Building upon the work accomplished in previous Safe Niños Studios, this Designmatters studio, in the Spring of 2022, engaged ArtCenter students with long-time partner COANIQUEM – a pediatric nonprofit medical facility that provides free treatment to burn survivors across South, Latin America and the Caribbean – to create new multi-media messaging about childhood burn prevention. Students had support from experts in child development and entertainment fields to craft appropriate campaigns to educate children about the dangers of open flames and fireworks. Drawing on existing COANIQUEM characters, student teams crafted new characters, environments and storylines for effective educational solutions that reached across various media platforms from games, animated series, children’s books and other media. Conceptual campaigns included games, animated series, children’s books and other media that delivered the message in a fun, upbeat and child-appropriate manner.
“Giving back to the community is something I grew up doing and understand well. So often, we students are just doing ‘our own thing;’ I was drawn to the prospect of using our art to have an impact on the world. This was a big opportunity also to learn about the culture and people of another country without really traveling there.”
Grace Oh, student (Illustration and Entertainment Design)
Every year, more than 7 million children across Latin America are victims of burn accidents. In Chile alone, 100,000 burn accidents occur with the majority involving children under 5 years of age; burn injuries are the third cause of death in children under 15 years old.
About 90-percent of burn accidents for children happen at home even with parents at home. Youngsters are burned by hot liquids, open fires, electrical fires, fireworks and hot elements from heaters and irons. Recovering from a burn – whether small or large – can be painful and often involves extensive follow-up care that can take decades. The process is extremely stressful since many families live in faraway underserved communities.
For survivors and their families, a burn represents a psychological, emotional and physical scar that changes everyone for the rest of their lives.
Since its inception in 1979 by Dr. Jorge Rojas-Zegers, COANIQUEM has cared for more than 100,000 children suffering from devastating and life-altering burn injuries; children and families travel to the Santiago, Chile facility from South American countries and the Caribbean Islands. Because of partnerships and international support, COANIQUEM can offer their services at no cost to families, many who live in poverty.
COANIQUEM treats 8,000 patients annually, with survivors and families living on the facility grounds for weeks and months as they undergo treatments and therapy sessions. The main campus is located in a Santiago residential neighborhood and is accessible by public transportation.
Taking a holistic approach, COANIQUEM combines medical attention, restorative healing and comprehensive rehabilitation programs to treat physical and psychological scars. Trained professionals from a wide range of specializations are part of the COANIQUEM facility: medical doctors, registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and music therapists. Teachers at the on-site school ensure that children of all ages who are undergoing treatments keep up with their education.
Celebrating 10 years of collaboration, COANIQUEM has partnered with ArtCenter to create design opportunities that welcome and reassure patients and families; many elements have been installed onsite and are used across additional media platforms.
At the virtual kick-off session, students were introduced to the leadership of COANIQUEM, meeting with president and founder Dr. Rojas Zegers and his son, Jorge Rojas Goldsack, the new Executive President, among others. COANIQUEM staff explained their philosophy of care and provided background on their work serving young burn victims and their families.
COANIQUEM also described its long association with ArtCenter and how earlier studios created memorable characters of Santi the Cat and his young human friends Camila and Lucas who are very much a part of COANIQUEM’s identity. COANIQUEM shared a presentation about the impact of Santi, Camila and Lucas, describing their origination in 2013 and how they continue to captivate children. Having Camila and Lucas as caretakers of Santi – and stopping him before he burns himself – empowers the children with a sense of authority.
During the pandemic, when more children spent longer hours at home and could be susceptible to burns from kitchen fires, COANIQUEM crafted a series of short 60-90 second videos about staying safe around fire. The campaigns were launched via social media once a week and children were encouraged to post a drawing with the characters. When they did, they received in the mail a symbolic certificate as an official part of “Friends of Santi” club. Five other South American countries joined in the campaign when the videos were televised. These videos inspired COANIQUEM to continue outreach on various platforms that could be utilized by neighboring countries to further spread the message.
Next, Jorge Rojas Goldsack gave a presentation on the national outreach of COANIQUEM and how through its 44 years, the organization has grown and served children and their families, especially the poor. He described how the Burned Children Foundation (BCF), established in 1991, helps fundraise for the cost of care at COANIQUEM. He described the various programs and goals of the BCF, one being to conduct more prevention campaigns and expand that reach to neighboring countries. An open discussion between COANIQUEM staff and students involved learning from other popular and well-known children’s characters such as Dora the Explorer and Diego the Adventurer. Questions arose about the target audience: parents or children? The consensus was to combine the targets, focusing on how the campaign should resonate with the entire family – especially in light of burns that originate in the home kitchens.
COANIQUEM stressed that the goal of the campaign will be to reduce the frequency of burns in children between preschool level and up to 12 years old; also the campaign needed to promote interaction between children and families and COANIQUEM to reinforce burn safety advice in the community. Students quizzed COANIQUEM about the challenges of incorporating cultural differences in their design thinking; not just language issues, but the nuances that separate and make each country unique. COANIQUEM suggested students focus first on shared commonalities, such as soccer, etc.
