Research into Stammering

Speech is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The Challenge

My stammer has affected me growing up and I know how hard it can be living with one. I wanted to research into the field so I could make a genuine intervention and help others who also live with one.

My Approach

I set out to find out as much as I could about stammering. I explored the theory side of a stammer consulting books and therapists. I spoke to people with and without stammers. I even recreated the effects of a stammer in a game and played it with people. The insights gained led into an idea generation phase which I tested within a stammer focus group I created.

The Outcome

My exploration led me to a design brief, which resulted in the design of the Speech Bubble App.

Client: Personal
My Role: Explorer


Planning Research

I initial planned out and then executed my research. To give me a wide range of insights I spoke to therapists, consulted books, spoke to stammerers and non-stammerers. I wanted to get a well rounded view on a stammer before concluding insights.

Analysising Research

I synthesised my research and narrowed down my findings to 3 key insights. This formed the basis for my initial design brief. 

The 3 Key Insights:

  1. Stammers can be overcome providing the correct techniques are combined with self confidence and self motivation.
  2. People who stammer believe everyone is against them. However people that don’t stammer want to help but don’t know how. There is a disconnect between the two.
  3. People who stammer can’t always say what they want to say. They are constantly having to find alternative ways to express what they want to say. Therefore they are forced to use their imagination.

Exploring the Brief

Once the initial design brief was identified, the next step was to explore how the imagination of someone who stammers works. This was done by working alongside people who stammer and therapists.

“We make the stammer into this big monster in our minds. By avoiding situations, we let this imaginary monster win every time, we need to beat this monster.”

The Theory

Through collaboration with therapists I found that stammering isn’t just about speech. It’s more about the individuals contributing factors such as their confidence, how they are feeling and the fear which causes them to hold back. My design was to be based on this theory.

“Stammering is not just about speech it is a system involving the whole person.”
John C. Harrison; Co-Founder of National Stuttering Association


I set up a test to see if I could create a way for people to visualise their stammer and see if it actually made a difference.

Design Brief

After exploring ways and having success helping people express their stammers, I landed on a design brief which was: Design a tool to helps people visualise their stammer. The aim was to get people to engage with their stammer in order to help them come to terms with it.

Exploring Ideas

What is going to be the best medium to use in order to help someone visualise their stammer?

Initial Designs

These were the initial steps taken to design a character to best represent a stammer.

Speaking to John

I had the privilege to speak to John C. Harrison, a world leading speech theorist and inventor of the ‘Stammer Hexagon’. He explained that I should be asking more general question in order to get people to open up about their stammer. 

“The hexagon is an integrated system. Combine the points and ask more general questions.”
John C. Harrison; Co-Founder of National Stuttering Association


I took the simplified questions forward and explored how a character could best represent them. Throughout this process I seeked industry advice which I gained from an animator, an illustrator, and a graphic designer.

See the Full Research Process


I enjoyed this process of looking into stammers and learning where they come from. It was great to meet so many people with the community. I felt I found some strong insights which eventually led to the creation of Speech Bubble.