• Ustwo2

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo3

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo1

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo8

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo9

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo4

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo5

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

  • Ustwo6

    Nursery Rhymes with Storytime


ustwo: Nursery Rhymes with Storytime

Posted by Will Hudson,

Digital design studio ustwo™ deliver UI/UX design, app development and content creation services and are the preferred digital partner to some of the world’s leading brands. They also demonstrate their talents with their own apps, including MouthOff™, Inkstrumental™ and Granimator™. Their latest release is Nursery Rhymes, an iPhone and iPad app that allows you (or your child) to play with Humpty Dumpty, Jack & Jill, Three Blind Mice and other classic nursery rhyme characters. We caught up with co-founder Mills™ to find out more…

Hi Mills, to start with can you tell us a little about the project…

We wanted Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime to look as if it had been hand-built. To do that we literally hand-built it first out of natural media using card, paper, pencils and our hearts. Nursery Rhymes merges the illustrations of Denslow, created over a century ago, with the very latest in physics simulations. We love the fact the app appears to have been built out of a torn-up and rearranged copy of Denslow’s original book Mother Goose. That was what this project was all about – blending the old school with the new school! We couldn’t have done one without the other.

Nursery Rhymes uses the very latest in Box 2D physics to modernise the pop-up book concept for a 21st century audience. You can touch, tilt, and shake your iPhone or iPad to make the scenes and pages come alive. Nursery Rhymes was the first of ustwo’s own IP releases this year. For 2011 we’ve invested half a million into the creation of a commercially viable set of product releases under our own ustwo™ brand. We felt that Nursery Rhymes was a perfect first release as it allowed us to showcase all our skill sets, from design, animation, development to storytelling and finally to promotion. We always mix up each app release and on this occasion felt it was time to dominate the book category and take on the world of publishing. It’s so important for us to make products we want to release for ourselves, from MouthOff™, to Inkstrumental™, to Granimator™ – we’re luckily in a position to make our own call on what we do with our money.  We believe that producing quality products conceived by the studio sets us apart from the competition out there. 

What made you choose the nursery rhymes and can you really compete with Peppa Pig or Rastamouse?

The digital book market is as fresh as it gets. It’s still in its infancy and each new release helps to nourish the market and take it one step closer to where it will be one day soon. The potential is huge and the market and opportunities surrounding it grows every day. No one has taken ownership of this area – not even the big publishing houses. When coming up with the concept behind Nursery Rhymes with Atomic Antelope, we wanted to keep some of the familiar elements of the traditional reading experience, but add tasteful, worthwhile interactions. Some publishers have found it hard to resist the temptation to shoehorn technology into a story, rather than think carefully about what interactions will improve the book. The rhymes we chose to include in the app are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago, but the technology used to communicate them is radically different.

Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime is aimed not only at children, but at the parents who ultimately purchase the book (after being nagged relentlessly by their kids). We wanted to attract them with a hand crafted interactive book that would take them on a journey down memory lane. This is the challenge of the market: To create a book that appeals to children, but that adults want to buy. The app store is a democratised market but the power of a brand definitely helps to sell a product to the public. In the US, we debuted at position 15 in the book category. Interestingly ten of the books above us were branded apps. These brands have an advantage over new non-branded releases such as ours: There is already a market for their products. We’re not trying to compete with these brands, as there is room for all. Quality, passion and craft is our brand.   

The project is a collaboration with Atomic Antelope, what do they bring to the table and how important is it to collaborate on projects of this nature?

Atomic Antelope helped bring the experience and gravitas of a successful book title on the App Store, Alice for the iPad. Alice was hugely successful and Chris Stevens massively impressed us with his vision and passion for publishing on the iPad. As I said before, no one is an expert as of yet because the market’s still too fresh, but we find it important to work with people who care about what should and can be offered on these devices. We only work with people who can help us define and push new experiences directly to the users, as that is what we’re all about. We’re happy to collaborate with anyone who shares our values and it obviously makes sense to work with authors that have an existing fan-base.

I’d also like to mention Condiment Junkies who we collaborated with to produce the sound effects for Nursery Rhymes. They have great track record of designing sounds for apps and they brought a unique sensitivity and creative understanding to the table. We didn’t want an app that would annoy parents, we didn’t want to make a book filled with annoying sounds or patronising voice-overs. You read books, they don’t read to you.

The app includes StoryTime, a ‘magical’ new feature, tell us more…

We added a sprinkling of magic dust on top of the perfectly crafted Nursery Rhymes app. It’s the app’s USP, but it doesn’t detract from the beauty and craft of the main content of it. Of course, no kids book is complete without an adult to read it. But adults aren’t always around. So, Nursery Rhymes uses an amazing new technology called StoryTime which allows parents to read the story to their child remotely. It takes advantage of Apple’s Game Centre service to allow two-way voice chat, and lets the parent control the page turns whilst the kid interacts with each page in wonderful ways. A business trip overseas no longer means your kid misses out on a bedtime story. 

You recently hit No 1 on the UK iTunes chart store for both the iPhone and iPad app, what do you have to do to get there and does this warrant the project a success?

You have to make something with true worth and you have to show users that what you have created is truly wonderful. It has to have craft, it has to have a reason to exist and it has to have emotion. The book category is a growing part of iTunes, but we know you need a big promotional push to get to the top of any chart in the store; so yes we see the position as a huge success and the right reward for the massive effort we’re putting in behind the scenes to get Nursery Rhymes noticed. With the increase in iPad sales we reckon more users will be looking for new experiences, new ways in which to make the most of their devices and we feel interactive books is the way forward.


Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Interactive View Archive

  1. Featuringfeaturing-gottlund-6-int

    Y’know that dream of leaving London, forming a commune and living off the land? Well, creative studio Featuring Featuring has got it together and is doing just that. Designers on Holiday is an application-based escape, an opportunity to join a bunch of international designers working together to build a campsite that, once complete, will be run as a co-operative.

  2. Main

    All over the world funny and loving music nerds who appreciate whale song, birds tweeting, technology and pizza are crying “Yay! Panda Bear!” The American musician who is currently residing in Portugal has just launched a brand new website, featuring an animated interactive slideshow to accompany the fizzing echoes of the music he makes. Just one tap on your computer keyboard and you can fly through strange, sometimes seizure-inducing audio and visual clips put together by Patakk, Marco Papiro and Danny Perez, with a little help from Seen Studio. Not totally unlike the freaky tunnel boat scene in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, this cunning album promo is a perfect accompaniment to Panda Bear’s well-known and much-loved sound and vibe. You can read a really great interview with Noah Lennox himself over here on Pitchfork.

  3. List

    “Give me more digital gifts!” I always exclaim at Christmas. “Pack my stocking full of new and inventive coding experiments with a festive twist!” This year Ronai David, Damien Mortini and Aurelien Gantier heard my cry and put together Christmas Experiments, a digital advent calendar that reveals a new web-based treat every day throughout December. Each one is the product of a different developer and offers a unique take on Yuletide cheer. In one you’re invited to navigate a wayward orphan through a dormitory, avoiding the flash of fairy lights as you go. In another you’re Santa, tasked with navigating a gang of feckless elves through a complex floating maze where danger lurks around each corner.

  4. List

    In April this year UsTwo ruined a gig I was at by letting me trial a new game due to be released the following week. I was supposed to be seeing one of my favourite bands but instead spent two hours tapping away trying to navigate a little princess through a geometrically impossible world. A couple of weeks later everyone was obsessing over that same princess.

  5. List

    Berlin-based design studio Edenspiekermann has just completed work on an impressive new digital publishing platform called Blloon that offers a subscription service for eBooks in a similar format to Spotify’s music service. The studio was given complete creative freedom to produce the UX and UI of the product as well as the branding itself, giving a beautifully coherent feel to the final result.

  6. List

    Full disclosure before I say anything about this new app: I’m terrible – TERRIBLE – at managing my personal finances. Wages come in at the start of the month, I pay my rent, bills and council tax and then I try not to look at my bank account until the next pay day. Sometimes there’s a couple of quid left, mostly I’ve plundered the depths of my overdraft. So I had a look at Pennies with a great deal of skepticism; it’s going to take more than an app to sort my money out.

  7. List

    The simplest ideas can often be the most powerful, and that’s certainly the case with Eight Inc.’s new work for Cancer Research UK. Tomorrowww is a browser plug-in that removes the word cancer from your online experience, a practical yet potent way of visualising a future when the battle against the disease has been won.

  8. App8

    See Nothing can only really be described as a kind of digital zine, a curation of graphic design experiments, visual puzzles and interactive mind-games for iPad and iPhone which touch on the theme of non-visibility and seeing nothing. The app, created by the Italian graphic design studio Jekyll & Hyde, brings together the work of around 20 different graphic designers and illustrators, whose work for issue 3 of See Nothing centre around the idea of what we see, how we see it, and most importantly what we don’t see. Faceless figures, images that contort with a swipe of your finger, and hypnotic moving pictures are in abundance: this is an app where things are never what they seem.

  9. Main

    There was a great deal of coverage of the 9/11 Memorial Museum when it opened last week, and on the whole the arts and design press focussed on the architectural angle. But museums are (or should be) much more than buildings; and Brooklyn-based interactive design studio Local Projects was tasked with bringing this complex and controversial chapter in contemporary history to life.

  10. List

    Interstate US Studio Public Library have just finished work on an app that we’re very excited about indeed. 5 Every Day is a web and mobile platform that presents a curated selection of five daily events, exhibitions, activities and venues to explore in Los Angeles. All the research is done by the band YACHT, so you know their recommendations will be fun. Each list only lasts for 24 hours and then is completely refreshed, meaning every selection is unique and you won’t ever repeat your day’s activities.

  11. List

    For most of us the world of coding seems wholly impenetrable. We know how to navigate the internet and any number of applications but haven’t the slightest clue how they’re all built. In fact the very notion of building anything digitally seems frankly terrifying. But we’ve got news for you, it doesn’t need to be like that – digital technology is here to stay and it’s probably about time you got to know your front end from your back, your UI from your UX and your HTML5 from your CSS3.

  12. List

    If I’m honest I don’t give two hoots about the gaming industry in general. When I was a kid I lost two years to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64, and I still have dreams about playing it; the characters I met in Hyrule, the tragic death of all the Zoran people and the battles I fought repeatedly until every one of the kingdom’s races were freed from Gannon’s wrath. My sense of nostalgia for that time is palpable. But then I found that no other game offered me the same escapism and abandoned the whole experience for good.

  13. List

    It’s a challenge creative agents are very familiar with; how do you best showcase an eclectic roster of talent in way that celebrates the particular abilities of each while maintaining some measure of coherence across the agency as a whole? Well London-based Visual Artists has given a masterclass in doing just that by way of their brilliant new site designed by Yes Studio. The use of imagery – both still and moving – creates a vibrant, dynamic and enjoyable user experience, the perfect platform to shout about the skills of VA’s portfolio of creative excellence. I really like the pithy communication as well; short sharp bursts of information rather than self-indulgent artists’s statements are the order of the day and keep the overall look and feel very visually-led. Top work all round.