Cultural edutainment for second generation south asian kids

How might we equip American born South-Asian children to learn their origin stories in a way that is enjoyable and engaging?

Target Group: 6-9 year old children, eager to learn about South Asian history and culture.
The Context

This opportunity took the shape of a culture club. A monthly subscription box–with an adventure story book at the heart of it–accompanied by things to do. We defined the activities in a way that relate to the characters and story from the book, as well as interactions with other real world stakeholders like the kid’s family, broader community and other club members.

We were adamant about the physical nature of the box, to serve as one of the things you look forward to outside of your screen, and thus paper, as a medium, was decidedly the backbone of this package.

The Metaphor

An ambassador represents a country, culture, brand or an idea. In south asia, there is a popular vehicle by the same name–which is both ubiquitous and extremely versatile. It only takes the difference of a fixed-top accessory for it to represent for either a ‘very important person’ or a pedestrian’s taxi. Built in 1958, he car has shut down manufacturing in the last few years, but it embodies something iconic, that we decided to tap into, and incorporate into the building of the brand.

Phase I: Branding

We started out as a small team of three, finding alignment on what being south asian meant to us. We created collective a mood board which defined the aesthetics we aspired to achieve. This exercise was challenging because of the breadth of things that could be classified as cultural association to me; It also brought up discussions around representation vs appropriation, which led to some decisions in terms of what the brand needs to stand for.

Thus began the journey of defining the visual mark by which to identify the brand with. We went through a few rounds of iteration with the abstraction of a car–highlighting some of the features that were unique to this model, or subtle nods to south asia in the visual metaphors.

Note: In the beginning, the brand wasn’t solely predestined as a children’s brand, and thus the explorations took on a broader scope.

The use of patterns with meaningful details was decidedly relevant, but the work on the logo design was paused after this phase, to focus on redefining the strategy of the company from the perspective of a children’s brand. The form that these patterns took evolved through the course of the project, but this diagram laid the foundations of what was to come:

A system of Motifs
The misaligned style of a hand-block-printing is an aesthetic we integrated into the brand language

Once the decision to keep the brand focused towards children was made, a new name for the brand emerged: ambassador 88– from the secret society of nannies that took an important meaning in the story of the book itself. We ran a design sprint to define the creative guiding principles for the logomark: whimsical and joyful. This became a north star that kept the parallel teams aligned.

After many a zoom calls and visual system explorations, a logo was born.

The final name and logo of the Brand
The building of a brand book remotely
Phase II: The Product

The experience of unpacking this product on arrival was a key milestone in the user journey. We started to visualized this customer journey. While the book remained the hero in this package, there were other interactive elements which completed the learning experience. These supplementary activities related either to the characters or place of the story, to the family members of the child, or to the brand itself.

An early isometric sketch of the contents of the package
Final visual render of contents of the package

At this point we reached a challenging question about the visual language of the rest of the pieces, outside the book. We were working with an illustrator for the book whose style could either spill over into these touchpoints, or we could decide to let them take on a new language in the brand’s tone of voice. This brought us to identify an opportunity–

To marry together the contrast of these aesthetics, we conceptualized an ‘outside-in’ idea–where the packaging and pieces would have a subdued outer covering, but bursting with all the pattern, colorful joy within. A way to bring in the magical and whimsical ethos of the brand.

Print Samples
Color Speccing
The Prize Amulet

Printed prototypes of the activity pack–

Following this, we worked alongside the digital team, and used Shopify to translate the brand experience onto the website, and instagram page.