Designing to Broaden Appeal

How do you design and illustrate a digital experience that engages young adults and children alike?

moors valley photographs

First-Hand Insights: Moors Valley Visit

  • Feeling of being 'out of place' if not visiting in a family group
  • Little sense of being 'in touch with nature' due to lots of footfall, movement, and noise
  • Very little to do for adolescents, young adults or single visitors
family user persona
Families are Moors Valley's predominant demographic and commonly visit to let children to play and run off steam
young person user persona
Attracting young people is one of Moors Valley's top priorities, so we aim to attract those interested in gaming and new technology

Defining Our Target Users

Cementing the two key audiences, families and young adults, prompted me to explore what visual style and app mechanics would appeal to both.

Commonalities Between Children and Young Adults' Video Games

In games that appeal to both target user groups, there appeared to be two defined character styles;

Universally, there were similarities in character construction:

  • Character styles were either simple, fun and stylised or cool, calm, and more realistic
  • All had distinguishing features or visual nuances - colour, clothing, size
  • Distinct personalities - expressions, poses, dispositions
6 chosen gods
The six Gods chosen to inspire our ecology-themed mystical characters
demeter and her related symbolisms
Demeter and her related symbolism

Crafting Distinct Characters

I delved into the significance and mythology behind each God to create a library of meaningful symbols.

These inspired the look and feel of each character; including colours, clothing, disposition and tone of voice.

garden habitat and flora and fauna

Interweaving Symbiosis

Each character was paired to one the Earth's biomes and habitats based on their unique traits:

  • Garden - Demeter, Goddess of harvest
  • Desert - Helios, God of the sun
  • Volcanic - Hephaestus, God of fire
  • Wetland - Poseidon, God of the sea
  • Rainforest - Artemis, Goddess of vegetation
  • Pine Forest - Selene, Goddess of the moon

We also created a library of native flora and fauna to include in each biome in-game.

The Initial Style

Demeter, Goddess of the harvest
Helios, God of the sun
Selene, Goddess of the moon

The characters are depicted befriending animals to represent symbiosis and harmony, but also to broaden their appeal to users who may prefer animal characters.

Character Feedback from James, 13

james user persona
Profile of our target user interviewee, James
james' opinions
James' reactions to my initial character bust style, skin colour developments, and full body illustration style

Insights for Development

  • James liked the distinct colours and personalities of each character, and said the character bust illustrations appeal to his age range (10-15)
  • Said the full body illustration's "superhero vibes" don’t appeal to him, but a younger demographic would like it
  • Prefers natural skin colours - colourful skin tones reminded him of Disney movies or aliens
facial feature iteration
Darkened hair gave greater contrast and I removed the child-like rosy cheeks

Creating a More Mature Style

James could not think of any improvements for the base character style. However, I noticed the Helios character looked more child-like than the others.

smile iterations
Smile iterations to find balance between friendliness and 'coolness'. I also made Helios' proportions more realistic

Final Refinements

Although James prefers heavily stylised characters, he liked the new, more realistic Helios better, and would be "more likely to play a game using this style".

App Design & Mechanics

How do you develop an app that provides adequate challenge and thorough enjoyment for young people?

App Feedback from Tom, 20 and Isla, 15

tom user persona
isla user persona

The interviewees from our target user group were highly engaged in our initial app concept, and liked its progression.

In direct response to their feedback, wes:

  • Developed the narrative- creating distinct tones of voice for plants and characters
  • Make it amusing, not just educational - we made our plant backstories more wacky and personality-driven
  • Give a reason to revisit Gaia AR - we developed the Plant View Gaia filter to respond to users' progress in the Symbiosis game

See another process deep dive: