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Smidge and Smudge.

Smidge and Smudge were originally two characters I had created for my character development unit. Initially, I had two scrolls on which I designed, developed, and explored the boundaries of my characters. These characters were two children’s characters. In the story, one of the characters goes missing halfway across the world, which leaves the monkey who loves her (Smudge) to search the globe in order to find her. It is a geography tale which teaches children about other places, cultures, languages, and animals in general.

‘Smudge loved Smidge, and Smidge loved Smudge. 

They loved each other so very much.

Yet something happened. On a cold, dull day.

Smudge lost Smidge, she was taken away!

So Smudge set off on a brand new adventure.

Searching high and low, left and right, inside every denture. 

And yet Smudge could not find his beloved Smidge. 

She was gone, far away, further than he had searched.

Smudge packed away his most precious things.

Family photograph, teddy bear, and even his favourite rings.

He said goodbye to all of his family.

Got up and left, to search every Country.

Smidge has to be somewhere, Smudge was going to find her.

For once more, they were going to be an amazing pair.’

Initially, when I set off going into this unit. I had planned to create a website for children to use. I planned on having printable things, get to know the characters, games, and a section for Smidge and Smudge’s story. To research this I looked into various websites designed for children. This research is here.

I had begun to develop, and expand my website in my sketchbook. I had planned out several various pages, the layouts for the games, and even the additional characters that I had found during a focus group.

Designing my logo was easy because of the various typographies I tried to use to find what I wanted, this also was made easier thanks to my font research that I had looked into for the website. Surprisingly, I steered away from an all text logo, after drawing out several designs I had picked that a mixture of a characters head and text would be best for the logo.

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In the process of making my website, now I had begun to digitise my work in accordance with the work plan I had set out from my original brief.

I began to create a background for the website that was jungle themed to fit in with where my characters are from. Using a brush pack I had downloaded online, I was able to create an effecting jungle-like background that matched my characters appropriately.

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I next began to develop the buttons for my website.

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I had decided that a leafy pattern would match in well with the jungle theme, and they were to have a soft animation of typing text whenever hovered over, which I also happened to create in Flash before restarting the idea.

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I next drew up my characters in photoshop, and tried my best to make them look as simplistic and childlike as I could.

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The final part I had created was a pack of cards. I made the backs of the cards red because I think that was more of a personal preference, also they would stand out more on the background when you were playing the game I had designed them for. I designed the cards myself, created each of the symbols, and also made Smidge and Smudge king and queen, along with Sheldon being the jack.

It was as I got to this stage of my work that I had begun to realise the true problem here. I seemed to have only a couple of weeks left in class, and with no flash access at home, I knew I woudn’t have the time to finish creating an entire website.

Instead, I rewrote my idea, scratched my brief, and used what I already had in a more print based form. One that I could fully focus on doing at home over the half term without interruptions.

Since I was already developing colouring pages for my website, I had an idea of making an activity pack for the same age range I was already working with of 4-10. I designed out that I would make a series of several sheets for the children to do in order to be educated, challenged, and to also have a little fun at the same time.

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I looked into the pages people would normally see in an activity book. Colouring pages, wordsearches, dot to dots, matches, and mazes. These were the standard ones that I tried my best to make educational. One of the wordsearches has all seven countries on it, there are basic skills required for dot to dots and the rest, well they just seemed a little too fun.

I had decided to handdraw all of my pages. For the simple reason I didn’t have the resources at home to create them digitally, and I didn’t have enough class time left to go making the pages. However, after I had made them, I felt it looked a lot better hand drawn than digital. The colouring pages turned out a lot more effective and nicer than the set I had made for my website. I did, however, print off the front page to the activity pack, using the same background and logo as the rest of my items, along with making an answers page that was also digital.

However, I felt there was a certain fun aspect missing. And after asking a few children what they’d like to see in the activity pack (getting back the standard answers of what I already had in there) I was struck by the idea of having a secret decoder page. This page uses a secret code that I had been taught to use as a child myself, and we used to pass notes around in these symbols over and over. And, of course, there had to be an educational twist. So the message, from the Chinese panda, Jade, had to be Ni Hao. Simply because it was teaching children to speak another language.

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Usually when you think of an activity pack, you think of having a pack of crayons to go along with the pack, to obviously fill it in with. I found a box of crayons with four simple colours inside, and made my own packaging design for the crayon box.

