The initial idea of the project was to create an interactive way of displaying information in relation to brand and corporate awareness. The intended final outcome would be an educational tool, providing a base of knowledge on the subject, to encourage further study by the viewer.
The outcome was to be interactive; stemming from the initial visual proposal, which was presented as a ‘self-serving presentation’ where consumer goods marked with QR codes would be scanned by an iPhone connected to a smart projector via the software ‘reflection’. This would then cause an animation to play for each part of the proposal; i.e. abstract, initial research, further development, etc.
Next Steps (idea development, research, etc.)
The next step was to follow up on primary research of questionnaires undertaken during the development of the project proposal. These questionnaires showed that although the general understanding of brands and their companies was limited, the branding of a product or service was still seen as being very important, and viewed as a mark of quality, familiarity and even trust.
Idea development led on from the scanning of bar codes in one form or another to displaying further information. It was decided that this was a good link to brands and consumer goods, as well as promoting a deeper search for information.
Augmented Reality was chosen as the next best step to develop upon the interactive ‘self-serving presentation’, with Augmented Reality also requiring the use of codes (or markers) to display three-dimensional imagery.
Research of other professionals who have experimented with Augmented Reality projects led to the open source code engine FLARToolKit developed by Saqoosha, which uses Adobe Flash ActionScript 3.0 and .swf files to recognize marker patterns (a form of QR code) and display a 3D image (collada file) when introduced to a web cam.
The open source software Blender 3D was used to create and texture map 3D models, and required familiarity with new software in order for the intended final outcome to be successful.
How to Augment Reality
Once it had been proven through research and personally conducted tests, it needed to be decided how to augment reality in relation to the project content. Would it bring the contents of a poster to life? Would it add to a persons ‘field of vision’ through the use of an app, displaying additional information of what is targeted within its view?
Eventually, the concept of a game was settled upon, in the form of Trump cards, running with the theme of Top Ten. Each card would contain facts and statistics about a given brand/company and a scoring system to show which card would beat another card.
Each brand/company chosen for the game would have their own character, for example; Peter Pepsi, Alice Apple, Nicolas Nike etc. These cards would also have their own personalized marker which would display a 3D model of its character when introduced to it’s own .swf file, or a specifically designed application.
Due to dimensional limitations of the cards, only a small amount of information would be displayed on the cards themselves. To solve this problem, a large poster/information graphic would be used alongside the cards to show additional information about brands, branding and corporate identity.
Tests with target audience (effectiveness, audience voting etc.)
The intended audience for the final outcome would be any person aged seven years or older, looking to learn more about the things that, in a mainly consumer driven modern society, we interact with every day, i.e. Brands.
To come up with a fair and accurate scoring system for the game, information on the 10 brands/companies that were chosen was broken down and shown to audiences of 10 people for a vote on their influential and ethical standpoint within their markets; the votes were then added together and divided to work out the average scores out of 10.
During the voting on this information, it was found that most information about the brands and companies selected was, although easily accessible, unknown to a majority of viewers; such as Apple’s retina display being developed and made by Samsung, or the McLibel legal case in regards to McDonalds.
Data collected during voting, along with information gathered from questionnaires went to show that even if a brand were viewed as unethical, preference for that brand would still cause the consumer to chose it over another product or service in a majority of cases. These findings where then included with the information graphic, which would run alongside the Augmented playing cards, showing how powerful and influential brands can be to consumer decisions.
What could be different? Aspects that didn’t work as well as they could?
Tests were mainly conducted in critiques of work with peers and individuals neutral to the design field as the content and aesthetics were developing. Due to a limited amount of time being spent on design and development because of time issues and other commitments, no proper audience tests where able to be undertaken as focus was concentrated on more technical aspects of the project in order to be completed for deadline, and making sure that all research was documented and accurate.
This being said, responses to theme, content and design of the project during critiques were positive, and the introduction of Augmented Reality proved to be a good ‘hook’ to the content of the design.
A lot of time was spent researching into how to Augment Reality, 3D modeling and texture mapping, along with extensive research into brands and branding. This meant that a majority of time was spent on research for a successful outcome, and content consistency so idea development and design alternatives was limited to a more strategic range of potential final outcomes.
The hope is that after progressing into the industry I will be able to focus solely on design work and development, and allow for a greater range of potential ideas and final outcomes.
In hindsight, too much time was spent on research, although necessary, and less focus on strong final visual outcomes, more audience testing would have ideally been undertaken. These problems perhaps led to launching into final outcomes too early, and I feel that the project overall would have benefited greatly with additional time being spent on these aspects.
As a whole, whilst taking into consideration limitations to the aesthetic design due to research into software familiarity and technical aspects previously not explored, I believe that the final outcome was very successful and serves its function accurately.
From the beginning aesthetics were always going to be sacrificed in the place the functionality of the design as a whole. The Augmentation of the characters proved successful, the game itself functions with an accurate scoring system, and the accompanying information graphic displays additional information on the subject without overloading the viewer with information.
Visually, both parts (the cards and the information graphic) work well together and both synthesize well aesthetically and functionally. The colours used in the design are bright and draw the eye, without clashing and causing discomfort to vision. The same also applies to the way information is displayed within the cards and information graphic, where although cramped in places due to limited dimensions, is broken into sections and easy to separate and distinguish, overall leading to a successful piece of functional design.