24 Mar

Creative Design Lab: Contextual design week 2

This week, I visited the location of my game, Abbots Wood. While I was there, I used the app on my phone to log in to ARIS. As a player in the game, I took photos and made notes on the map using my phone’s GPS. I concentrated on gathering images I could then use to animate characters, inspire players to find similar objects or use to simply teach players about those objects.

I took a number of scenic photographs, and a number of close-ups to get an idea of the area in which the game would take place.

Trees in Abbots Wood Pine Cone

After going to the location, it gave me a better idea of what was available to work with.

I did some research in to gaming, and the idea of this game layer. I found this interesting TED talk (below) that describes the game layer that I will be looking at in my location based nature trail.

I am looking into two different game ideas: the first is a treasure hunt, where the player is required to go to specific locations and find specific objects (a combination of real and virtual). The second is a narrative version, with characters that the player can ‘talk’ to and a sequence of tasks to complete for a reason specified within the game.


Over the next week I am going to create a version of the game, starting at the meeting point and following the trail where users are required to pick up objects along the way. This includes physical activities such as ‘find a pine cone’, placed on the map near some coniferous trees, and virtual challenges like picking up ‘treasure’ on-route.

It encourages the player to continue down the nature trail, and interact with nature in a fun way.


This version will include more of a storyline, and characters to talk to and interact with. I will look at storyboarding the game and creating characters with a personality and details like whether they are trying to help the player or hinder them.



I looked into existing games and technology related to my proposed project. I did some research into Geocaching, a ‘real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices’. It is a very successful project with hundreds of thousands of active players. The fact that it is popular makes it far more appealing, but also the interaction with real-life objects.

17 Mar

Creative Design Lab: Contextual design week 1

This week is the beginning of a new project: a location based game encouraging children to go outside and learn about nature.

At the end of this project, I will have a working prototype of the ‘nature trail’ game, and develop a presentation to explain the game concept, along with these blog posts that outline the creative methods used to generate ideas.


The very first thing we did was familiarise ourselves with the technology we would be using to create this game. We will be using ARIS in this project. ARIS will ‘allow the user to experience and interact with objects and experiences directly while also allowing digital augmentation to add more fun’, as described in our project brief.

I looked at games that had already been created on ARIS by downloading the app and researching what is possible.

Then, in groups, we created a series of mind maps on the topics of location, game model (principles), materials/objects they may interact with and senses.

Initial mindmapWe decided at this point to make individual games based on the ideas generated in our group sessions.

I am going to base my nature trail game in Abbots Wood, located just off the A27 near Polegate (East Sussex). It is a beautiful place, with lots of things to discover and explore. I want my nature trail to include having to walk a fair distance as well as searching, finding and collecting things, as the main aim behind the game is to educate children about nature, but also to encourage gentle exercise and the many other benefits to being outside.

16 Mar

The best bits of Facebook

There’s so many things I hate about Facebook. I think we all despise it in some way. The lack of privacy, the endless inane drivel, the social politics… the list goes on.

I stick with it though, but why?

Half of me feels forced. It would be foolish to exclude myself completely from this big player in the social networking scene, at least for now. The other half sticks around because I wouldn’t want to miss the few pieces of absolute gold found somewhere amongst the dirt. Scrolling past the selfies, food porn and cryptic status updates begging for attention, I stumbled upon the two best Facebook pages I follow.

  1. Humans of New York – Posts that include a photograph of a person and a caption. That’s all there is to it. The person will be snapped in New York, mainly in the street going about their daily business, and the caption will be a quote from the person. It is beautiful, and so well put together that every post is intriguing and thought-provoking in a way that I never thought possible. People are wonderful things, mostly, and they all have their own stories, opinions, beliefs, issues, heartache and love. Take a look. I promise you won’t be disappointed. (Full website here).Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 18.32.20
  2. I f***ing love science – or the more child/work-friendly Science Is Awesome. I want to read at least 90% of the things posted on this page. It’s the fun and interesting side to science; new discoveries, amazing facts, microscopy images, animations of the way things in the universe work. It’s just a great collection of things. (Full website here).Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 18.29.35

It’s worth staying just for the exposure to these delights (of course, StumbleUpon is much better at this…). Do you have a favourite Facebook page that never fails to brighten your day? Let me know in the comment box below.

11 Mar

When tech ruins film

I love watching films. I love being sucked into a great plot. Believability is key. There’s nothing quite as disappointing as watching a great piece of cinema, only to be pulled right out of that experience quicker than you can say ‘yeah, right’.

I’m talking about the way technology is portrayed in Hollywood. Some great films, mainly set in the future, maintain the illusion because who’s to say that we won’t have that in another hundred years? Minority Report springs to mind as one of those films that just get it right. The Matrix, Fifth Element and the amazing Star Wars of course, draw you into the story. Their use of technology only enhances the experience. Time machines and aliens aside, it’s still believable within the context of the world they are displayed in.

My hate, and I ALWAYS complain to anyone who will listen, is when technology is used in film or television that isn’t supposed to be unreal. Yet they have ‘experts’  that hack passwords with 2 clicks of the mouse, and people that type as if they are having a muscle spasm on the keyboard.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this though. See the video below, The Worst Hacking Scenes in Movies by College Humor, and have a little chuckle to yourself.

