Studio Lab. It’s an internal, non-commercial research and development initiative that's been running in the creative studio since 2019. It’s art meets curiosity meets purpose. A creative exploration into the themes and topics with the power and momentum to impact our community and industry.
Still with us? Good. So, for 2022, Studio Lab has journeyed into our shared tendencies towards bias and generalization. Looking at how they impact our perceptions of people and situations, we want to help everyone be more receptive to new ideas and changes which can shape the future of creativity.
Introducing Snap Who
Snap Who is a beautifully-designed and expertly-guided gamified experience. A nostalgic pop of excitement that allows us to examine and understand snap decisions made solely based upon appearance.
Presenting players with a diverse collection of portraits created by the wonderful Bijou Karman, they are asked to match the portraits to prompts in quick-fire rounds. In doing so, we look to see how overgeneralization, master status, and empirical thought patterns play along with us.
Despite the somewhat heavy subject, Snap Who radiates a playful aura. It blends a vibrant 60s-influenced art direction with a lively voice to encourage interaction. The bold colors, malleable shapes, and bubbly typography all invite play and wonder.
“When we started exploring the visual intensity of Snap Who, I found a lot of inspiration in Mike Perry’s animations for Comedy Central’s Broad City. There's a fun and energetic vibe to his work that reflects youth culture and I wanted to bring elements of that to Snap Who."
Drawing further reference from vintage MTV identities, 60’s protest posters, and the typographic illustrations of Mat Voyce, a psychedelic art direction reminiscent of kaleidoscopic lava lamps formed. Big, bold, curvy lines were introduced and played with, and eventually animated into the logo as waves of color. This created a beautiful fluidity that ebbed through the entire experience and acted as a visual metaphor for our ability to form and feel new thoughts—a key message of the game.
Message is everything in Snap Who. And, that message had to be delivered through accessible and expert creative storytelling to ensure we added real value to the conversation around bias.
Most likely to be a sociologist
That’s Karen! Karen McCormack, a Professor of Sociology at Wheaton College who helped us along the way.
It was always very important to us that Snap Who didn’t exist within an echo chamber. We didn’t want to add any of our own biases or have the game feel like we’re pointing an accusatory finger. It was never about that. It's an invitation to conversation, one where people can have fun and learn as much as they want to. That's why we welcomed Karen to advise on the deep and often complex topic of bias.
Guiding us through themes of master status and generalization, Karen showed that we could have a bigger impact by discussing how to identify and break the patterns that impact our judgment. By doing so, we were able to introduce conversations on how to be more open-minded and receptive—something we feel is crucial to creativity and society.
“Bias is everywhere.”
So how do you stop bias from affecting what you create? This was something I asked myself many times when writing the copy for Snap Who. Especially the game prompts. Written to cover a range of social and economic themes, from employment to education, hobbies to relationships, and music taste to political leanings, they had to remain neutral. They also had to be presented at random with the portraits to create a fair shared experience, one we could all look back on to see how we view things in relation to our peers.
“What might be interesting to know is that no one, myself or the computer, have any knowledge of the portraits and prompts played. It’s 100% random and content-agnostic. Meaning you could technically play 51,112,186,943 game possibilities created from the 12 portraits and 60 prompts that we have.”
A smooth snap
Snap Who is an immersive experience designed with the players in mind. It might be delivering an important message about bias, but in order to do that, it has to look and feel like an expertly built game. This means there are lots of elements all working together to create one seamless experience. From the gamified audio to the visual transitions, it was built to be as smooth as possible despite its weight.
“Generating the interactive and psychedelic graphics of Snap Who could have been computationally intensive. That was the advantage of using the GLSL shader to create hardware accelerated graphics. By doing so, we were able to build something that ran on a computer's GPU (instead of CPU) for a faster load.”
Snap Who has been a passion project for many in and out of the studio as an expression of our values around diversity and inclusion, which was voted the second most important material issue for WeTransfer as a company after the climate. It was therefore really important to us to look at how we could apply this to our creative work.
Diversifying your life makes you more creative
If you take just one learning away from Snap Who, we ask it be this: creativity is enhanced by an ability to integrate different points of view. Diversity is one of the most important ingredients for creative thinking, so along with learning about different ways of life through art and culture over on WePresent, why not play Snap Who and see how you can also diversify your thinking?
Nikki Chapman, Lead Copywriter & Concept
April Cain, Lead Designer
Daniel Hernandez, Lead Frontend Engineer
Joe Mier, Digital Producer
Leo Diamantis, Senior Creative Engineer
D Alcausin, Associate Creative Director
Nessim Higson, Executive Creative Director
Mikey Casalaina, Creative Engineering Manager
Nathan Hoang, Senior Digital Designer
Denit Rozner, Creative Copywriter
Annie Malarkey, Brand & Product Communications Lead
Leonora Chance, Senior Brand Communications Manager
Lina Ruiz, Head of CSR
Karen McCormack, external consultant, Professor of Sociology at Wheaton College
Illustrations by Bijou Karman