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Visual Language System, Mobile AR+UX

Discoverables: Rethinking the Yellow School Bus Experience

With all of its noise, fights, and cramped spaces, the school bus isn’t a desirable place to be. In collaboration with Allies for Children and the Woodland Hills School District, I worked with a team of designers and UI engineers to create a more enjoyable riding experience for both under-represented students and bus drivers.

Our team designed Discoverables, an interactive system that cultivates curiosity, fosters collaboration across digital and analog formats, and promotes a sense of community among bus environments.

with Carolyn Chheath, Angela Wang, and Zach Bachiri

Through a span of 15 weeks, we worked with local school districts and child advocacy organizations to design an intervention for the school bus environment. At the very end, we envisioned a gamified learning experience.

My main contribution was developing a playful identity by designing how its language looks, sounds, and feels. We explored colors, type, and language that could kickstart the imagination of any of the kids we were working with.

Creating a Brand that Talks to Kids

During this process, it was important for us to constantly reiterate that the design needed to be universal and accessible to all the kids in the school environment. Although the main spotlight was on personalization and community-building, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave anyone out.

At the same time, we were applying this visual identity towards our app and cards. The illustration style and language started to inform our content, and vice versa, and we came up with a system of action-oriented categories like Find-it! And Quiz-It!

I also contributed to crafting a kid-friendly UX that melded digital and physical experiences together, free of any personal constraints that kids may be going through. It was during this step that we adapted our brand into a component library.

Before prototyping the system, we researched. It was important for us to remember that the kids we were working with didn’t always have access to every new technology, so any concept we came up with had to play to both analogue and digital mediums.

Establishing our Touchpoints

We met with representatives from local government who worked directly with policies that managed school transportation. We also talked with community leaders who advocated for universal changes in the student experience and with parents and school administration.

It became obvious during the process how much our other stakeholders -- bus drivers, parents, teachers, and administration -- cared about the experiences of their kids. They latched on well to our proposal to adapt the bus environment into some kind of learning environment.

Our brand was inspired from the co-design workshops we held with local middle schoolers. It was here that we got more in touch with the language, visuals, and activities that resonate with their perspectives.

Designing with the Explorers

What came to fruition was a workshop where students could play designer for an hour and craft the kind of bus that they wanted to see come to life.

Using building blocks, markers, and craft supplies, the middle schoolers that we worked with co-created three different bus environments that informed us of their desires and needs, which helped sprout further discussion as we asked about what they put into each bus.

Our goal with Discoverables was to create a game that engages students and develops new interests while also encouraging collaboration within a bus community, and we felt we got pretty close to doing that. It’s easy to forget the important of play in design, especially when you get bogged down in formalities.