A wise teacher once said, “Technology is about intention, not just invention.”  
And while yes, we love playing with all the newest, most cutting-edge bleepety-bloops in creative tech, we really love it when the work is in service of meaningful change. 
Our partners at ThinkArgus—a marketing and branding agency focused on public sector and purpose-driven organizations—came to us with a prompt from the MA DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services: Create a radically engaging digital tool to teach 11- to 13-year-olds mindfulness practices. We had to think hard about the “digital” part; being online no doubt adds to the stress our kids experience today, and we didn’t want to become part of the problem.
But like it or not, around 95% of US teens have access to a smartphone. So while a million risk factors for harmful behaviors are at our kids’ fingertips, we saw an opportunity to plant the opposing force—the “protective factors”—there too. To build something affirmative into young teens’ digital habits, and to sneak some beautiful art and positive reinforcement through the cracks of these dopamine factories.
We looked to research from professional experts, along with the insight of REAL experts (our *fellow kids*) to hone in on a series of activities that would have the most impact on young teens’ mental health (box breathing, music making, journaling). We scripted fresh versions of these exercises and corralled them into four distinct worlds, which began, organically, to take the shape of an interactive game.
Our team developed a suite of characters (Frank the Narwhal made it, Paul the Rolling Meatball did not); landed on an age-appropriate visual style, and honed in on an avatar who could take the kids inward. Our Inner Wanderer needed to exude internal peace—to demonstrate that the tools young people seek out to bolster their own well-being are already inside them. That the game is just practice, and that the habits themselves, once mastered, won’t rely on a screen after all.
From the depths of the Sea of Serenity to the quiet corners of the Zen Garden, our brave (young, digital) pioneers spent hours learning breathing exercises, writing positive affirmations, and composing simple melodies to help them find a sense of focus and calm, and to help us refine and perfect our MVP.
There’s still more to do (welcome Phase II: the statewide App version), and the learning so far has been immense. Join us as we go inward, see how our work came to life, and visit the nerd zone breakdown below, if you dare…


The Experience
Wander is a space for, well… wandering. For letting go of all the "have-to’s" and "should-have's" in life—and just doing what feels right. Choose a codename, travel to different sub-worlds, complete activities, learn new skills, collect tips + tools, and level-up your emotional awareness as you go (in the Real World™ too!). You are in complete control: of this place, your body, your mind, your world.


Your Inner Wanderer
We all have one! It’s here to guide you through all the ups, downs, and acrosses of this place. Wherever you wander, it goes, too—and as you gain knowledge, it gains strength. The coolest part is, even when you have to stop playing, your Inner Wanderer will always be there to help you apply those new skills in any situation.


Intro Video

Sub-worlds & Activities
Discover in-the-moment toolspositive thinkingmind-body connection, and creative output activities in each sub-world. So, where to next? Maybe you'll create your own music in the Island Studio, breathe easy while floating in the Sea of Serenity, or even meditate with a narwhal named Frank.​​​​​​​
Feeling stressed? You’ll find in-the-moment tools within the Sea of Serenity that help you breathe easy, slow your heart rate and unwind your mind.
Calm Palm: Learn this simple breathing exercise that you can do anywhere. All you need are your hands.
Box Breathing: Breathe easy during this guided breathing exercise, set in a calming underwater world.
Meditate with Frank: Feel completely chill when Frank the Narwhal guides you through this short meditation session.
A little positive thinking goes a long way. Wander into the Bright Meadow for a confidence boost and a side of feeling good about yourself.
Garden of Good Vibes: Pick some fruits and say some nice things about yourself. You deserve it.
Power Cloud: Answer a journal prompt to charge up the Power Cloud, which then showers your plants with water and helps them grow.
Train your body, train your mind. In the Zen Woods, you’ll learn simple mind-body connection tools that can help you cope with anything that pops up.
Wisdom Walk: This game helps you feel rested and relaxed as you engage each of your five senses. Later, you might apply this practice to a real-life walk in nature.
Body Scan: Let this audio take you on a relaxing journey through your body, strengthening the connection between your mind and body.
Welcome to Inspiration Island. This is your place to create: music, art and a feeling of calm.
Island Studio: Choose your instruments and create a beat that feels right to you—an upbeat, energizing sound or a soothing, calm tune. Then, you & your Inner Wanderer can sit back and listen to your musical masterpiece together.
Mood Ring: Get your feelings down on paper with doodles, sketches, scribbles or whatever. It feels good to let it out.


The Impact

We worked very closely with our partners at ThinkArgus to ensure useful data collection while maintaining youth privacy throughout the pilot program. The findings were heartwarming to say the least:

Process Breakdown​​​​​​​
Character Development​​​​​​​

Branding + Initial World Concepts

Landing Page Designs

World Map + Launch Zone

Sub-worlds

UI Elements

Intro Video Storyboards

Early Pitch Work
(RIP Lumpy World)

C r e d i t s   L i s t

Client: ThinkArgus
For: MA DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS)

— Leads —
Creative Direction: Jeremy Sahlman, Chrissy Eckman
Technical Direction: Steve Madden (Creative), David Hindman (Dev)
Producer: Nickey Georgallas
Art Direction: Chrissy Eckman, Adabelle Tan, Yifan Sun, Celia Hsu (Intro Video)
Copywriting: Natasha O'Rourke
Music/SFX: Kate Siefker

— Experience —
Branding + UI: Yifan Sun, Rux Centea, Chrissy Eckman, Adabelle Tan
2D Design: Yifan Sun, Adabelle Tan, Kevin Chiu, Wendy Huang, Victoria Junmei
3D Design: Ivan Sokol, Wendy Huang, Yifan Sun,
2D Animation: Yifan Sun (Lead), Jake Williams
3D Animation: Lyon Graulty, Omid Seraj, Wendy Huang
Development: David Hindman (Lead), Kyler Berry, Steve Madden, Russell Bradley, Yali Izzo
Music/SFX: Kate Siefker
Audio Engineer: Billy Wirasnik

— Intro Video / Trailer —
Art Direction + Design: Celia Hsu
Animation: Pavelas Laptevas (2D), Lenar Singatullov (3D)
Music/SFX: Kate Siefker

— Early Stages —
Concept Art: Meredith Binnette, Victoria Junmei, Adabelle Tan, Yifan Sun, Wendy Huang, Kevin Chiu, Aishwarya Sadasivan
Technical Research: Meredith Binnette, Steve Madden, Chrissy Eckman
Producer: Rebecca Cummings
Edit: Noah Canavan

Produced by Black Math
Executive Team: Jeremy Sahlman (ECD), Evan Fellers (CEO), Alexandra Williams (EP, Boston), Stephanie Rabins (EP, New York)
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