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What:

Independent Study and passion project

Where:

Student work, VCU Brandcenter

Role:

Experience Design, Product Design,

Brand Identity Design, UX/UI Design,

User Research, Illustrator

Bloom Books is a "build your own adventure" digital platform that gives parents the opportunity to let their children find their path and build their own interests without the pressures of societal gender stereotypes.

Background

Gender bias has been present in children's literature for essentially its entire existence. In the past there was a huge lack of representation for female characters in literature. When they were present, they typically followed strict, traditional gender roles or stereotypical characteristics. This also applies to male characters as well. These biases can be incredibly detrimental to the health and mindsets of growing children. If they do not see themselves represented in books  or other forms of media, then their existence has not yet been validated. 

What if we could encourage children to explore their own self expression without societal gender restrictions? Some parents have found that gender-neutral parenting can encourage these positive responses:

More Creative

More likely to be agents for Gender Equality 

More Interests and Hobbies

More likely to be in Leadership roles

Enhance their insights and interests

Increased awareness of identity and self-esteem

Currently, representation of female and male characters are almost equal. In addition, female characters have actually been breaking a lot of traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Unfortunately, most male characters in children's literature still follow strict gender roles.

The Challenge

The Opportunity

The Solution

Children are growing up reading literature with strict gender roles and stereotypes. This is negatively affecting the outlook on where they can live within our society. As a child, their existence needs to be validated in order to see themselves in the world

A lot of parents have started to encourage gender-neutral parenting when raising their kids. This offsets, even just a little, the affects society may have and it may allow their kids to love themselves and others no matter how they dress or what their preferences are.

Create a digital platform that allows children to build their own story without the restrictions of societal gender norms or stereotypes so that they can imagine themselves in places society may not always show them.

How Bloom Books Works

Part 1: 

Most children grow up having an adult or parent reading to them, this leaves a lot of space for them to input their own personal bias. When you first enter Bloom Books we want to address this issue and encourage parents to let their children take the lead. 

Part 2

Once an adult supervisor has a complete understanding of what Bloom Books is hoping to promote, it is time for the fun stuff! Each child can now start building their story and exploring endless forms of self expression. The goal is that this will allow children to see themselves in places where society might not traditionally show them. This will enhance their sense of self, increase their confidence and allow them to explore their own gender expression. 

Each child can personalize their character in a way that best fits them!

1

Next they can pick a 

hairstyle. This can be something that represents themselves or they can try something totally new!

2

Now we get to pick out some outfits. Each outfit is tied to a storyline related to an occupation or dream! Some are real and some are just for fun.

3

All we need now are a few accessories! Each item may be based off of an occupation, interest, or passion.

4

Almost there, let's generate this story and go on an adventure! 

5

Last but not least, read and explore! Each choice has now customized a story specifically based on the interests of the children using Bloom Books.

6

By giving your child the opportunity to explore their own interests and make their own choices, they are now able to see themselves in places society may not always show them.

Looking Forward

Representation in Children's Literature does not only struggle with gender but race is also a big issue. If you take a look at the graph to the right, the two largest categories of character representations are White or Animals. Every other race falls below 25% representation. This is a huge problem and  Bloom Books has a responsibility to ensure that representation is equal for not only all genders but for all races as well.

Bloom Books has the opportunity to make a bigger impact. They will hire authors and illustrators of diverse backgrounds to ensure that accurate representation is available for all races, cultures, and sexualities. 

The goal for the future is to uplift both the creators and the readers in a way that will encourage everyone to have a voice.

Branding & Other Artifacts

The color palette and font for Bloom Books was heavily based off of neutral color tones seen in children's literature and children's bedrooms with a more gender-neutral color scheme.

Bloom Books also includes many variations of illustrations to ensure that each child can be shown and represented equally. Below are a few examples of illustrations created specifically for Bloom Books.