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I had initially designed the packaging to match the pack of cards that I had designed for the website. Of course, this didn’t really look good with the set or the jungle theme, so I scrapped this background altogether, and settled with using the jungle background I had initially created for the website instead.

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Now with the background already developed in photoshop. I decided to take the inspiration from my promotion unit and I made the choice of making a set of bookmarks. Since Smidge and Smudge is a story, I feel that this would be a good accessory to go along with the book. It also helped that I had previously digitally created my characters for the website too. As I could throw that with the background, and, well, voila!

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After I had created and designed my pack of cards, I felt that it would be a shame to let the hard work and time I had spent on them go to waste. To fix this, I printed each of the sets off, changed the background and basically stuck them all together and cut each o the 52 cards out individually along with making the box to keep the cards all together too.

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Throughout this unit of work, I have been receiving feedback. I had been keeping a note of the feedback as I went along making my things. I had a small focus group of my age range in order to hear the children’s ideas on my characters and their stories, and they helped me create other characters they would like to see.

At the final push, I decided to create a series of questionnaires to ask a few people in order to get the last few things I needed to make my set full.

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This feedback basically told me a few more things that I should create with the last couple of days I had left in which to do them. The feedback told me that an instruction leaftlet to go along with the packet of cards was needed, so I created one with four simple games that I knew the children play when we take them away on holiday with us.

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I was also told that, just like a child’s magazine, my work seemed to be lacking a story, or an interactive tale in the least. I worked out a way to make the story of Smidge and Smudge as interactive as I could for children.

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I created pages with the story along the bottom of each page, a blank box above the page which was enabled so that children can read the story and then draw their own illustration to go along with it. There were also lines along the bottom of the page for either handwriting practise, or improvement on the story. Maybe the children would like to add in a few bits and pieces to the tale here and there, I felt it was best for them to feel like it was personal and close to them, and this feature made sure that was possible.

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I created a front cover and a back cover for the book listing the illustrator simply as ‘you’ to appeal a little more to children, and listed a few simplistic instructions so that children knew what they would find inside of the book.

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I like this font because it’s clean, simple, and still easy to read for children. It may make a good logo for Smidge and Smudge.

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This one I am not wanting to use at all. The font is hard to read, and for children, who, possibly, can’t even write their name correctly yet, it is a little too extreme.

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This has to be my favourite. It’s simple, it looks to be handwritten, and it is very interesting at the same time. I feel it would appeal to the younger age I am looking for here.

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This is more a combination of the other font, but with a soft, suble, and very relaxed twist that enables children to be able to read it. Image

I looked into jungle fonts, since the two monkeys are from there. This, I feel, is a little too stoneage for what I was looking for.

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Since Smidge and Smudge travel around the world in the geography story, I have looked into fonts of other countries. This Chinese font I rather like, but it doesn’t suit for the logo since Smidge and Smudge go to China, but also to many other places. Maybe this can be used on a page where they do visit China though.

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The same applies for this one. I prefer it over the other font previously used, it seems more handwritten and ink like.

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Since both are from Africa, I looked into an African font and found this. I like it, it stands out, but I think it is a little too harsh for the approach I am trying to take.

Font Research for Smidge and Smudge website

Work Diary

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This is my plan on how I will finish this project within the six weeks.

BBC Bitesize Research

Bitesize on the other hand is a different website all together. It focuses completely on educational games in order to educate children. The main page for Bitesize is split simply into learning categories. Each one specifically designed for the keystage your child is learning at in school. It goes all the way from KS1 all the way through to a higher level of education. Due to the fact I know my age group for this project is set in the keystages of one and two, I looked into those categories more specifically.

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Keystage 1 has three simple sections. Literacy, Maths, and Science. There are various games within each one for you to play and learn at the same time. Helping you expand your skills mean whilst also accompanying in a little fun too. The only categories on here that are constant are those three separate sections. Always easy to find if you want to learn another topic.

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Every page is also brought along with a worksheet to go with the game, encouraging you to do work away from the computer, especially if you only have a limited time on one in the first place.

Keystage 2 is more visibly different. The icons are a little more sophisticated with images added onto them, and there are more sections within each section as is instructed by their curriculum. Science is split into categories that are still simplified, yet they are quite obviously the three subject the students will meet at secondary school. Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, summed in more simplistic ways.

