Thymer isometric mockup.jpg

THYMEr

Designing for deception

Thymer doesn’t do the things you would expect at first glance. Beneath the cooking app and kitchen timer facade are tools that enable those experiencing domestic violence build financial independence secretly and quickly. 

Methods

+ Digital Prototyping
+ Design Research
+ 3D Product Design

Context

MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts

Category

+ Product Design
+ UX
+ Storytelling
+ Financial Feminism

Credits

+ Food photography by Alex Lau for Bon Appétit

Challenge

Three out of four domestic violence victims stay with their abusers longer for economic reasons [1]. Economic abuse, defined as controlling a woman’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources, occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases and is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship [2]. it’s critical that survivors be able to establish their financial security net secretly as detection can intensify the violence.

CURRENT LANDSCAPE

Apps for personal finance management exist, but none address the unique challenges that survivors of domestic violence face.

OUTCOME

Thymer provides tools for establishing financial independence and connects survivors with local counselors who can assist with further action necessary to complete the journey.


 

Stages of Change

user journey

The stages in the user journey is adapted from The Stages of Change, a social work model that describes the six stages that people undergo on their way to change.

The sweet spot for Thymer is in the Pre-Contemplation stage. It then guides the survivor through the steps necessary to establish financial independence, increasing the chance of a survivor successfully reaching Termination by leaving their abusers.

 
Thymer Journey Map.png

 

Research and insights

 

DESIGN RESEARCH

I conducted expert interviews with health educators, sexual assault survivor advocates, psychotherapists, and counselors to understand the challenges that survivors face and the counseling they receive.

Methods

Expert interviews
Secondary Research
Prototyping

insights

All of the experts I spoke to advise survivors to take action swiftly and secretly as violence typically intensifies once the process begins. They had no knowledge of any existing applications addressing this particular challenge.

Due to the violence they face, survivors often feel helpless and overwhelmed so it is critical to shift the mindset from “victim” to “survivor”. In building the app and copy, I emphasize agency and safety through straightforward and informative tools. My guiding design principle is, “Don’t be patronizing”.

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“Violence can intensify once the process starts, so doing it all at once is key”

Robin Berman, Senior Health Educator and Advocacy Coordinator at Loyola University Chicago, specializing in gender-based violence

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“The first consideration is establishing safety. The most dangerous time is when the survivor is thinking about leaving”

Arielle Kempler, LCSW Pyschotherapist at Student Health and Counseling Services at School of Visual Arts

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“The person you are talking to is the expert of their lives”

Antya Waegemann, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate

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“I tell people to share their location (iPhones) with someone they trust who understands the situation, and to have some sort of innocuous text signal, or to give a trusted friend the password to ‘find my phone’”

Daniel, Medical Student at Boston University School of Medicine


Key interactions

security

Kitchen safety

Security is the #1 concern for our users, as discovery by their abusers can intensify the abuse.

Upon installation, the on boarding process guides survivors through phone security, potential risks, and the functionalities.

Learning how to use the security functions

Learning how to use the security functions

Providing a dummy PIN code

Providing a dummy PIN code

Introducing the recommended strategies

Introducing the recommended strategies

 

Facade

meal planning

When others open Thymer, they see a cooking app with an innocuous and believable cover.

Facade 1 Recipes.png
Facade 2 Lunch .png
Facade 3 Tacos.png
 

Entering stealth mode

recipe book

Survivors can access the secured pages without revealing a conspicuous PIN keypad that would betray the app’s innocuous cover. The camouflaged keypad unlocks financial tools and guides tailored for survivors.

Survivors can quickly toggle back to facade pages by clicking the Exit button.

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Holding down the Recipes button reveals a camouflaged keypad.

Holding down the Recipes button reveals a camouflaged keypad.

The Exit button allows users to quickly toggle back to facade pages.

The Exit button allows users to quickly toggle back to facade pages.

 

grocery list

Stock your pantry

Building a financial foundation can be as straightforward as checking off a grocery list.

A comprehensive guide tailored for survivors allows swift action.

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Connect with local counselors

cooking lessons

Connecting survivors with local counselors through an encrypted messaging platform facilitates further action necessary to complete the journey.

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Pairing with the kitchen Thymer

Kitchen safety

Safety and help are unique to each survivor. Concealed under its kitchen timer facade is a panic button that sends customized messages to trusted individuals in the event of an emergency. To send for help, hit the top like you’re smashing the patriarchy.

Reinforcing a support network through communicating emergency protocol.

Reinforcing a support network through communicating emergency protocol.

Though the kitchen is often times a space where women are involuntarily relegated to, the Kitchen Thymer serves as an object of security and a reminder of those that care.

Though the kitchen is often times a space where women are involuntarily relegated to, the Kitchen Thymer serves as an object of security and a reminder of those that care.

 

[1] Mary Kay. (2012). “Truth About Abuse Survey Report.” The Nation.
[2] Adams, Adrienne E. “Measuring the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women’s Financial Well-being.” CFS Research Brief 2011-5.6.