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.
+ Digital Prototyping
+ Design Research
+ 3D Product Design
MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts
+ Product Design
+ Financial Feminism
+ Food photography by Alex Lau for Bon Appétit
Three out of four domestic violence victims stay with their abusers longer for economic reasons . 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 . it’s critical that survivors be able to establish their financial security net secretly as detection can intensify the violence.
Apps for personal finance management exist, but none address the unique challenges that survivors of domestic violence face.
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
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.
Research and insights
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.
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”.
“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
“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
“The person you are talking to is the expert of their lives”
Antya Waegemann, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate
“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
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.
When others open Thymer, they see a cooking app with an innocuous and believable cover.
Entering stealth mode
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.
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.
Connect with local counselors
Connecting survivors with local counselors through an encrypted messaging platform facilitates further action necessary to complete the journey.
Pairing with the kitchen Thymer
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.
 Mary Kay. (2012). “Truth About Abuse Survey Report.” The Nation.
 Adams, Adrienne E. “Measuring the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women’s Financial Well-being.” CFS Research Brief 2011-5.6.