Contributing to a public pattern library for mental health

Sarah Drummond
5 min readOct 26, 2018


We did it!

In April 2018, a group of practitioners from across the design, health, digital development and public policy professions came together to develop a public pattern library that aims to improve the design of products and services for the mental health and wellbeing sector.

In just under two days, we produced 35 pattern areas with a global network. If you’re interested, you can read about our development process and how we came to these first iterations.

Mental Health Design Pattern Library

As a result of this initial sprint, we have launched a prototype pattern library website. This pattern library is in beta, and we’ve launched the website so that we can create a community around the work. To us, a fully designed pattern defines the problem, a repeatable way to solve it, explains why and how you can implement it, and connects to the wider pattern set. While these patterns are not fully-fledged or -evidenced, they are best practices we have learned from our work and beyond. Indeed, they are not even a full set of patterns (yet)! You’ll see on the website that we have built several patterns for illustration, but there are still dozens under construction. We hope that you will help us build, refine, and scale these patterns in the months ahead.

We believe we’re in the process of creating something that will help people to stop and think before bootstrapping code to build a CBT platform, or lay some clear baselines for what good (and bad) looks like when it comes to designing mental health services.

In the words of Christopher Alexander;

“Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice”

Our pattern language is currently categorised as the following:

Our pattern language V1.0

Principles are high-level values that should be considered in every service, across all journey stages and delivery channels.

Service responsibility areas are guidelines for building products and services for mental wellbeing.

Patterns (in their current state) are examples of how a type of interaction between a service provider and a user can be applied to design specific product features. Our patterns are non exhaustive and should not be viewed as inhibitive, rather a starting point and platform for further consideration.

So for example, the service responsibility areas is Build Stability, and is part of the principles Welcoming and Agency, and a pattern within this area is ‘No Hidden Cost’. No Hidden costs ensures that there are no surprise in pricing throughout a product lifecycle and suggests making this transparent from the outset and as the product is used.

We currently have 35 principles, and we have only managed at this stage to develop 4full pattern sets (full but not closed to suggestion or addition). The goal of our project is to build the library — the information and digital framework to hold a large set of patterns, which will be submitted by designers and mental health experts from around the world.

You can contribute to the project by:

1. Suggesting a service responsibility area

If you think there is a missing responsibility area, let us know. These are high level things that anyone involved in building a product or service in the mental health space should consider. We will review these periodically to bring into our catalogue.

2. Submitting a pattern and evidence

You can submit a pattern that links to our service responsibility areas. What exists out there that we can point to? Is there evidence that backs up a pattern? We will review these periodically to bring into our catalogue.

3. Joining the community

We’ve been working with people across the globe on our slack channel. That’s the quickest way to start a discussion about a design pattern and build a community around it. Join our slack channel.

4. Joining our mailing list

You can be kept up to date with all our developments by subscribing to our mailing list. This is the space we’ll use to tell the community about events we’ll run to develop the public pattern set.

We’re working in an analogue format at the moment, to keep this accessible for people who aren’t used to using version control software like GitHub.

From here, we plan to secure funding so that we can lead a series of global pattern workshops. Diverse teams will come together to work on evidencing each individual pattern in further detail, as well as surface more examples. We’re up for suggestions if you want to run a workshop on an individual pattern and submit the content for the library. For now, Snook and Public Policy Lab are in control of publishing the patterns and as we receive new submissions, we will identify if the work aligns with existing patterns and integrate. If not, we’ll publish it onto the pattern library. This is so we can retain consistency on the pattern framework and language used as we develop the pattern library.

Please recognise this as an open work in progress. Our patterns are based on existing evidence, as well as research we undertook prior to the first workshop to establish the first 35 service responsibility areas. We realise that there are many more service responsibilities to define and specific patterns to create — this is where we need your help. We thought it was best to work in the open and show a snapshot of what we’ve been building to find new collaborators.

We look forward to working with you!



Sarah Drummond

Founder @wearesnook @dearestscotland @cycle_hack @mypolice | Service Designer + Boss | GOOD Magazine’s Top 100 influencers 2016|Google Democracy Fellowship 2011