Master’s Students Design Mobile Apps for Choosing Contraceptive Methods


Choosing an appropriate contraceptive method is a multi-faceted affair. While it’s a highly individual decision, the decision-making process might involve family members, partners, and healthcare providers. Decision points can range from how a contraceptive method is used (swallowing a pill versus an arm implant) to the potential side effects (irregular bleeding and nausea). Furthermore, with more than 16 contraceptive methods available, the topic is rife with misinformation that leads to ill-informed decisions. 

As part of their Introduction to Interaction Design Studio course, students in the Master of Arts in Design program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design spent 7 weeks tackling this nuanced topic and working with a client - the Center for Women’s Health and Research Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh - to design a mobile experience for choosing a contraceptive method.

Students were able to leverage existing research and domain knowledge from the Center’s FemTech Collaborative, which has been developing and evaluating a suite of digital tools that help individuals make decisions around their reproductive health and communicate with their providers. The Director of the Center, Dr. Sonya Borrero, met with the students periodically throughout the project to ensure alignment along clinical and strategic goals.

“Something that's common across the tools coming out of the FemTech Collaborative is the need to help with contraceptive decision-making. Women who have been involved in pilot evaluations have expressed that they'd like to access contraceptive information on their own, outside of a clinical setting,” said course instructors Raelynn O’Leary and Ashley Deal. “They need time and space to reflect on their needs and values, and to potentially share information and have conversations with partners who are also affected by the decision. In our course, this project usually deals with an application in the mobile space, which is an ideal channel for giving people easy access to this important information.”

The project brief was centered around designing a mobile application that allowed individuals to learn about, compare, and choose from available birth control methods. While there were project requirements that needed to be incorporated, each team approached the problem space from varying angles. For example, one team designed for teenagers while another imagined an experience that spanned an individual’s reproductive lifespan. The teams were able to test their assumptions and receive feedback through user testing, in-progress critiques, and client presentations.

The students also enjoyed the opportunity to work within a team setting as well as with a client.  

"I enjoyed working on a team. I think it’s magical to see how we build on each other’s ideas, and our different perspectives combined made our design better,” said Kate Zhang.

“It was an enriching experience to have been able to work with Dr. Borrero,” added Hannah Kim. “Her extensive knowledge in reproductive health inspired all of us to dive deeper into each of our concepts.”

The transition to virtual learning did not hamper the student’s outcomes. They were able to finish strongly with a final client presentation via Zoom that included multiple staff from the Center for Women’s Health and Research Innovation. The final designs were met with enthusiasm and surfaced key insights on how to present dense medical information through an engaging mobile experience. 

“I was really impressed with how quickly the students were able to identify key tension points related to communication about various attributes of contraceptive methods, and then establish concepts and interactive elements to help navigate those tensions,” said Dr. Sonya Borrero. “Each group came up with clever solutions to address the specific audience that they were focused on.”

Final Student Designs


by Catherine Yochum, Mahzi Malcolm. Yuchuan Shan, and Alex Heyison
The MyChoice birth control app contains a timeline feature to help individuals visualize how a birth control method fits into their life, from the effort required to the results and side effects they can expect while maintaining the method. - Catherine Yochum, Mahzi Malcolm. Yuchuan Shan, and Alex Heyison

Birth Control App

by Karen Escarcha, Carol Ho, and Kate Zhang
Through this mobile experience, individuals can better understand how birth control methods fit into their lifestyle and reproductive health values. - Karen Escarcha, Carol Ho, and Kate Zhang

MyGallery-Museum of Birth Control

by Alice Chen, Matt Geiger, and Tessa Samuelson
MyGallery-Museum of Birth Control is designed with teenagers in mind. - Alice Chen, Matt Geiger, and Tessa Samuelson


by Hannah Kim, Alex Klein, Chris Costes, and Christi Danner
Juno facilitates long-term support of women's reproductive health by not only emphasizing the importance of tracking, but also by pairing methods to values and recognizing that these values change over time. - Hannah Kim, Alex Klein, Chris Costes, and Christi Danner

Learn more about the Master of Arts in Design Program >>

Date Published: 
Friday, April 3, 2020
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