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Interactive Annual 14:

Paper Critters

Launch Live Site

“At once perfectly charming and wildly addictive, this site gives everyone equal opportunity to craft beautiful objects.” —Liz Danzico

“From concept to language there is a playfulness that is irresistible and yet the interface is still so simple and intuitive; and clicking ‘print’ makes your fake 3-D character real.” —Jon McVey

Overview: This application allows visitors to design, customize and share paper craft toys through an online interface. Because the toys can be built, the experience straddles the digital and analog worlds. Visitors can also share the interactive experience by using the application to save and collect creations or by e-mailing Paper Critter movies or embedding them into a different site. It’s an application that functions equally well as an arts-and-crafts project for children and as a tool for rockstar artists to design awesome toys.

  • Development took one person twelve months.
  • Fully customizable 3-D paper models.
  • Contains more than 15,000 publicly viewable user submissions.

Comments by Ruperto Fabito, Jr.:

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
“One of the most challenging aspects was designing the set paper toy for the application because it had to translate well in both digital and analog forms. Digitally, it had to work well with the two-dimensional nature of the site's ‘Toy Creator’ and also within the technical limitations of Flash Player 9. Additionally, the final paper model had to accurately replicate the digital version without being too complex to fold and put together in the analog world. My final solution became a box-like figure where users can design on each of five different sides in a flat view and preview the final product in 3-D. The simplicity of the model allows effortless folding and a 3-D gallery where visitors can see and interact with up to twenty user-created toys at a time.”

How did the intended audience affect your solution?
“Having this idea reach a wide target audience was a daunting task. It had to be easy enough for novice toy creators, and extensible enough for a more advanced user to do something amazing. A collection of tools, such as a freehand marker, a shape creator, a library of stencils classified by style, and the ability to upload an image, creates as much potential for customization as possible.”

Was there anything specific that made the project easier or harder?
“I’ve designed and developed small sites and worked on large-scale Web applications with large groups, but I’ve never done something of this scale on my own. In addition to designing the user-experience, user-interface, graphics and sound, I had to learn ActionScript 3 and familiarize myself with object-oriented programming concepts. Consequently, the entire process of creating Paper Critters became a huge learning experience for me on project design and development.”

Ruperto Fabito, Jr. (South San Francisco, CA), art director/interface designer/developer/graphic designer/3-D designer/information architect/sound designer/project design and development
Academy of Art University, client