthless.

“But what can I do about that?”

For those who don’t even know why they are engaging in these “weird” body-focused repetitive behaviors, for those whose lives are being threatened by this disorder, for the ones who are dying inside, I want them to know there is a small bit of hope for a better life. And that bit of hope lies within you, dear reader. Yes, you have the power to save a BFRBer’s life with just a few small simple actions:

  • Show some love to someone at school or work you think may be struggling with a BFRB with a warm hug or an invite to hang out.
  • Share this article so you can help someone who is hiding their suffering realize they are not alone.
  • Donate to TLC Foundation for BFRBs (bfrb.org), the only American non-profit dedicated to funding research for a cure and supporting the BFRB community.
 
 

About HabitAware
HabitAware's smart bracelet, Keen, helps you become aware of your subconscious behavior (whether it be hair pulling, nail biting, skin picking, thumb-sucking or another). With awareness, you are able to gain control, retrain your brain and replace the behavior with a healthier one. Check out habitaware.com for more info & to order, or email Aneela@habitaware.com with questions.