This design research project uses academic and contextual research, paired with stakeholder knowledge and relationships to create interactive storytelling experiences.
Developed in a small collaborative team, The Kākā Project aims to educate, encourage and empower neighbours living in the halo around Orokonui Ecosanctuary to help protect Dunedin’s kākā flock.
Kākā in Orokonui Ecosanctuary are flying out of the sanctuary during the day and into the neighbouring communities. Many of them are going missing and are presumed dead. This is due to a combination of predators, bad habitats, and human interference. Orokonui wanted to create new ways to reach neighbouring communities and educate them about how to make their backyards a safe place for kākā, in order to minimise deaths and accidents.
By using expert interviews, collaborative making and stakeholder feedback, we were able to refine what our outcomes would be, who our key stakeholders were, and what our ultimate target audience was.
VR Models and Concept Art
VR is an immersive and engaging method to tell stories. We wanted to explore the ways technology and conservation education could overlap, so we created a VR pitch that spread key messages about kākā. The idea would was that you would put on the headset and be transported to a clearing near a bird feeder at Orokonui.
Groups of kākā would be around you, and by looking at groups of birds you could teleport close to them and listen to their conversations, which you can understand. The birds would talk about their day and the viewer would learn what was dangerous to them, what draws their attention, and how to make environments safer. Below you can see 3D models, concept art and whiteboxing experiments. At the bottom of the page, you can also see the VR teleportation mechanic on display at the exhibition.
Logo and Branding
The logo containing two kākā has multiple meanings. The two birds could be an adult kākā and chick. The logo can also be read as a chick to growing up to become an adult kākā. The larger kākā is looking to the right, guiding the reader’s focus on the text. Looking to the right also symbolises looking ahead, towards the future.
The kākā are nested in a circle, this can indicate a sun rising. This suggests a bright future, linking to our brand statement “In touch with tomorrow”. The circle also suggests support to represent community, and could also be seen as a nest, a halo, or a shelter protecting the birds.
“In touch with tomorrow” emphasises the future-focused nature of this project. The idea of being “in touch” also references ideas of being connected to community, or to take it more literally, touching and interacting with the world around us. These ideas of interaction and community are present in both our outcomes and our research.
Interactive game: Neighbours
This interactive game was the main design outcome of our research. It is designed to go on a website and contains a prologue, an epilogue, and a series of interactive choices. You switch between the perspective of a backyard owner and a kākā, and you learn about planting trees, controlling pets, trapping pests, and the risks of feeding and interacting with kākā.
Throughout this project my role was focused on writing, research, graphic design. I created all the graphics and assets for the interactive game, all branding and marketing material. I worked closely with two other students who worked on coding, game development, animation and VR mechanics.
What happens now?
This project has been completed as an Honours project with Otago Polytechnic. It is not completely finished and needs a few more tweaks and some testing. “Neighbours” is designed to be part of a new website that Orokonui Ecosanctuary is currently developing as part of their movement to educate communities about kākā.
Below you can see work used in the graduate exhibition at Otago Polytechnic. You can also see some animation work we used in the game, and a demonstration of how the teleportation mechanic works.