User Feedback & Ethnography

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Today I had a visit from 10 year old Sholto, a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia and like a lot of others has a really creative mind. He has been giving me a hand with my project and to be honest, it was a lot of fun. The truth about my project is: that playing with the magnets are probably more fun than the story/game itself.

I was worried that the magnets I used were too strong. The problems would have been that the child wouldn’t be able to separate the stacked column of “pebbles”. With Sholto’s help, he was able to separate them with relitive ease and after I showed him that it was easier to do it if you slide them off he replied: “Wow yeah, that is a lot easier if you slide them” – My worries laid to rest, phew.

I also did a few tests to see if a child Sholtos size could reach over the board easily and weither or not they would find it better to kneel on the floor. So I took Sholto through to the hallway to where there was carpet and with his help set up the board the and characters (Sholto was really great). Playing out some scenarios, it became obvious that a child his size would have no problem reaching over the board or moving the character. I felt more natural to sit on the floor with him rather than sitting at a table. It felt more like we were sharing the same space rather than just happening to be at the same table – which is great and what I was hoping for and relates back to Micheal Schrage theory in ‘Shared Minds’.

The first thing I asked Sholto to do was identify which character were which from the basic silhouette figures. He did really well but it was obvious that colour and detail were missing.

To end the activity I given him a pad of pad and asked him to draw his favourite character from the set of 6 – he went straight for the ‘fox’. I also asked him to sign and date it… this was purely for my benefit and after he was done with that we both went back to playing with the magnets for a while before taking him back through to his dad. Sholto was obviously a very capable child and to be honest picked everything up quicker than I thought he would.

I’m grateful for Sholto coming along and to be honest, it was a good excuse for me to play like a kid again. Sholto and myself  have a lot in common… we both are easily amuse by magnets.


The Devil Is In The Detail

It sort of feels like I’ve gone backwards since I changed my design for the characters for the last time. I started phase i with simple 2d characters and now I’ve gone back to using 2d instead of boxy MDF ones. The reason I’ve done this is because I felt like the designs for the different parts weren’t coherent; I had very minimalistic 2d Circus set and flat images with the bag guys for the Phantoms but then very 3d main characters. It looked as though everything could have been designed by different people and I didn’t like that.


At the moment I really not sure how I want to finish the product. I don’t think I’m good enough to hand paint the characters myself – I’ve tried using paints of a couple of my models of the animals but I’m not happy with the acrylic paint. I see myself having 2 options:

a) Paint everything white but etch detail in, maintaining a minimalistic look.
b) Print out the character and then cut them out and stick them on to the painted MDF.

Really getting tired of this project now. Feels like I’ve made very little progress and I’ve been working on this for far too long… and I’ve still got a book to illustrate.

Mark 1 Review

Guess what desk is mine:

(yes, it’s the one on the left middle… in fact I’m taking up 2 desks)

So Mark 1 isn’t a single object. There are 3 aspects I choose to look at: the technology and experience prototype, how it’s going to look through renders, sketches and model and finally the story/journey the child goes through.

The experience prototype gives an example of the first test the child has to play through. This test is basically a play on the game ‘Simon Says’, which has meant that I could the code for the Arduino online and change parts of it to make it do what I want. I’m still not entirely happy with the coding, not my strong point though.

Renders will show an overview of the board and placement of land, characters, printer etc. Although, this may change depending on how the story adapts, but for the best part it will remain the same.

Finally the story. The story consists of four character trying to get from point A to point B. Which at this point is woodland animals returning from a picnic and trying to get back to the log cabin home at the end. Each character has a backpack which the child has to pack an item for to picnic into and then place the backpacks on the characters. The child has an initial choice of 4 from 6 characters. By giving the child choices, they feel more apart of the story and it gives the board information to them generate a unique story to print at the end.

The character then set off on their journey. Confronted by a bad guy (phantom test), they have to use rocks to scare them away. Eventually, rocks will help build a path over the first part of the river to the island. The characters must then proceed to the island in the right order given by the book. This is required to test the child’s Auditory-verbal memory. Then, again the character are confronted by another bad guy (same process as before).

The characters eventually make it to the end of the their journey at the cabin. The child then can turn a gear/lever/pulley to raise a flat to complete the quest. This causes the printer to print out the story which is then handed to the child while the printer then prints out a second copy and the results. The results are then tallied and a score out of 100 is marked down. The final outcome is that the child goes home with a story to show their family – creating a link between the child, teacher and parent, so if the child does need support it can to put into place at home and at school and this product helps prepare the parents in a way.

This process only tests visual and auditory-verbal memory, which means it’s not enough to flag dyslexia on it’s own but it does change the way that these types of test are used and the way people think of them, which I think is very important. I would be very interested in continuing this sort of research and work at a higher, say as a postgraduate.

Overall, I think I’ve achieved a lot. I’m currently working with 3 Illustrators to develop the story, character and the format of the book. I’m very excited about working with other people at this stage of the project as it feels like a breath of fresh air. I very well could produce all this myself, I’ve got a keen interest in illustration but, my traits are needed elsewhere and to have a half attempt at producing this stuff now would be a mistake this far into the project.

I know how I’m going to produce a lot of the finished product, I’ve already started tweaking  illustrator file and frames. I’m planning on using MDF for the best part of it because I’ve used it before and I think it’ll do the job. I’m not worried about it being an ugly material because I hope to have the characters and board hand painted. Having the product hand painted will help tie the illustrations in the book to the physical object.

Worries? I’m sort of worried about the coding side of things. I’m also worried about the printer size and wether I should remove it form its housing, it’s compact as it is and it could be made to feel more like a part of the build rather than a bought component.

Main parts of the build

Phantom light chamber with frosted glass and alignment pins. When LEDs lit the phantom will show.

Mock-up of one of the phantom lights/reed switch with a magnet on top.

Reed switch activated by magnets, hence the light.

Reed switch and LEDs - Max distance needed for switch to close. discovered reed switch works more accurate vertical.

Reed switch and 4 LEDs to evenly light the phantom silhouette.

Getting the right LEDs were very important, I had experimented with different number of LEDs, different brightness and different LEDs with different values of viewing angle. I needed something that was as bright as possible and had as wide an angle as possible… which was harder than it sounds. For one minute I thought my search was over, but then I realised that they wouldn’t be back in stock for another 2-3 month and I couldn’t find them anywhere else. Eventually I came to a compromise, 4 LEDs with half then viewing angle but almost as strong. This led to me using 80 of them in the ‘light chambers’ alone.

Laser cut MDF for character body ready for sanding.



MDF bodies ready for some more sanding. Will spray paint a matte white and then hand painted.


Illustrators Inbound

So, I was after some illustrator for my project. I think I found some. To my surprise it didn’t take long for some students to get in touch. So I arranged to meet three of them this week. I’ve asked them to bring along some of their work. I’m planning on spending 15-20mins just explaining what my project is and showing them what physical things I’ve already created. I feel explaining my project three times to three different people will help me get used to explaining it… hopefully. I also hope that it doesn’t cause me to question some of the decisions I’ve made over the past few weeks.