Animating Mental Health Awareness Month Messaging

Jul 8, 2022

Reingold has an abiding commitment to raising mental health awareness and encouraging people to find support when they need it. The firm has created and executed numerous mental health campaigns on behalf of clients such as the WNBA and the NBA — whose website affirms that “mental wellness is as important as your physical health.”

Illustrated portrait of Selina

Selina Donahue is one of the many talented professionals behind those campaigns. “These projects address a subject that means a lot to me,” she says. “I felt I was able to do something positive for the cause through art.”

Donahue produces motion graphics that are quirky and fun — characteristics not typically associated with the sensitive topic of mental health. She knows that.

“Sometimes when communicating about a subject like mental health,” Donahue says, “we think the tone needs to be serious or somber. But we wanted people to feel energized and inspired to take small actions to improve their mental health every day.”

“I love exploring the space between art and social impact and how we can use creativity to spur positive change,” says Donahue.

By staying at the cutting edge of animation, motion graphics, and graphic design, Donahue produces animations that are both educational and emotionally compelling. Her deft touch in illuminating sensitive subjects shows in her work for NBA Mind Health’s 2021 Mental Health Awareness Month campaign.

Donahue knows she’s up against her audiences’ short attention spans. For the NBA, she says, “We had a short amount of time to get across a fair amount of information. So it was important to keep things exciting and constantly moving.” She and the Reingold team accomplished that goal in a series of four 30-second animations.

“Part of defeating the stigma that is too often associated with mental health challenges is making it easier for people to talk about it,” says Donahue. “To help do that, we featured a great quote from Carmelo Anthony of the L.A. Lakers. He said, ‘Trust your thoughts and feelings with those in your life. Being vulnerable is not being weak. It takes strength and courage to be open.’”

Anthony’s quote showed up in a lively yet thoughtful way in Donahue’s animation, “Addressing Your Mental Health,” which appears in the “Our Paths Forward tab at the top of the NBA Mind Health homepage. The other three animations can be found in tabs for “Getting Started,” “Self-Care,” and “Collective Care.”


The Creative Process

 Donahue used the NBA’s established branding, including colors and bold typography, and overlayed an element of vibrancy with kinetic typography. As she explains, “That’s text that animates on screen along with the voice-over to focus the viewer’s attention and to emphasize the most important messaging.”

To bridge static design and animation, Donahue began by creating style frames — essentially, stills — that made up the storyboards she presented to her NBA clients. These compelling images illustrated how static designs could be brought to life in a three-dimensional digital space.

“My hope is that people view these videos and feel a connection with our message — and then take time for some introspection on their own mental health,” Donahue says. “In working on this project, I know I did.”


An Evolving Medium

The first video Donahue produced with Reingold, in 2019, was on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ public health approach to suicide prevention. The stark contrast between this video and her later work for the NBA shows not only Reingold’s versatility in speaking to different audiences, but also how quickly animation styles change.

“For a client like VA and a subject like suicide prevention, the approach was ‘less is more,’” Donahue says. “We wanted each statistic that appeared on screen to have its moment to touch the viewer. This also influenced the pacing, which is slower than in the NBA video.”

“VA’s very clean and clear branding includes a sharp sans serif font and a color palette of blues and white,” she continues. “These contrasting colors allowed me to drive home the meaning of different sections.”

In the VA video, Donahue notes three points at which she combined the client’s style with words and images to underscore key messages:

  • At the 49-second mark – The background for the phrase “including those outside our care” visually shows the separation between “outside” and “our care.”
  • At 1 minute, 42 seconds – The graphic shows the community of support below a single figure, and then isolates the figure to correspond with the phrase, “giving them support and care before they reach a crisis point.”
  • At 1 minute, 54 seconds – The animation visualizes the protective bubble of the community “protecting the ones who have protected us.”


Creating Art for Social Impact

Where does Donahue get her inspiration for each animated video? “I like to start my brainstorming by listening to various music tracks to get my mind in the right headspace for designing and animating a piece,” she says. “For the NBA Mind Health videos, I listened to tracks that had good energy and fun beats — one of which ended up in the videos themselves.”

“I love exploring the space between art and social impact and how we can use creativity to spur positive change,” says Donahue. “We do a lot of that at Reingold. I’m very thankful to have been able to make so many videos over the past four years that have had such a positive influence, big and small.”

To view Reingold’s creative work for this year’s NBA and Mental Health Awareness Month campaigns, check out the Mind Health website and keep an eye on the NBA Cares Twitter to see new video content.