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Shaping textbook design

We helped an ELT publisher select the right textbook characters and animations for a generation brought up on Pixar and PlayStation.

The challenge

Today’s children are used to seeing high-quality, slick animation. Big-budget Disney & Pixar and DreamWorks movies and video games have set the bar high. By comparison, the characters in educational textbooks can seem staid and unexciting.

Our client was planning a refresh of textbooks and animations with new, dynamic characters – and needed to understand which designs would appeal to teachers and pupils. The characters had to be suitable and age-appropriate, but also to stand up against the media modern children consume.

The approach

We brought the voice of teachers into the decision-making process, helping our client to understand what teachers liked and valued in the new designs. Plus importantly, how they felt their students would respond to them.

We set up an online community with 30 English language teachers, all teaching primary school-aged children. The forum ran over four days in markets across Europe, Asia and South America.

Each group of teachers saw two sets of character designs and page layouts, and two corresponding animation styles. With video and interactive course materials embedded into the online platform, we were able to get incredibly detailed and specific feedback on what worked, and what didn’t.

The insight

We gave strong recommendations on the best textbook characters and animations: A cool, futuristic design that would appeal to older children, and a friendly, relatable design for younger children. We also gave tactical feedback on page layouts, emphasising clear navigation and consistent icons.

Rather than relying on internal views alone, our client was able to tap into the knowledge and expertise of teachers who truly understand what their pupils want, what they need, and what they respond best to.

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