Josh Weinstein Design

Journey Blocks

How can a product encourage mindfulness to reduce anxiety?

⭐️ Award winning project: Pratt Institute School of Design Social Justice and Sustainability Awards

Journey Blocks are architectural building blocks designed to actively support people in their journey to finding relief from anxiety and/or related conditions by encouraging interaction, creativity, introspection, personalization, and creating a space for mindfulness.

Quantitative Research

The Problem + Survey

61% of undergraduates felt overwhelming anxiety

American College Health Association National College Health Assessment Fall 2017

72.8% of college students felt moderate to serious psychological distress

American College Health Association National College Health Assessment Fall 2021

“…no product will solve the underlying causes of anxiety, or ADHD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, or autism, whether it’s a $5 gas-station fidget spinner or a $250 blanket meticulously designed and focus-grouped by advertising professionals. That’s a far bigger task, involving: therapy (often difficult to access), medication (often expensive), or complete lifestyle overhauls that involve fitting exercise and healthier habits into our daily lives (often really, really hard)”

Rebbeca Jennings,

I conducted a survey as a form of quantitative research, the following are findings from this survey:

The most commonly used objects that help with anxiety are personal, sentimental, and personalized, such as stuffed animals, journals, and pets. The materials most commonly associated with comfort are soft, fuzzy, and/or natural. Many activities reported to help with anxiety are creative, such as knitting, sewing, drawing, making music, journaling, playing games, and cooking.

The data was collected from 65 respondents over 3 weeks.

Qualitative Research

Cultural Probes

Cultural probes were utilized as a form of qualitative research. Five participants took a week to complete a series of activities, including creating a paper pulp bowl from diary pages, creating calm and anxious forms with model magic, and filling out daily questions. The goal was to guide ideation on a product that encourages mindful behavior.

Cultural probe kit contents.

Returned cultural probes.



From the data collected in my research, I developed personas to isolate more specific needs for the target user group. These users are college-aged and/or dealing with transitional periods in their lives.

Persona – Allison Wright (23)

"Since I graduated college last year, I have been experiencing significantly more anxiety during this transitional time in my life.”

The transitional period between graduating and beginning her career has caused anxiety that makes Allison's daily life more difficult. Existing products only help fleetingly. She needs a physical experience that can help ground her and something that can help her find long-term relief.

Persona – Drew Chase (20)

"I have been feeling stress and isolation at college. My anxiety is causing a physical condition that makes school more difficult.”

Drew has been feeling more isolated since the pandemic began and anxiety has triggered his IBS. His condition makes school more difficult and as a college student, there isn't much time to set aside for mindfulness. He needs an activity that can help reduce his anxiety.


Sketches + Scale Models

Initial sketches explored characters that could be molded from pulp by the user. However, the activity in the cultural probe that consisted of making pulp forms from diary pages caused stress for some participants. So, I also explored construction toys, with further sketches beginning to focus on the final idea of architectural building blocks with small characters. These blocks and characters were also modeled in clay. A 3D printed prototype allowed the idea to be tested and refined.

Initial sketches

Concept sketch


Material and Scale

Material exploration focused on recycled paper pulp due to its soft texture and sustainability benefits. Different sizes, the addition of cotton, and a milk paint finish were all tested.


Molding Process

The molds for the final blocks are 3D printed. To make the blocks and characters, any kind of non-soiled paper such as magazines, cardboard, card-stock, etc. is shredded and blended with water to create a pulp. Next, the pulp is compressed in a mold, taken out, and left to dry. There is no glue needed as the fibers in the pulp bind together, meaning all parts are fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Example of a final mold for a block.

All of the final mold pieces.

Final Design

Journey Blocks can be arranged to visualize spaces that are meaningful – real or imagined. A character is used to represent yourself navigating your space. Three colors were chosen to create an awareness of the cycle of thoughts influencing feelings influencing behavior outlined in cognitive behavioral therapy. The set is designed to create a space for a mindfulness to manage anxiety. Molds for the characters are available to involve the user in the creation of the product.


The blue set is infused with lavender essential oil, the yellow set is infused with orange essential oil, and the unpainted set is left unscented.

Molds for the characters are packaged separately.

Capstone Book

The capstone book details all the research and process for the project.