Design Rangers logo – DR
01: The CLient

NAMI's Below the Surface

In 2014, our community experienced 14 teen deaths by suicide. In 2015, it was 15. We felt both humbled and determined when local nonprofit chapter of NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – asked us to partner with them on a teen-specific campaign to promote the state crisis text line. 

The challenge

Develop a campaign that feels authentic, looks great and speaks to an incredibly savvy and discerning teen audience.

The solution

The entire success of the campaign depended on authenticity. And who better to understand the heart of a teen, than a teen. We gathered a group of 8 passionate, local teens who were eager to help. We talked about life, stress, social media and design. And in the process, we began to better understand the pressure, stress, depression and anxiety they experience. 

02: Our Approach

Shut up and listen

The Youth Advisory Panel wanted the campaign to feel generally positive while still speaking honestly to the true pain so many teens experience. We built the campaign on a foundation of strong type and substantial white space with the positive, hopeful uppercase statement appearing on the surface, and underlying thoughts and feelings falling just below the surface, as they do for so many teens.

The turning point

Teen tested, teen approved

In August of 2017, Below the Surface made its debut in two pilot schools – Manitou Springs High School and Atlas Prep High School. Within these pilot schools we tested messaging, marketing materials, gathered student’s feedback and quickly realized we had hit the nail on the head. Student’s loved the campaign and were grateful to know there was a free, 24/7 text line available to them and their peers when they were in need of support.

In early 2017, Chad joined our group of eight local teens who shared their stories and helped us craft the “Below the Surface” campaign. Hear why he thinks the campaign is a success. (Video by YouMayClap Productions)

Kelsey is one of the master’s-level counselors at Colorado Crisis Services who texts with teens every day. Here’s what the text line means to her. (Video by YouMayClap Productions)

03: The result

Local and statewide rollout

Once we had the stamp of approval from our pilot school teens, NAMI Colorado Springs and Design Rangers hit the trail, speaking in person to students, school counselors and administration about the campaign, how it was created and why we thought it would benefit their student body. After two years of hard work and countless interviews with the media, nearly every district in El Paso county has adopted the campaign. 

The icing on our s’more? Colorado Department of Human Services launched the campaign statewide in October 2018, ensuring that even more teens navigating academic and social pressures; bullying and harassment; depression and anxiety; family instability; identifying as LGBTQ+; and more were aware of the 24/7, free, confidential text line.

The Rangers have been, and continue to be, nothing short of amazing. Our partnership has taken us into conversations with high school students, state officials, intellectual property attorneys … you name it. And in every situation, they’ve been prepared, passionate, and eager to listen. They’re truly as dedicated to their clients as to their craft, and an absolute blast to work with. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

– KIRK WOUNDY, Communications & Development Consultant


Gold ADDY Award​ - Colorado Springs


Silver ADDY Award​ - Regional


NAMI Partner of the Year

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