A lively conversation between students and COANIQUEM centered on best media to engage and influence that audience. Social media? Small public-service type interstitials between television programs? Pros and cons were discussed; whatever media is decided, COANIQUEM stressed the goal is to teach children awareness of how burns can happen at home – and how to prevent them over the long term.
Likewise, COANIQUEM envisioned campaign messaging to strike a balance between entertainment and prevention. And be short and sweet. Consider the long-lasting impact of Sesame Street and how producers were able to effectively produce content for different countries while retaining its unique identity. Messaging should be relatable and even magical at times. Above all, parents should not be painted to make them feel guilty for causing burns. This is an extremely common feeling for parents.
Student teams then shared their initial inspirations and impressions about COANIQUEM which pointed them to certain insights and areas to possible explore for the project. Teams dissected the COANIQUEM logo and graphic designs, social media posts and its website, discovering the visual style and tone. Teams presented preliminary research on similar foundations’ messaging and public service campaigns directed toward kids – discovering what platforms and media they used. They analyzed strategies from large organizations that serve the public, looking at how they used emotion, storytelling, music and imagery. Student teams described their first possible steps and how they might use the existing characters to create empathy and tell effective stories.
The imagery and concepts sparked conversations and further discussions about how best to shape the campaign – and the numerous possibilities. Students were encouraged to consider all options to broaden the message – from video games, comic books, merchandise and more. Above all, students were reminded to always keep the heart of COANIQUEM, its compassion and care of children and families, at the center of their ideation and design-thinking along.
During the first weeks of the studio, students conducted a variety of research which would provide a foundation for their concepts. They heard additional presentations from COANIQUEM about its mission and methods of treating the burned patient and family.
Teams researched the psychology of children and how the best teaching tools are often those presented with active entertainment-based interactions. Students also examined digital worlds/environments, noting how brands have effectively used this kind of storytelling to present overarching themes – both for a kid audience and people of all ages.
Teams investigated current media options are for children in Chile and researched popular television shows, video games and books that target this age group, with special attention on how which avenues pre-teens and teens gravitate toward.
“In the beginning, all the way up to mid-term we had multiple teams and different formations iterating and creating lots of different conceptual pieces and undertaking a lot of research. But after midterm, they became a team and started to assess what they had done; they had to figure out how everything was going to come together as one unifying piece. They had to adapt to different styles and figure out what would work best for the client.”
Ko Maruyama, Faculty
Teams carefully reviewed all previous ArtCenter design work accomplished for COANIQUEM; what aspects are ripe to expand into this campaign? How can the beloved characters continue to be effective in new directions? What are the best ways to take advantage of what has currently been designed?
They engaged in prompts and in-class activities such as “How Might We….?” exercises which helped expand their thinking beyond the pedestrian and ordinary. Teams considered how cultural mythology and indigenous stories could be woven into their ideation. Having a cohesive storyline and setting would provide teams with options for expanding their campaign into multiple platforms. Students examined favorite stories from their own childhood, noting how that imagery and message worked together to create an enduring and effective memory.
Teams began building a cohesive environment/world with new and exciting storytelling possibilities that would support the core message of burn prevention. Students considered how this world looks, what its “rules” are and how these beloved characters would interact in such a world. Each team member’s individual talents were called into action as the group learned how to work together with everyone participating.
“Our direction was to say that we are going to work as a real studio. We identified the best skills of each student and what their particular passion was. We made a schedule of deliverables and each student was responsible for their part, and they were finding ways to help each other. Learning how to collaborate. They were the ones making sure everyone was on track. It was amazing.”
Stella Hernandez, Faculty
As they worked toward a midterm presentation, teams were encouraged to keep refining original ideas, imagining how to improve it, make the message more powerful and deepen the connection between message and family/friends/community.
Two teams presented initial design approaches for a multimedia campaign that included a core message and mission statement along with values and a vision they wished to communicate.
Students briefly explained their research findings and presented the key insights that directed their thinking. They shared a Design Story along with the important characters who will occupy this new world, describing why this world will be inviting and engaging with their target audience.
Teams explained how they would utilize the familiar characters of Santi, Camila and Lucas while also introducing a new cast of appropriate characters. Additionally, they presented possible applications of the concept into other platforms such as television, video games and books.
Feedback from COANIQUEM was instrumental and powerful; students heard specific suggestions and direct ways they could improve and expand these concepts. Students were reminded to keep the characters authentic to who they are and to have moments that empower the children to move the action forward in the stories. The enthusiasm of COANIQUEM invigorated the students to refine their concepts and push their thinking even further.