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As is the last one, there are games listed in each section. Educational ones telling you that you can play the game or read the worksheet to go along with it. This does help if a child simply prints the sheet out to do away from the computer, of course.

I like this website. It is educational, informative, and very well put for children. Everything and anything is on this website, which is exactly what I wish to do with Smidge and Smudge. Their geography stories should be able to educate and help children learn more along the way, whilst having fun in doing so.

 

Disney Channel Research

Just like the beginning websites, Disney Channel follows the same format. Easy to find links, even if they are a little cluttered. And a character themed background to draw you in. Their links are not as animated as Disney Juniors, but there is a small hover over in which to tell someone that they can click on that if they so please do so. 

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The navigation along the top is sorted into specific characters. You may scroll through those characters in order to find the section you wish to ge to. A little time consuming if you’re looking for one specific one, but with the little amount of shows there are only three or four scrolls to go through anyway. If you had more characters this would not be a good option at all.

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When you enter a character’s section the colours change to match that section. There are several options inside of here for games, videos, and exclusive things also. The one main constant is the spot in which all of the work is displayed. It doesn’t change at all. This is a nice little constant of the site.

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If I were to learn from this site, and take something from it, I feel the scroll navigational system is a rather nice piece to incorporate it into my own work. This could be good for the character’s pages, to navigate without overloading the page with links upon links. It is neat and very put forward.

Disney Junior Research

The Disney Junior website on the other hand of my previous two researches is more so a combination of both of those. It has its general home page, with standard contant links that are very easily found and laid out. These move with soft animations upon a hover over.The hover over sound goes with the general animation of the page. The glittery swirly animation, and sound to accompany it, add into the effect of Disney, which all children have been raised into believing the magic of. It displays the work accurately along with the company and brand itself.

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Each character has their own page which is a little muddled up and hard to navigate. Games, stories, and colouring pages and activities are all jumbled into a huge pile here, and you have to sift through to find just what you like. Using the alternative links helps you find what you want more simplistically and easily than this, but Disney realises that children are more likely to click on the image of their favourite character in the top bar, than their alternate links along the side. It is a tactic to keep them on the site longer, and also deliver the character specific things.

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The colours are standard on standard pages, yet they change on the character specific pages as to suit that characters certain colours. The main page is often a simple blue, and when you go onto, for example, Sofia the First’s page, it turns to purple as that is that character’s colours.

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All in all I feel this website has some positive and negative features. Some I will carry through to my own site, others I will bypass for an earlier option. The navigational system of having the characters constantly there is a nice idea, but I would have to see how that would work with my layout, also the custom mouse, and soft animations is a rather good idea. Along with alternate colour schemes and themes for each characters page. This is a good idea to promote just where the character is from. Jade, the panda, is from China, and I would be able to highlight that with a red background, lanterns, and everything else. Something in order to educate children further.

CBBC Research

In opposition to the Cbeebies website, the CBBC website has a less in your face way of navigating. This website has you more so searching around to find exactly what you want. Of course, everything is rather standard once you realise what you are doing, but it does take a moment or two of thinking before you use it.

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The navigational images are less childlike, and more fitting towards teenagers. BBC definitely knows how to appeal to their target audience on each website. This is apparent by the lack of the talking on the roll overs of the link, and the more toned down style of the CBBC website. As if it is enticing your children to relax for just those few moments.

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Gone are the pages for separate shows and things, and now everything is pretty much bundled into standard sections such as ‘games’ ‘music’, etc. This makes you stay on the website longer by having to search the pages for exactly what you want. Even if you know what you are looking for, ir has a standard super market layout in which you still have to pass by everything in order to find the one product you were searching for. This is a tactic to draw you in for longer, it is the same tactic as is used on YouTube with their video suggestions, making you click through everything and suddenly a lot of time has passed by.

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Everything is a lot cleaner, the games are fairly obviously more complicated than is the standard for children of their target age, and also somewhat educational. Adding in small maths, english, and other basic skills to really put you to the test.

This is a website that I feel does not appeal to the audience of children I want. I am more so aiming towards reception through to year two of children. Therefore this is too advanced, however, it does teach me a few things I shouldn’t do on my own website. As is shown from the vast differences on each webpage. Things needs to be easily catagorised. No over the top navigational system, and always try your best to sell the work on display.