Come on guys, this is NOT how it works…

10 Mar

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 5

Over the last week, I’ve created a representation of my app in Photoshop. It includes a logo and icon for show on the home screen, as well as sample in-app screenshots. The icon was created used this template from pixelresort.com and the iPhone templates are freely available here.



We each came up with a version, developed from the same storyboard and the same ideas. It was very interesting to see our creative differences in the graphics alone.

I used a lot of colour in mine, combined with simple shapes so as not to let it look cluttered and thus confusing the audience of children. I used a lot of circles and rounded shapes to give it an inviting and friendly appearance. I stuck to design rules like alignment and used fading of background elements to keep focus on the task at hand. I also tried to keep text to a minimum, given that our target demographic is children.

The following is a version by Amber James.



The following was created by Raghad Badahdah.


The following was created by Elise Harbord.


I also created a flow chart to demonstrate the order of interaction within the app, as shown below. This was very useful as it highlighted to me that I needed to add a reset button on the screen where the user adds a face to the food, in case they don’t wish to save what they have created. Next time, I’ll make sure I do this exercise before creating the mockup, so I’ll know how many elements to include in the designs.


03 Mar

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 4

This week, we all took the basic storyboard from last week’s Creative Design Lab, and added extra elements, and designed different ways. We all sketched out different ideas and built off each other’s work.

My version is below, followed by Amber James’ version, which has an added social element that allows the user the option of making a profile before beginning the game.

Scan.1Work by Amber James

We then began to get to grips with the process that the user would have to go through to work their way through the game. The following chart shows the sequence of events that would happen, and the basic level of interaction between the user and the app.

Scan.2As another way of envisaging the way our app would work and interact with the user, we acted the process out in front of others who had no previous knowledge of our app. This was useful to find out what the target demographic, in our case children, would gain from using the app. Our answer was primarily entertainment and education.

There was an issue highlighted though. There wasn’t an obvious reason for the child to continue the ‘sorting’ element of the game as there was no indication of how many they had done and how many were left to do.

I resolved this by adding a counter, as a method of informing the user where they were in the game. I found this a useful task, and one that helped my creative process.

24 Feb

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 3

As a group, we decided that the mix of “education” and “food” was an idea we wanted to experiment with further. We produced the following mind map on all the things we could think of relating to an app of this nature.
Scan 24 Feb 2014 14_56
We then can up with a snappy description of our app; something that would be shown in the app store to sell our app. We came up with the words “Did you know, bananas grow upwards? If this kind of information is a-peel-ing to you, find out more on Food-For-Thought”. I think, at this stage, we didn’t really know which direction the app was going to go in.

We toyed around with quite a few ideas, including healthy eating apps for adults, and an app that could find a recipe using an ingredient, from a photograph taken by the user of that ingredient. We eventually decided that we would target the app at children, and turn it into a game to encourage children to play it.

I created the following storyboard as a basis for our app, which was based on many of the ideas that we came up with and bounced off each other during our group sessions.

scan storyboard
As it to be designed for children, I took inspiration from existing material aimed at children. It is particularly helpful that I have a pre-school child that I can draw inspiration from. I observe the things he likes, his preferences and images/designs he is attracted to.

Mr Potato Head One of his favourite toys is the Mr Potato Head, a version of which was first distributed in the 1950’s. Young children are naturally and instinctively drawn to faces, and I wanted to exploit this in my app design. All the features are exaggerated to epic proportions, and infants and young children seem to really love this.

I also took inspiration from my son’s magazines, including the popular Bananas in Pyjamas franchise. The colours are also very bright, using a lot of primary colours and the font is very playful and rounded.

I’ve also noticed, everything is either illustrated or accompanied by an image. As in the example below, the list of ingredients isn’t just text; each element has a picture of the food item. I think it is important to not give children too much to read, as this will quickly lose their attention.

Bananas in Pajamas

17 Feb

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 2

Incase you missed week 1 of the creative design lab, view it here.

To begin the creative process this week, I drew shapes related to specific emotions. (I find it interesting how anger and excitement are quite closely related). This was an example of synectics – “the fitting together of seemingly diverse elements”. Emotion doesn’t have a shape, but somehow I couldn’t see happiness as anything other than rounded and circular, and excitement as being spiky.

Scan 17 Feb 2014 13_39

“Embrace the seemingly irrelevant”

The next stage of our mobile app project involved combining seemingly unrelated topics, to generate new ideas for apps. We focussed on quantity, didn’t criticise each others ideas, developed on each others ideas and welcomed more unusual thoughts. The following is a collection of completely uninhibited app ideas, from the mundane to the insane.

Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_03 1We then picked three ideas to take a little further using analogies to look at the problem differently. We generated direct, personal, fantasy and symbolic analogies for each of the three ideas below.Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_40 Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_41 1 Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_41I found the fantasy and symbolic analogies the most useful in this context. I was quite surprised at how effective this activity was. I found myself looking at the app idea from a completely different angle than before.

We decided that we were going to take forward the idea of an educational food app.