Visualizing Thoughts,
Emotions and Behaviors

Shirley Duong

Research Questions

1. How can someone be asked to approach their thinking and
emotional patterns in an objective and positive way?

2. How can user experience be utilized to create a seamless
record tracking experience?

3. How can data recorded as thoughts, behaviors and emotions
be organized visually and clearly?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Connie Ko, Lead Graphic Designer at Cinequest
Secondary Advisor

Theresa Trias, Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Tertiary Advisor


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of psychological problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. CBT is based on a model that it is not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them.

An integral part of treatment involves recording the patient’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that lead to unhealthy habits, in order to question them and stop them at the source. There are few problems with this process, as there is no convenient way to record these items, and there is no known method to generate a conclusion from these thought records.

I would like to explore how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can be translated into a visually organized manner within the method and means of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in order to help both patient and therapist understand the patient’s thinking patterns and its effects. 

The CBT Process

1. Identifying troubling situations or
conditions in one’s life.

2. Become aware of one’s thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems.

3. Identify negative or inaccurate thinking.

4. Reshape negative or inaccurate thinking.

The Problem

An integral process of CBT is “doing homework”, which involves being actively aware of what one is thinking and feeling at all times and writing down the automatic thoughts that trigger negative emotion. This can be called the record tracking process.

From these thought records, a therapist will usually help to think of strategies to questions those beliefs, thus ultimately working to step away from those beliefs to adopt a healthier mindset.

Most CBT therapists will give their client worksheets or journal to write this information down, much like the worksheets to the right.

Becoming aware of one’s thoughts and situations at all times is already a very difficult and tedious task, let alone carrying around a journal and pen and writing down sensitive information in public places such as at work, school, or the grocery store.

The inconvenience alone creates an obstacle and a reason for them to give up on their CBT progress. Without this fundamental step, they won’t be able to figure how to work with their automatic thoughts and find a solution towards their goals.


The Solution

I created a mobile app designed to help CBT therapists and their clients track thoughts, situations, and feelings in an efficient and discreet way, and visually organize all the information to help them view and compare all their thought records. Having everything in one’s phone can help them go back and pull up entries to help them go over what they worked on. This app would take the place of the traditional worksheet that helps identify negative thoughts (in steps 1 and 2 in the process).

The app would use an algorithm to generate “hot thoughts” or keywords that are repeated throughout thought records, helping to further streamline identifying negative automatic thoughts.

The Design

The main typeface for the project, Acumin Wide Pro, was chosen for its modern aesthetic and its restful curves. Both the colors and imagery (consisting almost entirely of circles and spheres), and the monotone blue hues were specifically chosen to create an objective feeling of peace, like a hum in the background as you meditate and decipher the feelings and thoughts you encountered during your day. Since triggering emotions can be involved, I

wanted to provide a tool that didn’t have energetic colors, but rather are neutral and calming.

For the logotype, differentiating the “ful” in Mindful and the dot of the “i” reflects the fullness of the sphere, further reiterating the sphere archetype.

This separation between the “mind” and “ful” subconsciously causes the viewer to see it as two words that can be read as

your “mind is full,” another way to define mindfulness and the act of being aware of one’s thoughts.

This separation between the “mind” and “ful” subconsciously causes the viewer to see it as two words that can be read as your “mind is full,” another way to define mindfulness and the act of being aware of one’s thoughts.

Main Features

Track Records
This is the main component of the app is this thought tracking feature, much like a journaling app but catered towards CBT. The user can record their thought, situation, emotion and behavior for one complete thought record.

Edit Thought Records
Thought records can be easily brought up by date or search and be edited. This allows for retracing and correcting a thought record, finishing a record.

View Thought Records
The user can view all their inputted thought records in one place. These records can be retrieved by search option, calendar view, or chronological view. This eliminates all need for paper worksheets and will never be lost.

Keywords are the most unique and intuitive feature of the Mindful app. Using an algorithm, the app will generate “hot thoughts” or keywords that were repeated throughout the thought records to help the user identify negative thinking patterns.




Upon the conception of this idea, my goal was to simplify and visualize a process that is arduous for many. It is not easy to objectively look at one’s emotions, especially if they are difficult to deal with. If I ever have the opportunity to work with an app developer, I would absolutely love to create a working mobile app for Mindful, so I can provide a useful tool for those practicing CBT.

I believe that anyone has the power to change their life for the better, and CBT is an amazing tool to walk towards that path. At the very least, I hope that my explorations will incite curiosity in anyone about a solution to take care of their mental health, and to unveil the best version of themself.

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit