After being locked up at home for so long, it only makes sense that we all want to better connect with nature and the great outdoors. The London-based Alphabetical Studio helped ensure that Thamesmead’s Tump 53 nature reserve was ready for summer by implementing an augmented reality learning app, a brand identity, and environmental design features.
The app combines custom AR technology, character design, sound recordings, and animation to make the learning experience a fun one. The bold typographic installations echo the onomatopoeic noises and movements from the children describing their favorite animals. The entire branding experience was created to make learning a more enjoyable process for children, but the result is branding that’s even fit for adults.
Thamesmead’s Tump 53 nature reserve is ready for a school summer holiday of bringing nature, children and the wider community together, thanks to multisensory placemaking and an augmented reality (AR) learning app by London brand agency Alphabetical.
Despite the fact that Thamesmead has more than double the amount of green space than the London average, Peabody, which owns around 65% of the land (including five lakes, seven kilometres of canals and 240 hectares of verdant parks), was concerned that the local community wasn’t getting the most out of these unique natural assets.
Peabody approached Alphabetical because it wanted to encourage more people engage with the Tump 53 nature reserve and nearby Water Lily Walk, which are two of Thamesmead’s hidden treasures, and create a sense of pride and ownership among local residents and school children.
“We’re taking a ‘whole place’ approach to improve, grow and look after Thamesmead for the long-term, and Tump 53 and Water Lily Walk are key parts of this. We partnered with Alphabetical as part of our ‘Living in the Landscape’ initiative, which aims to engage communities and encourage greater use of our unique green spaces,” says Kate Batchelor, head of landscape and placemaking at Peabody.
Alphabetical has created a brand identity for Tump 53, as well as an environmental design and digital learning app to strengthen the link between the green space and the people who live nearby, including children from local primary schools Hawksmoor and Windrush.
Tommy Taylor, creative partner at Alphabetical, says: “This project is about placemaking and creating ways to help people connect with nature. From the outset it made sense to collaborate with locals, especially children.”
Alphabetical created workshops for the young people centred on discovering the local insects and animals of Tump 53 and Water Lily Walk – the places they inhabit, the food they eat, the sounds they make, and why they’re so important to our ecosystem. “The kids were the real designers here,” says Taylor. “Through mimicking the sounds and movements of local creatures, the project enabled them to take ownership of their environment, becoming more and more invested as time went on.”
Connecting with nature through interactive and AR design
There are bold typographic installations recessed within the undergrowth along the edges of Water Lily Walk to encourage discovery. The installations reflect the onomatopoeic sounds and movements Alphabetical recorded the children making when describing their understanding of the behaviour of each animal. And they subtly direct people towards the entrance of Tump 53.
“We really want kids to investigate the brightly coloured letters and shapes along the walkway,” says Taylor. “So, where a sign says ‘Buzzzzz’, for example, we’re hoping they’ll articulate the sound, and then ask their parents to use the app on their phones to find out more. We want them to think, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that’s what bees eat, or that’s how they see.’ The dream is that they’ll be encouraged to create small habitats – a few flowerpots on the front step – to encourage bees to visit.”
The educational app integrates custom AR technology, character design, voice and sound recordings, and animation, all created by Alphabetical. A gaming area of the app adds further fun and makes the learning and discovery even more relatable. The whole project ties nature, co-creation, learning and digital communications together.
When parents hover over the typographic sounds, the letters come to life, morphing into playful animated creatures that jump, fly and buzz around the viewer. The character design is accompanied by voice recordings that share information on the species, the threats they face, and what we can do to help.
“The scheme has been developed to inspire children on their own learning journey,” says Taylor. “It’s a new, less didactic kind of approach. The AR element also encourages parents and kids to share the experience, and use their devices to learn about local flora and fauna together.”
Jack Gower, landscape activation manager at Peabody, says: “Our outdoor education activities at Tump 53 nature reservice are part of our Making Space for Nature programme, which is about getting people to spend time outdoors learning about and enjoying nature. It’s been a great experience to work with Alphabetical and to see the children’s excitement as their work was brought to life. I’ve seen children making animal sounds and movements as they use the walkway, sharing the experience with friends and family. It has created a sense of pride in the area, and taught children valuable lessons about their natural environment.
“Alphabetical impressed us so much because they understood that to respond to the wider social issues, it was important that the local community were central to the process. It was authentically collaborative, and will have a positive impact on the lives of people who live here as well as wildlife.”