“Too many children get burned every year at their own homes and this could be prevented with a few changes of habits. There are many risky elements that we cannot live without and it’s crucial to educate parents on how to improve safety. Also, teaching young children to identify which elements can hurt them, to be cautious around, protects them not only at their own places but also at their families and friends’ homes. This Safe Niños studio can make a huge difference, preventing thousands of families – mostly low income-, from traumatic life-changing experiences.”
Angelica Campos, COANIQUEM Executive Advisor
In the following weeks the students worked as one unifying team, sorting out the best approach and direction from their previous ideations. Each student played a role – character design, world design, storylines, etc. – and this shared responsibility kept their work on a steady track.
They honed their campaign, modified the style of the characters and added depth and detail to their world/environments. They established the boundaries of their world, how characters get in and out of it, and other magical elements that make their world fun and interesting to their target audience.
“There was no one director for our project; we all were responsible. I learned how better to communicate and make sure that what I’m saying is really what I wanted to say. Learning how to be specific and making sure that I was as accurate as I could be.”
Grace Oh, student (Illustration and Entertainment Design)
Students created a prototyped animation sequence that offered a glimpse of the mood and feeling of the proposed animated series. In quick beats, the animation provided the backstory of how these beloved characters would arrive into and interact in the fantastic worlds.
Working toward the final presentation, students expanded how their approach could be actualized in other platforms and mediums.
“When Trouble Calls, the Santi Scouts Answer!”
Powered by the Magic of Childhood, the Land of Dreams features three worlds in the clouds that are connected in the center by Prism Hall. This gathering location is also the portal between the ‘Real World’ and these fantastic environments. A rainbow roller coaster transports passengers between the worlds.
The three lands are inspired by climates of South America. Similar in feel to the Andes, Crystal Valley is fueled by colorful crystals that grow everywhere. Flower Hill has a desert-like landscape but incorporates water along with bright cheery plants. Glacier Springs presents the underground world of stalagmites and stalactites in a watery colorful world.
Santi, the cheeky cat
Lucas, the younger brother, timid but smart who loves books
Camila, the older sister, protective and athletic
Star Guide, a blue robot who calls our trio into action into the Magic World
King Pearl, main antagonist who resembles a grouchy oyster. He doesn’t like to see anyone having ‘fun’ but is secretly jealous of others’ happiness.
The Dundes, the king’s mischievous minions who often start trouble in the Magic Worlds
Santi Scouts, animals ‘assigned’ in each world to assist our heroes when they arrive to solve a problem.
Villagers, in each world, are animals of South America – cabybaras, penguins and the rabbit-like viscacha – who wear clothing featuring regional textiles and patterns.
“Santi, Camila and Lucas have taught us a new way of creating messages to reach children directly and teach about the risks of burns. Before, images of children were used as models, which was a risk of imitation. Now Santi is a leader who the children want to follow and learn from his adventures. It is an excellent tool for children’s community education and has great potential for development.”
Carmina Domic, COANIQUEM Medical Staff
Stories will engage with three main points involving burn prevention: recognize, react and remember.
Stories will have a familiar plot formula: in the Real World, Santi, Camila and Lucas encounter a potential danger related to fire and/or burning. (This will not, however, be a terrifying event.) Our heroes are called to the Magic World and are met by the Star Guide who explains a problem – something that mirrors what is happening in the Real World but with a fantastical and often ridiculous twist – e.g. fireworks are in the Real World, but the Magic World has Sparkle Bombs.
With the help of the Santi Scouts, our heroes solve the problem. Arriving back to the Real World, they apply the lesson to educate others. Some of the storylines involve themes of “Putting Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes” “Celebrating Our Differences,” “It’s OK to Ask for Help,” and “Be Kind to Others.”
The characters and the Magic World settings can be employed in a variety of outlets.
When posting on social media accounts, users can add COANIQEUEM filters to their photos to create Santi ears and facial features on their faces as well as other magical imagery.
A story book with the cast is an inexpensive item that can be distributed to hospitals, schools and day care centers. Books can be in Spanish and English.
Likewise, an activity book invites children color pages, complete mazes and dot-to-dot puzzles with their favorite characters.
Finally, a card game can appeal to older children. Colored cards depict magic and real world objects and tips to be safe from burns.
“The students keep impressing us with their huge creativity and their ability to turn ideas into attractive proposals. This group of students had an especially hard task and they came up with not only one, but six different stories, along with detailed characters and scenarios to deliver prevention messages, and all of this in such a short time!”
Angelica Campos, COANIQUEM executive advisor
A development seminar will take place in the Fall of 2022, and explore the project in even more depth, and prepare pitch assets for COANIQUEM.
“What I am most proud is that the students learned to work with purpose. One student told me, ‘This is a hard studio because I really have to think.’ That’s great to hear! It’s not just about producing the beautiful illustrations but it’s finding the most effective way to communicate meaning and purpose. Understanding how their sketching, drawing and art can make a connection was the most powerful part of this studio.”
Stella Hernandez, Faculty