Rosa Fernández Cerdán : Rosikaa

Service Design | Health and Wellbeing

IsthisLOVE: preventing abuse at first signs

Stages developed
EmpathiseDefineIdeate PrototypeTestImplement

IsthisLOVE is an encouraging and safe platform for people who are in an abusive relationship, helping them to recognise emotional abuse and build the capacity to move forward.

challenge: Prevention and early intervention of a hidden problem

This project is focused on the prevention and early intervention of emotional abuse within an intimate relationship, which involves a person’s choice of words or actions to control, dominate, intimidate, or degrade the other person. Despite being the most common type of abuse, emotional or psychological abuse is often hidden from society and most of the time it is suffered in silence. Emotional abuse leaves severe psychological and mental damages but the first signs of abusive behavior are not bruises, black eyes or broken bones.

The vast majority of people suffering emotional abuse do not ask for help or, when looking for it, they face an additional challenge: most support services are focused on treating high and imminent risk cases and they don’t engage with them.

How might we help to recognise abuse and recover from it by giving support in early stages to cope with conflicting emotions that block their capacity to take healthy and strong decisions?

Primary and secondary research has been synthesised into key insights, jobs-to-be-done and design principles.

“He isn’t letting me going out and have fun with friends (….) he is checking my phone and my computer without my permission, he hacked into my Facebook account”. (Interviewee, 26 years old; suffered partner emotional abuse)

I launched an online survey in English and Spanish and collected 30+ testimonies of emotional abuse victims from different age, country, length and intensity of the abuse experience, etc. I got very valuable and real insights for understanding the problem and prototyping solutions.


Recognising and acknowledging emotional abuse demands time and effort and every experience of abuse is unique. IsthisLOVE gives them the confidence to talk and share their experience with abuse by providing access to peer and specialised support. The platform acts as a connector between a network of specialised coaches providing online counselling and the peer mentors (former users), who have personal experience of recovery from abuse and offer live communication. 

Therefore, IsthisLOVE offers a delicate, flexible and valuable experience to all the users regardless of their circumstances (age, relationship status, safety conditions, social/economic/cultural factors, availability), encouraging them but giving them control to interact with the service in their preferred way.

The offered choices are:

  1. Individual and group online counselling provided by skilled coaches.
  2. Live communication and support with a network of peer mentors that share their practices and learnings.
  3. A comprehensive range of online training programs to learn the skills necessary to develop and maintain healthy relationships.
  4. Engaging activities and events that take place in safe and friendly places, and meeting new people.
  5. Connecting and safely visualising the localisation of other peers using the platform.
  6. Setting goals and monitoring progress via a personal dashboard.
Different mock-ups were designed and online tested with anonymous users.

process: designing remotely in a pandemic situation

One of the challenges facing the design process has been the lockdown situation which led me to explore and combine digital and physical methods, from collage to remote work sessions and the whole primary research, using a diversity of remote digital tools.

A second challenge was defining the purpose of a service for unmet needs. The absence of services made it difficult. However, this triggered a feeling of doing research about this invisibility from a systemic approach by looking at three levels. A central level, understanding the journey of people who have experienced abuse and their needs. The second level, mapping the current public services and private professionals that support abuse in general. Finally, the opinion, awareness, and myths around emotional abuse in the wider society.

Collecting the testimonies of 30+ people that had suffered abuse and the experience of 20+ professionals including charity staff, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, trainers and policy makers.

In-depth 20+ vía zoom interviews with professionals working in domestic violence.
Remote co-creation and test sessions to get feedback using digital workspaces.
Prototypes designed using Miro and shared with tutors and interviewees.
Methods: multiple inspirations available in a pandemic situation.


IsThisLOVE is a new generation of public services to tackle emotional abuse, in the middle of a communication campaign, and those services that prioritise support to high-risk cases. I challenged myself to design a service for that gap between “that works” and is “good for the user of the service; good for the organisation providing it; and good for society as a whole” (Downe, L. Good Services, 2020). 

For the users, the achievement is to complete an individual journey that gives them confidence and agency to recognise emotional abuse, take action, and move forward. For the service provider, IsthisLOVE introduces an agile and distributed support service delivery by introducing a digital system. The platform leverages valuable data collected from the coaches and the evaluation of users that has the potential to impact on the design of new policies and, in turn, visualising and de-stigmatizing abuse among society.

“I found IsthisLOVE fascinating. I hope that this app is something that can actually be developed.” (Practice Advisor working in victim’s support)

Designing content to visualise the impact for the user.
Cosmetic brands join the movement and help to spread the impact.


Client: Final project | MA Service Design | Royal College of Art
Team: Solo project
Date: February – May 2020
My Role: Service Designer | Social Designer | Researcher
Key Methods: Concept sketch. Remote research & prototyping. Wireframes.