Welcome to Hot New Things 2019 – an opportunity to profile a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. This week, we speak with Cassandrea Beer from Unitec.
You completed your full-time studies at the end of 2018. Can you tell us what your final year’s project was about and what you focussed on?
For my final project, I chose to do something that was a little bit cultural, as cliché as it sounds.
The project starts the conversation of the growing disconnection of the“millennial” generation to their family heritage. This is largely due to maybe growing up in a different environment or country to that of your grandparents. Though this in no means a bad thing as culture evolves throughout the generations, there is the idea that knowledge and traditions of substance are not being passed down but replaced with momentary things like the hype of social media.
This project takes those ideas and starts the conversation of well if we can take some interest in things that have more substance, for example, the history and traditions of the people who matter like your grandparents; perhaps their stories can be carried on before they are lost. These actions will not only be useful for preserving your family heritage, but also make those little connections we make every day more meaningful. For example identifying the taste of coconut because it is the main ingredient in your grandmothers signature dish, and not because its the latest health trend.
Another angle to this project is cultural identity and how you identify yourself when you grow up in an environment that is different from that of your parents or grandparents. It is interesting because you may completely reject that culture and only identify yourself with the environment you are in. You may have a deep need to want to reconnect with your family heritage but have few chances to do so because you’re in such a different environment.
My response to these ideas is an interactive learning resource, which will aid young people in the learning of culture. I wanted to focus on interactivity to express these ideas. I looked at my target audience and thought of ways that I could appeal to them as I wanted to keep them engaged enough that they would only not only get the educational needs but also maybe feel inspired to learn about their own family heritage. By introducing a relatable narrative, gameplay, and the idea of exploring a setting I felt I could come close to achieving this.
The user follows the protagonist Jasmin as she is forced to take a break from her life online, and to go learn a little bit about her culture. The user can explore settings while learning about Cook Island culture by clicking on objects. The user is given objectives to complete, and can only complete them by answering questions correctly when quizzed by character in the story. This kind of gameplay will not only test the user on the knowledge they have gained but also give them a reason to keep exploring each setting, and to keep learning.
How has what you’ve recently been working on influenced your design process, and what momentum does it bring to your practice?
When I first embarked on this project, it was something that I hadn’t done before. Throughout my degree I had learned all the skills that made up this project e.g illustration, motion graphics, interactive/ graphic design; but I had never applied all these skills into one project.
Seeing sketches/ concepts, and ideas of gameplay turn into something that was playable was pretty neat, and I actually felt like everything I have learned over the last three years had built up to this final project. My design process is something that had been quite consistent throughout my last year. I always tackled any project with ideation, and then strong research and experimentation. Feedback I have learnt is a must so as a designer you don’t get stuck in your own head.
What were some of your most exciting discoveries?
I discovered a lot about myself and my own culture. I did some research on interior design in Pacific Island houses which was pretty cool. I then had the task of turning those homes into illustrations, and then those illustrations into something that you could interact with. So my family heritage goes back to the Cook Islands, which is quite a small island in the South Pacific, with an even smaller population, so seeing Cook Island illustration is so uncommon. Being able to transform photographs/ sketches into flat styled illustration was pretty neat and somewhat of a first.
Another exciting discovery was the capabilities of Indesign. Indesign was the platform I used to create this story/ game in an Epub format, and it worked.
And also some of the challenges along the way?
I feel like my biggest challenge was restraint. This interactive game was something I had never created before, and only after I had created it, I was thinking of shortcuts to make some processes less time consuming, e.g. adding sound effects to each movement, to planning out and linking each page together with buttons so navigation would be smooth for the user.
I feel like I was pretty ambitious, and created like ten scenes, and in each setting, the user can zoom into particular objects; and I didn’t account for the time it takes to create these extra features. I then had this whole gameplay already planned, where in each setting you would learn different subjects. I was ambitious and didn’t want to simplify the game aspects, which lead to the game not being as polished as I would have liked.
What did you love doing the most?
The illustration was surprisingly the best part. As I said before, it was pretty cool seeing objects from my culture being turned into illustration because I’ve never seen it before.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
The inspiration I found for this project was my family. I spent a lot of time with my Nana, who had a lot of stories to share, and knowledge to pass down. This was in the form of family stories, myths and legends, recipes and traditions. I seemed to be listening to a lot of Cook Island music when creating the story. The inspiration for this project also came from the computer games I grew up playing. I always loved the ability to explore environments and be able to click on objects and see what happens.
Why did you choose to study at your design school, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
I think I would take away the design process that I have learnt and have become familiar with from research, ideation, analysation, exploration, iterations, to the outcomes.
Where to next for you? What does 2019 hold?
2019 is still going to be filled with learning and putting work into my practice.