Ajay Patel

I Am Here [but] Where Are You?

Art Therapy for Youth


While vulnerability is the birthplace of many fulfilling experiences, the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is truly tested. In a world where the youth are taught about he economics of misery and fear, they encounter a new vulnerability: digital age nihilism.


Many teens and young adults are falling in a groundless and digital world, endlessly searching for identity and meaning. This is due to many problematic dualities: digiphrenia and real-life identities; consumerism and self-confidence, expectations and overwhelmness; resilience and self-efficacy.


Art can foster development, change, stability, conflict, and harmony, that relate to our past successes and failures, inform our present living, and punctuate potentialities for our future, both personally and collectively. I therefore developed an experimental self-reflective self-help book and large-scale interactive touch screen that both can help and engage with troubled and lost contemporary youth.

The book contains 11 various sized and styled “booklets” and encourages art therapy as a means to give purpose and happiness for youth, visualizes more an editorial experience than a literature narrative, and therefore can be started and returned from any point within the book.

The interactive touchscreen invites users to view or create pictures, addresses the human need to belong, confronts personal negative feelings, and actively externalizes the art from within.

Below are excerpts from the book and you can view the touch screen prototype walkthrough at the bottom of this page.


This is the prototype walkthrough of my interactive large-scale touchscreen design. To give a sense of size, the standing user's head is approximately just above the middle square on the screen. A user in a wheel chairs' head is approximately at the lower half of the square.

As users approach the screen, they're able to scroll through randomized and anonymous user-generated pictures, or select one currently in a bubble by tapping on it. Each picture is shown on screen for a week. The size of the circles indicate their place in that timeline. For instance, larger bubbles were recently created, while smaller bubbles have been on the screen for almost a week. This helps control overpopulation of images.

Users can generate artwork right on an Instagram-like GUI by tapping the paintbrush tool. In this sense, it's already familiar to users, especially youth.

Disclaimer: This is just a prototype. Greater functionality, including mobile integration, as well as smoother animations are intended for the final product