Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a distinct mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see. Individuals with this condition often have an unhealthy relationship with mirrors and studies suggest two manifestations of this relationship:
Mirror Avoidance: actively avoiding mirrors and reflective surfaces to steer away from negative thoughts
Extreme Mirror Gazing: spending excessive time in front of the mirror, obsessing over perceived imperfections or flaws
This slippery slope in either case, leads to an adverse effect in daily life, wherein looking at one’s reflection becomes a challenge.
Through a seeking and solving methodology and inputs of professionals from NAMI , the initial concepts were developed around reflections and helping loved ones visualize how the person going through BDD sees themselves. However this line of thoughts has been done numerous times and the focus was shifted towards making the person’s life easier. The idea was not to solve for BDD, but to ease living with this condition. Since a mirror is an indispensable part of one’s life with activities like combing the hair, or applying make-up or shaving, the idea of missing out on this experience led to the creation of Mun Mirror.
Mun Mirror is a voice activated two way mirror that addresses the challenges stemming from mirrors in individuals with body dysmorphic disorder. It was made to communicate care and acceptance through an experience rather than words. The approach is to:
Address a practical need while going about one’s day
Provide emotional comfort to the user
Change public perception of mental health through visualizing BDD by the agency of specifically designed objects
The working model of Mun Mirror was constructed with laser cut white acrylic, to attain a soft ethereal bloom around the edges with internal sections to divide the internal light source. These sections were lines with warm white led strips facing inside to give each section a consistent yet soft glow. The two way acrylic sheet along with a pearl white diffuser then covered the front.
As per the use case, the extensions on the sides act as surfaces to place situation specific items, bringing Mun Mirror closer to the user through personalization.
A standard bathroom mirror size of 18 x 24 inches was broken up into square modules. Then lighting tests were conducted with various light sources and diffusers to achieve the desired result
Complete reflection when the light is off
No reflection when the light is on
Subsequently the code for lighting effects and voice recognition were written. The approach was to use specific voice patterns toit dim user defined panels to reveal a reflection.
Mirror avoidance: Square modules can be set by the user to either reveal or hide certain portions of the viewing area in order to circumvent negative emotions and thoughts.
Excessive mirror use: The panels will gradually turn back on and hide the reflection in order to provide a visual indication of time spent in front of the mirror. They can be turned back on by saying “Hey Mun”.
The purpose of this device is to encourage people with BDD to use mirrors in a productive way without the fear of one’s reflections and/or tendencies.
Partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mun Mirror was developed with a focus only on the form, but also to understand it as participating within a networked situation that involves emotion, technology, cultural optics, and activism. This design strategy delves into ways of making life more livable for those living an experience only they can perceive.
Dr. Alexander Schweder
Design for the Mind
Design for awareness and inclusion
Presented at Javits Center, New York
Presented at ICFF x Wanted Design'22