Independent play is critical to a child’s development and exercise of freedom, yet this fundamental element of a child’s life is rapidly disappearing. This short documentary-style video gives voice to parent’s and kid’s experience with independent play and its dramatic decline in society today.

Along with giving me a very different perspective and understanding of play, this project brought to light three important learning takeaways that helped me grow as a designer.

Primary Research

By gathering my own research-driven insights, I sought to make research the primary tool for storytelling. I started by creating interview guides for in-depth interviews with parents. These interview guides contained questions about topics like fear, after school enrichment, amount and type of independent play, and how one used to play in the past. From there, I interviewed parents across different contexts and walks of life.  I also had the opportunity to talk to children and an expert in the field. All of this research became the foundation for the rest of the project and had a direct connection to the making phase of the project.

Research Synthesis through “Making”

With the insights I gained from research with parents, children and experts, the research synthesis became the project itself. Not unlike a documentary, using interview material as the foundational content, I was inspired to use my research footage as the vehicle through which I conveyed my message. This deliverable was not meant to act as a solution, but rather to highlight a problem, and thus cause the viewers to think differently about the topic of independent play. Essentially the synthesis of my research became the project itself. In this way, my making was directly informed by the research that I gained through talking to parents, children, and experts.

Captivating an Audience Through Time-based Media

Visually, my goal for the project was to push
 myself by experimenting with a new method of communication: video and basic animation. The making of the video involved first creating a story with the insights and audio footage and then coming up with a compelling visual theme to complement the message. I chose to use collage and “old time-y” imagery to reflect a sense of nostalgia and to convey an overarching message of the need to return to independent play.

Because this video was longer than a short teaser or trailer, I was challenged with how to hold the viewers attention. While I at first set out to use the same style of collage throughout the video, I found that it became predictable and lacked excitement. So instead, with each insight that is presented to the viewer, a new visual interpretation of collage is used in order to mark the change and continue to draw in the viewer.


My hope is that viewers would walk away from this video with a renewed sense of urgency to rethink play a
nd confront how our society currently views the role of play in 
children’s lives.

Design Approach