Inspiring kids to discover other cultures through digital storytelling

Client: Mattel, France


Role: Art Director & UX

Dates: March 2009 – September 2011


Produced while at OgilvyOne, Paris



How can traditional toys make use of digital tools ?

Toy manufacturing giant Mattel developed a series of educational books and dolls called KINRA Girls, and wanted to add a digital component to enrich the stories and imagination of their audience. They teamed up with OgilvyOne Paris to develop a digital strategy and manage the digital production. The challenge was melding old and new technologies.
As lead Art Director, I was tasked with creative strategy development, planning and overseeing creative production as well as establishing the brand’s look and feel.


Learning about other cultures through our own

KINRA Girls sought to engage young girls in a multicultural play experience by focusing on the personalities of 5 girls from different parts of the globe who meet and share adventures at an elite performing school.
My first challenge, working with my Copywriter, was to find a way to make the concept of ‘multiculturalism’ relatable and exciting to a very young audience (girls aged 8 – 14yrs).
We interviewed close to 20 young girl’s about their play habits and deeply analysed similar successful toy concepts. Young girls are fascinated by ordinary everyday life details, we discovered. This insight lead us to the idea of using everyday experiences from other cultures as a gateway for young girls to discover the world around them.
“Everyday differences” became our over-arching creative strategy and all interactions and content would be guided by this principle.


Education through play

We proposed a digital world that would bring to life the world of the books and allow our audience to explore interactively everyday life differences between the characters’ cultures.
Beyond just enriching the stories, an online world allowed us to create a more tightly connected experience, for the audience and between each touchpoint in the concept. We could hide bonus chapters in the online world, or drive sales of the dolls and accessories from online games.


Terms of engagement

To develop the functionality and user experience required for an online virtual world, we had to understand the type of play mechanics would captivate this age group. For this phase of the project I joined the UX team as we began to embody the spirit of game designers.
After weeks of competitor research and a multitude of iterations we developed an engagement model that would drive all content interactions and creation.
The model was based on a user’s personal vs community needs – the outer rings representing the most external and auxillery needs; the center, the most private and essential. The wedges group the content types.
This became the basis for a functional specification later delivered to a contracted team of game developers.



Bringing the stories and characters to life

As Art Director, my role was translating scenarios from the books authentically into digital experiences. I needed to make imaginary locations and environments navigable and realistic. For the characters I had to develop behaviour, dialogue and digital styling, while respecting ensuring our engagement model and creative strategy.
I used various visual tools and techniques to work closely with the author, the publishing company and Mattel to retrofit missing story & character elements and guide the digital production. Some of these devices included:

  • I traced each geographical reference from the books into an isometric blueprint, validated and approved by the author to establish locations and their orientation and create a navigable 3D world

  • I established colour palettes, mood boards, and mock ups of significant objects from the books’ stories to guide our game developers on decoration, arrangement, colour scheme and feel of the interior & exterior spaces

    “Mum I’m not a kid anymore”

    KINRA Girls sought to appeal to a transitioning audience of pre-teen girls, identified by Mattel’s research as being eager to leave behind their ‘pink and ponies’ phase and replace it with a cocktail of the trivial and important – teenage idols, fashion and a powerful motivation to build a better world.
    In order to create the look & feel for the interfaces I needed to establish a brand styleguide. The challenge was to marry their delicate style with something more edgy and teenage-aspirational.
    I combined an eclectic mix of grunge, scrapbook and rock elements with a colour palette of angsty night blue’s and in a subtle nod to ‘girly’ – a highlight of acid pink.
    Designing interfaces for this age group was a unique challenge that required considerable testing and iterating. I balanced colour, animation and a juvenile sense of chaos, normally at odds with web standards to achieve a playful yet intuitive experience.

     Brand Moodboard

     Homepage interface

     Meet the characters interface


    A unique play experience with academic credentials

    The KINRA Girls online world, together with the books and dolls launched without delay in the French market in 2010. It generated great interest as a milestone in the development of real and online interaction as a potent learning experience.
    The brand guidelines I developed were adopted by Mattel and the publisher to inform the book cover designs, packaging and promotional materials. And we were thrilled to find that our online world attracted a quick uptake of members and much conversation among them.