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You're So Smart

Making Of: An Interactive Book About An Asian Stereotype

In my everyday work, you can usually find me applying interaction design principles within the context of digital, screen-based media. More often than not, apps and screens are typically the name of the game. 

So when our wonderful professor, Christina Wodtke, recently challenged me to explore what interaction design could mean within the context of a storybook, the paper crafting-obsessed 12-year-old inside of me was more than delighted to give this project a shot.

To be more specific, Christina asked us to make a
pop-up book that
sheds light on a stereotype

I decided to pick a stereotype that I have heard countless versions of in my life so far:

  • "Why don't you know that? I thought Asians were smart."
  • "You're Asian...so you must be good at math."   
  • "Oh, of course you got an A. It's because you're Asian."

As ridiculous and frustrating as some of these experiences have been, I was excited to get to work and help people better understand why even this "good stereotype" can be harmful. I wanted to know... how could I invite someone to experience this stereotype? How could I guide someone to manipulate the paper in a way that would help them gain a little empathy for the characters?

But more importantly, I wanted to see how I could turn a mere pile of paper, tape, and ink into an emotionally resonant experience.

I started out by collecting a few stories from others on how this stereotype has affected them. I started to weave together some of the scenarios that stood out to my interviewees into a cohesive story. Enthusiastically, I dived into making rough paper prototypes and explored how affordances, signifiers, feedback, and mental models could bring this paper, and this story, to life.

I spent quite some time mapping out the story and trying to be thoughtful about the kind of interactions that I built into my book. Despite being covered in glue, marker, and tiny paper cuts, and despite my room looking like a paper shredder had exploded in it, I had a great time making this book and I learned quite a few things along the way.

Here's a peek at what I came up with.