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Identity Storytelling for Kids

App concept and design

User experience • Interaction design • Identity design

 

Children often don't have passports. In most countries they are registered in their parents documents. So what do children hold on to as the proof of their national identity?

Bubble is an digital identity app for children. It's easy to tell your story and show of your favourite things, people and places. No matter where you are, you will have your story with you.

Bubble help kids tell their story through emojis, drawings or text. Through easy interaction and translation, Bubble bridges the gap between languages. Bubble is aimed at situations where children change schools, or move to another country. It can be used as both a teaching tool, and a social app for children.

Bubble fosters collaboration and social interaction. Scan your friends code to see their bubbles, or save their story as a bubble. Bubble contains no sensitive data and is designed for children to use safely. There is no in-app messaging, online network or photos. Data is stored safely in the cloud, and is only viewed by scanning a code.

It's our stories that make up who we are. Bubble is built around easy storytelling, no matter what language you speak.


Collect what matters to you. Save your favorite things, places and people. Tell a story with drawings, emojis or text.

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Only by scanning your code can others view your bubbles. You're in control.

When you scan a code you view their bubbles in your own language.

When you add a friend to a bubble you save their story on your phone.

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Create your own bubble, or choose from the suggestions.

Express your creativity with drawings, emojis or text.

You can add places to bubbles. Tell a story about a trip or a place you visited.

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When I was ten my family moved to Norway from a small town in Denmark. 

I was excited to move to a new place. 

But when I thought about learning a strange language and making new friends, I remember being worried.

 

One third of Syrian refugees are under 18, but the system often handles refugees as adults on the run. Not as children moving to a new school. I wanted to create a product that helped children adapt to new situations.

Children are remarkably adaptable to change, but they also need help finding their balance in turbulent situations. When I think back, I recall huge amount support I got from teachers, my parents and my class mates.

I've lived in Norway for more than 12 years, but still hold a Danish passport and citizenship. Why? When I moved to Norway I took very little with me. I brought my toys, clothes and my Nintendo, but not much to remind me of my life in Denmark.

When I turned 15 I got a Danish passport. It has become my most important symbol of my identity as a Dane. Children often don't have passports. In most countries they are registered in their parents documents. So what do children hold on to as the proof of their identity?


Research

As it happens, my mother is trained as a special educator for children. I asked her what is important when children move to a new school or change grades.

Teachers usually build a profile for the children, that way the new teacher can get to know them better. For children who speak a different language this is even more important. When refugee children start a new school, they often talk to a child psychologist to build this profile.

This gave me a specific use case and a concrete problem.

I also talked to Line, a friend who has interviewed many refugee children as a journalist. She told me about the endless waiting at the refugee centers, and the need for education. The children have the right to education, but it can take up to 6 months before they get access to school. Many of the parents use what money they have left to buy a tablet or a smart phone, so their children can study and learn the language while waiting.

I set up a set of challenges I would have to solve.

Non-literate interface

Communication between languages

Encourage real world interaction

Encourage collaborative use

No sensitive data

Offline functionality

Sensitive to traumatic experiences

Arabic reading from right to left


Persona

I started by building a fictional user and a quick user journey. It was based of clippings from different sources, such as real quotes from Humans of Syria and stories from UNICEF.

Farid, 8 years old
Traveling with mother Rima (39) and sister Amria (14).
From small town outside Lebanon in Syria.

"I want to be a professor that examines the bones of dinosaurs because I like dinosaurs a lot. I also want to have a dinosaur, but I know that’s impossible. One day I'm going to open a museum full of dinosaur bones. I'm not sure where I'll find the bones. Probably America and France."
"When I was in second grade, our school got attacked by a bomb. It was a barrel full of explosions. We were just opening our books to start the class, and it's hard to describe the sound, but it was like a building coming apart."

Design challenge

After reading about refugee children, I had an general impression of problems and frustrations. I made a list of general pain points to narrow down my concept. While I wouldn't be able to solve all of them in one concept, I kept them in mind through the process.

No feeling of control

No understanding of immigration process

Limited education while waiting for asylum

Limited contact with other kids in the new country

Don't speak the native language or good english

Temporary stay and may be moved


Metaphor

In preschool we had what we called Friend Books. A collection of your favourite things and your friends profiles. We wrote in each other's books and shared our favourite TV-shows, places, superheroes, colors, foods, animals and so on.

Maybe this could be the symbol of identity I was looking for?

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Visual design

I researched different apps that fit my product functionality or user group. I found that services that are used by kids and teens often has a certain esthetic. Apps like Snapchat and Tumblr have a boldness in their style. I was also inspired by the creative storytelling in the now canceled Rooms by Facebook.

Many of these apps have a specific interaction style in common. It's more removed from the standard iOS guidelines, with no bottom tap bar or standard menus.

I started sketching the avatar for the users profile. I wanted something that was diverse, but still had a common thread. Users would easily be able to customize their avatar, choosing from a few different set of variables.

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Early on, I settled on three categories to group things. Favourites, places and people. My theory being that objects, characters and scenes make up much of the basic elements of storytelling. Maybe they also make up much of our identity?

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I developed a screen with floating circles as the starting point of the app. I imagined the user could drag and zoom, much like an Apple Watch. Each circle represent an important piece of a persons identity. I chose emoji’s as a symbol for each piece, as it is almost universally understood (with a few exceptions, I later learned).

Trying to design an interface without text proved a big challenge. I also had to carefully consider the transitions of the screens, to make sure the relation of the pages was understood.

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I went through a few iteration for the bubble content and design. I also tested out two languages side by side, before resorting to automatic translation. Centering the text was an important design decision, because of Arabic script is read right to left.

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Learnings

Over the course of two weekends I developed the concept of Bubble. But before that I spent even more of my time researching the refugee crisis, trying to narrow the problem down. 

With such a complex situation as Europe's current refugee crisis, it's hard to know where to start. A solution needs a defined and specific problem. When trying to solve it all in one concept, you are left with a general solution with no edge. Starting from a small, but significant problem gives you focus and purpose.

In the end the project left me only understanding how complex the refugee crisis is, and the importance of inclusive design as a part of the solution.