Behind the Design: Pok Pok Playroom – Discover

Behind the Design: Pok Pok Playroom – Discover

  • Apple
  • August 9, 2021
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  • 78
  • 8 minutes read

Light beam from top right corner revealing Pok Pok game room toys

When Esther Huybreghts and Mathijs Demaeght’s husband and wife team started dreaming Pok Pok game roomthey made a solemn vow: parents should not silence the application in a restaurant.

“We didn’t want media and jingles to stick in your head,” Huybreghts laughs. “We wanted a quieter experience.”

For the pleasure of parents everywhere, they got it: their inventive sandbox for kids is a quiet party for the little ones. There are switches to turn, gears to grind, stains to join, and bells to ring, and these are just a handful of animations designed to make the app feel like a handmade touch toy.

A boy in yellow pants plays with the Pok Pok Playroom toy library

Huybreughts and Demaeght began their careers in film and video game design before finding work with the Canadian independent studio Snowman (creators and producers of titles such as The High Odyssey i The adventure of Alto as well as Where the cards fall i Skate City for Apple Arcade). The duo began thinking about developing an app for young children after struggling to find the right kind of experience for their own children. “We didn’t want anything strong and overstimulating,” Huybreughts says. “We wanted something calmer and more educational, and we really didn’t find anything that ticked all these boxes.”

Instead, they decided to try to mark these boxes themselves, building Pok Pok game room along with the frequent input of the duo’s internal game testers before joining forces with their employers in Snowman. (Snowman’s team loved the spirit of the app so much that they created a separate company, Pok Pok, focused solely on children’s educational entertainment.)

The Pok Pok Playroom couple in their office

Huybreghts and Demaeght carefully designed the atmosphere of the app’s digital toy box to stimulate children’s minds and leave room for them to fill the details with their own imagination. “Children develop differently and everyone who plays Room Room “It’s a wonderful quality of open play. There’s something new to discover every time,” Huybreghts says.

To perfect the crafty aspect of the app, Huybreghts delved back into its own art and animation history. “I’ve been drawing all my life,” he says, “but it’s always been more schematic. Give me a pencil and a napkin and I’m happy.”

Huybreghts struggled to find it Room RoomHer gaze for a while, long enough for her husband to step in to launch a nautical challenge. “Mathijs lifted that toy boat that was around our living room among millions of other toys and said,‘ Okay, Esther, stop stressing it out. Use only these three colors: red, yellow and blue “.

Huybreghts draws designs on the iPad

As a lifelong creative, Huybreghts was duly horrified. I said, “I can’t do this!” He laughed. “How would you even draw a tree?”

But the little boat (and its guidelines) was inspiring. The new strategy, a mix of free play with friendly guidelines, also gave him room to experiment. “I did not want the work of art to be perfect, because that would mean that I would have to animate everything perfectly. The rule was that everything could shake a little, which put a lot of pressure on me. Making everything too clean and too pretty would have been too much work, especially since it was often just me drawing with one hand with one baby in the other. ”(Curious fact: all Room Room‘S designs started as iPad sketches.)

With the visual elements in motion, the challenge of matching the audio fell to sound designer Matt Miller, who ended up recording all the sounds in the game room: all the mops running out, the grills shivering. and wordless dialogues. “The idea was to create soothing sounds,” says Miller, “something that could be heard several times without getting tired.”

Miller records sounds in his backyard

Initially, Miller and Demaeght wanted to use a small number of real-world objects, but they quickly realized that the app’s thousands of animations required a wider arsenal of sounds, so Miller went hunting. “I got wooden blocks, kitchen pots, things I bought at a local thrift store,” Miller says, pointing to boxes of “Foley objects” at the back of his studio. “I’d just walk into a music store and start making pineapple.”

Its biggest challenge was in the “music spots” section of the app, an abstract play space of moving shapes no different from that lava lamp you had in college. “We wanted to do something musical,” says Huybreghts, “but every children’s musical app has a figurative look, where it’s a person or an animal singing or using visually recognizable instruments.”

The answer was in the abstract. “A musical drop is a whole new idea,” Miller says. “A lot of things have to come together for this to work.” For example: the color blue is always a C, while circles (the simplest of shapes) are represented by a single sine wave (the simplest of sounds). “There has to be consistency.”

The team behind Pok Pok Playroom sits in a conference room trying on toys.

Miller also found room to play a bit, though: One of his favorite effects is a manure beetle that lifts its hind legs and rolls the manure. “That sound of rolling is just me rolling around the edges of a soup can,” he says laughing. “When we can be literal, we are literal. But it’s also fun to throw curved balls. “

Somehow, Pok Pok game room it is a curved ball of its own, something that stands out for its simplicity. “We’re people, we’re not computers that build this,” Huybreghts says. “It’s not vector art. Everything is hand drawn and animated by hand. We are not a giant, polished company. You can really see everyone’s impression, everyone’s brand, in everything they do in the app. ”

Learn more about Pok Pok Playroom

Download Pok Pok Playroom from the App Store

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