Bloom Books

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

Gender Representation in childrens literature shows 40% female characters and 60% male characters.

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.

Homescreen image of BloomBooks

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. 

The about page of BloomBooks. Bloom Books aims to give every parent and child the opportunity to grow and learn together. Our society falls short when it comes to equal opportunities. We are improving as a whole but we still have a very long way to go. Lack of representation, due to inequality, can negatively affect both the emotional and mental state of our children. Bloom Books wants to make sure that every child has the opportunity to envision themselves in places society may not always show them. We hope to encourage children to express themselves and to go after their passions no matter what their gender, race, or sexuality might be. This will inspire them later in life and hopefully generations to follow. Every child deserves the chance to pursue their dreams and explore what the future may hold.
A Note for the Parents: As parents we all want the very best for our children. One of the most wonderful things a parent can do for their child is to support them unconditionally. Although we, as parents, grew up in a society with strict gender roles and stereotypes, society already puts a lot of pressure on our kids. Let's try to make it easier on them. As you and your child buld their story please step aside and let your child be who they want to be. The best thing we can do to uplift them is to let them fully express themselves without any constraints from societal gender norms. Let's give our kids the opportunity to build their own interests and passions while you're alongside them supporting them all the way. Now, Let's get this aventure started! Let's Go!

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. 

The personalization tab in Bloom Books that allows the user to pick a skin tone, hair color, glasses, and freckles.

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

The Hair Type tab in the Bloom Books App that allows the user to pick different types of hair styles.
The clothing tab in Bloom Books that allows the user to pick different outfits based off of job occupations or fantasies.

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

The accessories tab in Bloom Books that allows the user to pick different accesories that represent different occupations or interests.
The Generate page in the Bloom Books App. Your book is ready to generate! Okay, Barrett! Your adventure is waiting for you. Let's get reading and see what lies ahead of us!

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

An example of a Bloom Books Publication called "The Adventure sof Doctor Barrett The Botanist". This includes an image of a child swinging through the forest in a doctors uniform.

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.

A graph showing how race is represented in children's literature. Childrens literature characters are 50% white, 27% animals/other characters, 10% black, 7% asian pacific islander/american, 5% latinx, and 1% native americans/first nations.

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.

The Bloom books color palette and font. Header 1: Poppins Bold 40px, Header 2: Poppins Normal 21px, and Body is Poppins Normal 14px.

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.

An illustratio of a child swinging on a vine through the forest in a doctors uniform.
Multiple illustrations of children in different outfits like astronauts, artists, teachers, firefighters, and a president.
More examples of illustrations.
More examples of illustrations.