Cbeebies Research

To begin this brief I had to first look into the various website styles out there for children. This would give me an idea on colours, fonts, layouts, and content on which I should include in my own  work.

First and foremost I looked into the website of Cbeebies. This one is a rather simplistic website to navigate. The URL itself is complicated to spell, if a child were trying to find it, but that is the only complication here.

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The home page follows the same general layout as the rest of the website does. It already sets the tone for the site from just one simple look. Everything is bright, colourful, and very playful too. This draws children in, they do not want to see something boring that doesn’t grab their attention. The website should display the work as best it can, and also match the brightly coloured characters shown on the pages of the website too.

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It has one main navigational system. This is constant throughout the pages and is very easy to find time after time. This enables the children to navigate around simply and with ease. Nothing too fancy or over the top to try and confuse them. Each one comes with a hover over sound to signify that it is in fact a button to be clicked, and it reads out just what you are clicking on. A good plus for children unable to read as of right now.

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The links within the pages gives children a small icon of a character to select. These are easily labeled for them to read their names. Each one leads through to a different character page within the website.

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There is one main scroll feature at the top of the page, the things inside of this bar are also linked as buttons along the bottom. This tells children what they are about to press without them having to first press the button. When you hover over the smaller versions, a roll over highlights informing you of just what the page is called/what it contains.

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For the rest of the website, the interactive features are simple. There is nothing over complicated, nothing too extravagant that a child could not be able to do, and it all works on one simple box in the exact same place on the screen, which clears away the confusion of looking for it time and time again.

After looking at this website, I feel that the idea of having my main links visible, the one box for everything to appear, and the bigger box when hovered over, is a good idea. These are probably the ones I will try to carry forward into my own work. Along with the influences to have games, posters, colouring pages, and an interactive story too.

General Brief for Interactive Website unit.

Educational Interactive Website for Children.

Deadline: 20th May 2013

The aim of this task is for you to create a series of educational and interactive items for children aged 4-10. These will feature characters you have created yourself in a previous project. The task has a number of stages that you must follow to reach your final goal. You are creating this website in order to educate and entertain children which creative use of your characters created in a previous unit. Everything must have some form of educational aspect, it is a geography story therefore various characters and games can be made.

Stage One: Research

  • Look into children’s educational games online. Things like BBC Bitesize, Cbeebies, etc.
  • Remember your age group that you are creating for. Look into the topics you do questions on. Geography, Math, English, etc.
  • Font Research, and also age group research.

Stage Two: Designing

  • Design your characters further. Do they have other friends? What about a website directory? An entire website for the games to be centralised.
  • Receive feedback on these designs and ideas. What is better? Anything you can add or take away from it?
  • From your feedback draw your complete final designs out.

Stage Three: Creating

  • Using flash create the pages for your work. The main directory, general layout for each page, and the credits page.
  • Research and find the questions for each game you create. Ten or fifteen for each subject you select.
  • Make your animated characters and create them in photoshop.
  • Add your final pieces to each page.
  • Make posters to also go onto your pages.
  • Make five or ten colouring pages for your website to also have. Smidge, Smudge, friends, and group ones too.

Stage Four: Final.

  • Receive more feedback on your final pieces of work.
  • If there is time add any changes that you can easily do.
  • Evaluate your work based on the brief and the feedback you received. What do you like? What do you dislike? Any challenges? How did you overcome those? If given more time what would you do differently?

Work Diary:

 

15th April – Research – Games, font research, colour research. Make a thorough plan of what you are doing. Put all of this in your sketchbook.

22nd April – Character design. Other animals, Smidge and Smudge. Website design. Question Design. Feedback.

29th April – Final design changes. Draw out your characters in photoshop. Colouring pages, certificate, and your posters. All photoshop work should be completed.

6th May – Create your website, character animation and general design for the website.

13th May – Add the final features to the website. Insert your other features like pages, posters, and the others. Get feedback on all of this and note it down in your sketchbook.

20th May – Any final edits and evaluation.

I will use flash to create the majority of my project. Photoshop will be used along with this too. In the end you want a series of three interactive questions, a website directory for this, posters, colouring pages, certificates, and, if in time, the story of Smidge and Smudge on your website too. Your research will be collected in your sketchbook, and the changes and development will be displayed in your sketchbook too.

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