Paper Critters is an online web application for creating and sharing digital paper toys in 3D.

The website was created as my final project for the MFA Computer Arts New Media program at the Academy of Art University.

It aims to combine "lowbrow" art forms such as designer toys, papercrafts, street art, and cartooning with new media and viral marketing techniques.

The Idea

In developing the core idea for the project, I wanted to create something unique, fun and engaging for a young target audience.

I've always been an admirer of street art. So, I did lots of research on it and drew inspiration from street art campaigns like Obey Giant, Space Invader, Buff Monster, and the Bubble Project, wanting to do something similar but with a new media twist.

One day, I was reading a magazine that focused on character design. In that magazine, there was an entire section dedicated to toys designed and created to be put together using paper. And at that moment, the idea for Paper Critters came to me, which was to make a viral web site where users can easily create and share paper toys online in 3D.

Viral marketing is a recent phenomenon and nowadays, the way the Internet works allows for things to spread rapidly because of blogs, aggregators, RSS feeds, and social networks. I chose the metaphoric name of Paper Critters because a critter dictates something invasive like ants or rats in your house.

The underlying scheme of Paper Critters is to "invade the world" by presenting people with something uniquely engaging and hopefully, they would in turn tell someone else about it through ways provided by the web site, which are printing and building paper toys or sharing them online.

Design & Development

In producing the project, I faced several technical challenges. The main one was finding a way for 3D in Flash and learning ActionScript 3.0.

Initially, I was only going to make a prototype with storyboarded examples of the interface for Paper Critters because I thought it was impossible to implement my overall idea with the many technological limitations with 3D in Flash 8.

This solution was not good enough for me because I wanted it to be something for people to use.

Fortunately, I was introduced to Papervision3D and saw the performance capabilities of ActionScript 3.0 and Flash 9 and I knew an interactive implementation of Paper Critters could be possible. So, I took the time to learn ActionScript 3.0 and pushed myself to create a fully interactive application.

The Viral Effect

Through dedication and hard work, I was able to complete every aspect of the project, taking it through concept, design, production, launch and promotion. As everything came together, I wanted to put the viral aspect of the web site into play.

Thus, I shared the site with a few friends, a blog for papercraft enthusiasts and web applications, and submitted it to the FWA. And from there, the entire viral aspect of the project played out pretty well. If you do a search for "Paper Critters" on Google, you'll see how its been invading the world thus far.

I also have several pictures on my blog of Paper Critters out in the wild.

About the author, JR Fabito
Designer, JR Fabito

JR Fabito is a designer living in San Francisco, California. He is currently exploring and pursuing opportunities in high-end interaction design.

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