Unfound develops interactive prototype for sex education app Elbee

To design an engaging educational experience for children and parents, the app takes cues from “familiar rituals” of popular apps across categories.

Unfound studio has developed an interactive prototype and identity for new sex education app Elbee, tailoring its user interface and experience to cater to both parents and children.

Unfound was connected through word of mouth with Elbee founder Angela Hudson, who is a mother, a teacher and has worked with UNICEF on the UN Rights of the Child, when she had an early prototype and visual identity for the app.

In 2021, OFSTED carried out a review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges in England, finding that children were receiving low-quality education in relationships, sex and health. From its own research, Unfound identified “gaps in the curriculum” and found only vague guidance for teaching first-hand, says the studio’s creative director Jay Topham.

One of the UK curriculum’s guidance points for teaching seven-year-olds sex education is “introduce consent” with no further information or context to explain how to teach it, Topham says. Elbee’s ambition is to “become a voice in the sector” and reimagine the conversation to “liberate sex and relationship education from shame, judgement and exclusion”, he reveals.

Due to the difficulty of “infiltrating school curriculums” and getting new textbooks in, Topham says Elbee is aimed at families for use in the home. Its content is split into three sections for children aged 9-12, 13-16 and 17 plus with a separate section for parents.

One of Unfound’s challenges was designing for both young people and parents, which Topham says the studio overcame by creating an asterisk device which it named “the aside”. The device is used where the brand voice becomes “a bit more tongue in cheek”, appearing as “a whisper on the side” following a “hero message”, he explains.

Designing for a dual audience also meant “knowing what apps kids spend a lot of time on and why, as well as considering how parents learn”, says Topham. Unfound sought to integrate “familiar rituals from other apps”, such as Netflix’s “continue watching” and “are you still there” messages, he adds.

On the parent side, Topham says Unfound implemented Elbee flashcards, which are based on the Tinder interaction of swiping across and which house short statements, tips and phrases to “better prepare adults” for the conversations. For kids, he explains how the studio integrated education topics with “trending music playlists”, giving them another reason to stay on the app and keep coming back to unlock more playlists.

Topham describes a collaborative, whiteboard-like space that exists for “family sharing”, based on the idea that kids often speak to parents over text despite being in the same house. Children can choose whether to share a question or thought with their whole family or select certain family member.

Avoiding “a hierarchy or scoring system” so the app “didn’t feel like school” was a key consideration, says Topham. Instead, each subject has its own bubble and the more time the user spends on that subject, the more the bubble grows. If some topics are being neglected, the user is alerted with a call to action, encouraging them spend more time in smaller bubbles.

The app design process was “governed by a lot of restrictions” and “woolly terms and conditions” that were hard to navigate, while the branding work was “much more open”, Topham explains.

After devising the new brand idea of “sex ed set free”, Topham felt the original name – L+B+, (Love Positive Body Positive) – wasn’t working. Elbee was chosen because it could “more easily be used in conversation, just as a person’s name is”, he says.

Unfound designed a custom wordmark, with a speech bubble hidden inside the B to indicate “new conversations”, says Topham, while “El-mojis” appear as a form of “gratification”, looking to “stamp the app with personality throughout”.

Elbee also has two colour palettes, one for external communications with hues such as a dark and lime green, and a secondary palette for the digital app, featuring a broader spectrum of colours.

Next steps for Elbee are user testing, further proving the concept and taking the app to investors to get the product on the market.

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