BBC launches its first digital tool conceived, designed and built by young people

Written by Martin Wilson, Head of Digital Creativity at BBC Design & Engineering

Digital Leaders have often discussed how best to build digital products for consumers of the future. At ND16 the BBC’s Digital Creativity team (pictured) described one innovation that put young people at the heart of one of its productions. This week the BBC went a step further and launched its first digital tool conceived, designed and built by young people.

The Mixital Youth Panel, a digital savvy group of young creatives, coders and designers, worked with BBC Radio 1Xtra to create an easy-to-use animation tool to inspire teenagers to get creative with what Brits do best – complain about the things that annoy them most. Presenter A.Dot launched the tool on her Breakfast Show and called on fans to illustrate their frustrations using the tool and then send them into her.

For more, see my blog below, posted originally on the BBC Internet Blog.

The Mixital Youth Panel, formed in March 2016, meets the BBC team every six weeks. They wanted to expand their advisory role to get hands-on experience of digital production. And we were all excited by the vision of Mixital being made by young people for young people.

Mixital is ideal for this kind of innovation. At its heart is the ‘maker kit’. These kits enable users to make and then publish games, stories, scripts and even upload videos. They are designed to build digital skills and confidence while transforming digital consumers into creators. BBC brands like EastEnders, Strictly, Doctor Who and BBC Three are already using them. The brand simply chooses how it wants to engage creatively with its fans.

But could the panel really build one of these maker kits? Could they persuade a BBC brand to support it? And what about all the other aspects of digital production like design, testing and marketing? We knew the scale of the challenge. But believed a combination of the panel’s passion and BBC mentors might just pull it off.

We broke the process into four stages:

  • Pitch. The panel developed ideas and prepared their pitches. The winning pitch was a proposal to build a kit for 1Xtra that would enable fans to submit ideas to its Breakfast Show. The panel loved the show’s presenter A.Dot and her ‘Trashbag Tuesday’ item. She encourages fans to send in their gripes and then consigns them to the dustbin.
  • Design. The panel then worked closely with the 1Xtra team and A.Dot herself to design the visual elements. They had to ensure everything, including the animation of A.Dot herself, were a good ‘fit’ for the show.
  • Production. Then the panel travelled to Bristol to work with Aardman Digital. Aardman, who had built the original kits, created a simplified process for modifying them. It meant the panel were able to create their own kit without having to build it from scratch.
  • Launch. And finally the panel prepared it for launch. They ran it through a series of quality tests including with a live audience at the Birmingham Skills show. They then worked with the marketing and comms teams to ensure it would find an audience.

Over just four months, the panel had the invaluable experience of end-to-end digital production: from conception to launch. Today’s the big day. We’re all going to be incredibly proud when we hear A.Dot herself launch the new tool on air and call on her fans to use it.

1Xtra have been the ideal partner. They have demanded a high-quality product for their audiences while being supportive and encouraging throughout.

A.Dot said: “It’s really exciting to launch the Trashbag Tuesday animation maker on my show. This is a really innovative project and it will inspire young people to get creative. The best part is that it was designed and built with the help of the BBC Mixital youth panel – this is a great example of the BBC helping young people to develop their Digital skills.”

Panellist Kian Bakhtiari, said: “This was an immensely rewarding experience for all of us since we were able to play a central role in creating A.Dot’s Trashbag Tuesday kit. Being involved in the project from start to finish has enhanced our digital skills as creatives.” The Digital Creativity team’s mission is to boost the digital skills of young people. So what a great development that young people are now playing such a key role themselves in that mission.

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