Dubit is an interactive studio and research agency focused on the development of digital media for children and young people. Since 2016 I have worked as a Senior Research Manager for Dubit. In this role I use my expertise in research and design for children in work that crosses commercial, local governments and charities, as well as working collaboratively with academia and on internal research to understand current trends in kids media.
Many of the projects worked on are for well-known clients such as Duplo, Lego, Turner, Aardman, Mattel, Animando TV, CBCC, BBC, Beano, Discover Education, Cartoon Network and many more. However, the exact details of lots of the work conducted is protected by non-disclosure agreements. The following gives an indication of the types of work conducted.
An indication of the work conducted includes with commercial partners:
Acamar Studios are an independent animation studio, who produce the hit pre-school show Bing. They commissioned Dubit, who employed me as the researcher to explore how to reach wider audiences with their TV Series and toys. The methodology included a series of user sessions where parents and pairs of children were observed interacting with a range of Bing branded content. Watching the kids revealed the parts of the brand they really loved. Parents gave feedback, about what they liked and what they would change. I also created an innovative form of mapping that was used as another part of the methodology. More details can be found here
This research informed brand strategy for:
This research informed brand strategy for:
- Future Bing content
- Market expansion
- Consumer engagement
The brief was to digitally mirror the play patterns of the physical Duplo Street product and bring the bricks to life in the app, demonstrating the creativity of the physical toy. I undertook research to observe children playing with physical Lego Duplo town toys and analysed the data for key affordances of the toy and play that could then be used in the design of the digital app. More details can be found here.
This was to work on new directions for a well-loved TV show in Norway called Elias the Little Rescue Boat.
Tutti Frutti are a leads based theatre-company who are one of the remaining few who continue to make original theatre for children. Most other theatre companies use well known children’s IP such as the Gruffalo. As a result of their original work I have worked with Tutti Frutti to conduct art and design based research workshops with children to link into the development of their productions. This includes work on climate change and good sleep practices.
Initiative Jr (LEGO)
Initiative Jr needs the insight to inform the development of a media campaign for the launch of a new physical product and digital extension. A key element of the research was to understand what ‘thrill seeker’ meant to 8-10 year olds. Dubit conducted a series of friendship and sibling paired depths with the target audience in the US.
The research delivered actionable recommendations, enabling Initiative Jr. to:
- Inform the development of creative treatments that would get the attention of young thrill seekers
- Optimise the media schedule by appropriately ‘placing’ LEGO where the target audience gets an age-appropriate ‘adrenaline rush’
- Identify common themes about brands or platforms readily associated with thrill seeking, which could form the basis of commercial partnerships
Hopster: Content Strategy
Dubit began working with Hopster (VOD and gaming app) in 2013, initially to identify its core audience and early adopters to support. Working first to design a go-to-market strategy including recommendations on marketing, pricing and content strategies. Subsequently, Dubit has provided regular usability testing on new content, interfaces and innovations. This has included monthly testing with target audiences to optimise the service.
More recently the content team at Hopster wanted to ensure the shows/series licensed for the app are inclusive and positive with respect to differences in gender, class, ethnicity, disability, etc. Dubit conducted an audit of over 60 made-for-children series to identify ones with the potential to normalise differences between individuals, increase empathy and introduce children to the reality of other people’s lives.
Nat Geo Kids
Fox International (now part of Disney) planned to create a linear kids’ sub-brand. In order to optimise reach and revenue, there was a need to identify which audiences aligned with the type of content that would be shown on the channel. I undertook user engagement testing of a range of content about wildlife, natural world, animals, science, nature to understand how interested young audiences were in the content.
Adventure Time VR
Turner commissioned Dubit to conduct user testing for their Adventure Time I see Ooo Virtual Reality (VR) app and branded cardboard VR headset. The aim was to measure the reaction from tweens and young teens (8-14 year olds) and their parents to:
- Unpacking - Do they know what to do?
- Usability - Can they use it?
- Engagement - Does it appeal?
- Health and safety - Considerations to be aware of
- Appropriateness - Suitability for tweens and young teens
- Price testing
A series of test sessions were conducted with a mix of Adventure Time fans and non-rejectors of the brand in the target age group. The results informed UX and UI improvements for the ICOO app, best practice for creating future VR experiences, along with marketing, distribution and monetisation strategies
Mattel wished to explore perceptions and experiences of connected play among families of young children in the US. I was part of three research sprints, each containing three stages:
- Pre-interviews on play and perception of connected toys
- In-home play sessions, with children playing with placed products and recording their experiences on wearable GoPro cameras
- Post-play interviews to explore the experiences that the families had with the toys
The research provided detailed insights on the range of factors that influence toy choice and play behaviour as well as the necessary features for point of purchase, set up, onboarding and play for a connected toy to be successful. Dubit produced an interactive video library with searchable v video clips grouped into themes, as well as a fun research report and one-pagers on individual toy categories.
Internal project are funded by Dubit to look at pressing and important changes in the Kids Media Industry. The work keeps their own understanding of the field up to date but they also share the findings with other organisations making them a leading think tank. Examples are as follows:
Children and Virtual Reality
Details of this study that looked at children interaction with and engagement with VR content at the start of VR Wave 3 can be found here. Some of the findings were shared at an industry presentation at BAFTA. This was followed by a closed workshop to explore what the interests of VR and children were to key organisations in kids media.
Children and VR Roadshow
Because of the above research study, I was asked by Alison Norrington to help organise a Children & VR roadshow to draw together knowledge in the field and to identify common concerns or interests.
Kids and the Metaverse
As Dubit moved to focus its interactive design on products for the metaverse, I undertook a study for them looking at children’s use of Roblox, which given it’s structure as an online gaming platform where children can also publish their own games was considered an early version of a metaverse. For this study I developed new ways of conducting research within Roblox. This included for user testing of Roblox games and as purpose-built spaces for focus groups.
State of the Nation
This was a study led by colleague Rachel Ramsey to explored what UK 12-15-year-olds think about big societal issues, what influences their thoughts, and how they can be supported to learn more about them should they want to. It was funded internally but the ideas were conceived jointly with the Children’s Media Foundation. My involvement was in relation to academic journal article writing as one part of the project’s dissemination.
Local Governments & Charities
Scottish Book Trust
I was part of two research projects with this organisation. The first was research leading into the development of an app called Book Bug which is a library of songs and rhymes to support very young children’s emerging literacy practices.
Born in Bradford
Born in Bradford is a massive cohort study measuring Bradford children’s health across their life span. Connected to this project I have been part of research leading into the development of an app to promote physical activity.
Academic & Industry Collaboration
I was the academic-industry lead for the EU study on the digital literacy and multimodal practices of young children.
Joint PhD with University of Sheffield
The successful application for funding to host a joint doctoral student between Dubit and the Methods Institute at the University of Sheffield.
IGGI Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence
Supported the application for funding for the IGGI Centre as one of the industry partners. This included funds for IGGI to support more than 60 PhD students at the University of York and Queen Mary, University of London to work with industry partners in areas like game artificial intelligence, Esports, augmented creativity, and applied games for research and mental health. Dubit became one of 80 partner organisations.