Video produced by Dan Smith, some motion graphics by me

Art of Play

Insight: Children's play & imagination encaptured

SOS Children's Villages is an organization that builds loving homes for kids suffering from abuse or living without a family. Their Swedish section, SOS Barnbyar, gave us a challenge: "Find a way to reach out to young urban adults and design an experience that helps them build a long term relationship with our cause".


Art Of Play uses the Xbox Kinect motion sensing technique to capture kids just being kids in SOS Villages across the globe - whether it's dancing, jumping, playing or simply expressing themselves. From the movement pattern we then create individual pieces of art connected to each child. Just as every child is unique, every pattern is also a unique visual expression of a child's imagination and play.

You can scan the pattern to be taken to a page linked to that child and given the opportunity to donate. The patterns are put on limited edition -tshirts and prints to launch collections in collaboration with a Swedish clothing store, such as WEEKDAY. All profits made will go towards SOS Barnbyar. New collections and visuals will then be created from villages across the globe and launched continuously throughout the year.

  • Client: Hyper Island student project
  • Time:2012

  • Team: Ankur Rander, Mathias H Normark, Hakan Larsson, Dan Smith, Tobias Snäll, Marlies Deforche

About the process

The team kicked of the first week with getting to know each other. There was an interesting mix between people not donating at all, because of a general distrust to where the money goes, to donating on a monthly basis. We decided to document the 5 week journey ahead and name ourselves "The Kids Are All Right", a reference to the well known song but also to the kids that are now in a SOS Village.

We hit the streets of Stockholm and talked to many "urban hipsters". Since SOS provides kids with a childhood again, we wanted our target group to reminisce about theirs. We asked them "What's the best thing about being a kid?"

We also researched the target group's donating behaviour by sending out an online survey. From the 77 responses, we found that most are influenced by friends and online plays a big part in their lives. The amount of respondants donating were as much as the non-donators. Donations on a regular basis were the most common way if they did donate, closely followed by occasional donating when someone talked to them in the street. The most common reason people not donating was a distrust to what happens with their donation. A recent scandal by Red Cross Sweden was one of the most mentioned reasons for the distrust.

Coincidentally, a docu-soap about SOS Barnbyar aired on Swedish TV during the time we worked on the briefing. Adam Tensta, a Swedish rapper, was as one of the SOS-ambassadors in the show. Since he had been to the villages and experienced first hand what a difference SOS makes, we reached out to him and had an hour long conversation that gave us a lot of interesting insights.

The research was synthesized into three things:

  1. Our solution needed to clearly differentiate SOS from other charities. We needed to find something that sets them apart without leaving the brand values behind.
  2. The target audience needs a brand that they can relate to and identify with.
  3. They want to be proud and talk about the organisation they donate to. Not brag, but talk. They want to stand behind the cause of the organisation. But they won't do that unless they've accepted and understood the organisation and their goals fully.

Before starting the ideation process, we needed a bullshit-meter. Someone that could smell a bad idea from a mile away. We contacted Jesper Kouthooft from Teenage Engineering and asked him to be our mentor. We met up with him regurarly to present our ideas.

In the end, we boiled it down to three ideas. Since we couldn't decide which one to pick, we went ahead and prototyped low-fi versions of all three, split up and hit the streets again to see what our target audience thought. This gave us a lot of insights but not a conclusive result.

After more asking around, we realized it was up to us to decide. We solved the problem by giving eachother a task: "Come up with one thing that changes the idea you didn't choose for to an idea that you would choose for." This did the trick and we all decided together to go for the idea we call "the Art of Play".

Throughout this 6-week process, I was actively envolved in every stage but particularly loved the parts where I got to talk to people about our ideas. For me it was important that our ideas could work long-term for the organisation. I also collaborated on synthesizing the survey questions.

From week 4 onwards we divided the tasks to go into production phase. From our user research, we found that, wether or not our target group would buy a t-shirt, depended mainly on the look of the pattern. That made us realize that the pattern design was of vital importance for the succes of the idea. Together with Hakan and Ankur, I experimented with many different patterns, textures and materials to come to a final design. We also visited the Swedish clothing store WEEKDAY to get a feel of what patterns were popular amongst our target group. The pattern, which we had transferred onto real t-shirts, was also actually scannable with an existing image recognition app.

Next to that, I worked together with Dan on several motion graphics in the casemovie. With Tobias, I was responsible for wrapping everything into a concise story and present the idea to the client and our class.