Mindshow

Product Marketing Designer
I co-founded a VC-backed startup that democratized the creation of 3D animation. We enabled anyone with a VR headset to become the writer, producer, director, actor, cinematographer, and editor of their own animated videos. Over the course of five years, we raised over $14m, built a massive community, and inspired thousands of people to create animation in an entirely new way.
Overview
Responsibilities
• Product Marketing Design
• Web Design
• Logo Design
• Content Production
• Fundraising
Collaborators
• Jonnie Ross (CCO)
• Gil Baron (CEO)
• Luke Patterson (Lead Designer)
• Jeff Chang (3D Interaction Designer)
• Daniel Bellezza (Community Manager)
• Arya Bakhsheshi (Interaction Designer)
Objectives
1) Make it easy and fun to create 3D animation in VR
2) Build a thriving community of Mindshow animators

How Mindshow Works

Set Your Scene
Choose the set, characters, and props you need to tell your story.
Act it Out
Embody characters in first-person to record animation with your body and voice.
Film & Share
Film your scene with a virtual camera and share the file as an interactive 3D cartoon.

The Interface

When we came up with Mindshow in 2014, we were among the first to show how VR could be used as a content creation platform. Unlike mature technologies like web and mobile, the lack of established UI patterns was a major challenge because VR was so new. Luke Patterson (Lead Designer), Jeff Chang (3D Interaction Designer), Arya Bakhsheshi (Interaction Designer), and I invented a variety of cutting edge interface paradigms that enabled users to easily create animation and interact with the 3D world.
Home Space
The Home Space was our take on a main menu screen in VR: a central hub where users could create, share, and watch interactive 3D shows.
Hand Menu
The Hand Menu allowed people to select a 3D environment and add assets like characters and props with an intuitive drag and drop mechanic.
Puppeteering
Embodying characters was a magical part of the Mindshow experience. Our motion capture technology used inverse kinematics to enable anyone with a VR headset to perform scenes using their body and voice, democratizing the creation of 3D animation. When users moved their arms, the character moved their arms. When users spoke, the character opened their mouth. Users could even change their character’s facial expression by swiping their thumb to shift between four different emotions.
Tool Swapper
The Tool Swapper allowed users to interact with the Hand Menu and assets in the world. Some of the core tools included moving, rotating, and deleting assets; embodying characters; and filming the scene with a virtual camera. The first iteration used a radial menu that heavily relied on the VR controller’s unreliable touch pad, which proved difficult for new players.

After receiving user feedback, we changed the design to incorporate gestures and physical buttons instead of the touch pad. We also evolved the vocabulary of “tools” to “toys” to make it more playful and interactive.

Logo Design

Jonnie Ross (Co-Founder), Jeff Chang (Interaction Designer), Marc Brownlow (Art Director), and I explored a wide variety of logo concepts over the course of several months. Some of the initial ideas focused on the symbol of a mask for its relationship to performance. Nothing “felt right” until we came up with the idea of putting the shape of a person inside of the @ symbol. Inspired by Slack’s re-contextualization of the # symbol, we were excited about this concept for a few reasons: it symbolized the future of communication as a virtual space with people at its center, it was connected to a trigger frequently seen everyday (e.g. the @ symbol frequently used in email), and the open form suggested a state of being open minded central to our values.

After sketching the initial concept, we worked with the design firm Lunar Saloon to create the final logo and wordmark. We settled on using highly curved forms and an uneven stroke thickness to convey a playful tone as if it were drawn by hand with a single calligraphic pen stroke.

Web Design

We collaborated with the design firm Unfold to build our website. I designed the information architecture, wrote the copy, and created many of the visual assets. We aligned the web design with the playful and fun tone of the app by leveraging bright colors, animated gifs, and curved section dividers.

Community Engagement

The Mindshow community played a massive role in our success, and I was responsible for keeping our players engaged in a variety of ways along with our Community Manager, Daniel Bellezza.
Asset & App Updates
Our art and dev teams created hundreds of new characters, props, sets, and app features over the course of several years. I was responsible for sharing the new updates with the community by creating promotional videos, animated gifs, and hero shots that celebrated the new goodies in exciting ways.
Facebook and Discord
We leveraged Facebook Groups and Discord to build the community, share product updates, and create a welcoming space for people to share their content.
Games & Weekend Challenges
Our Community Manager and I came up with weekly challenges based on different prompts to encourage players to create and share content. This evolved into the creation of an app feature called “Games” - interactive 3D Mad Libs-style cartoons that allowed community members to perform as characters in half-finished shows my team created.
Livestreams
I co-hosted a weekly livestream called Mindshow Live that enabled our team to form a personal relationship with our community. We built shows based on suggestions from the community, shared product updates, and had a ton of fun in the process!

Results

Awards
• Emmy Finalist for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media 2018
• Best Interactive Virtual Reality of Sundance 2017 - The Verge
Stats
• $14m+ VC money raised
• 134k+ app downloads
• 40m+ video views
Insights
Building Mindshow was a massive learning experience that I will be forever grateful for. I learned a few key lessons along the way:
1. Build the business first
We offered Mindshow as a free product, hoping to monetize assets and other features on the backend. Our lack of focus on building a successful business up front resulted in a need to pivot late in the game.
2. People expect to use VR for games, not creation
As a creative tool built on a game engine, we existed in a weird gray area that resulted in player confusion and low median play times. We found that many VR gamers were not the ideal audience for a storytelling platform.
3. Add multiplayer even though it’s harder
Our team always saw real-time multiplayer as the killer feature missing for Mindshow because it would allow people to create shows together instead of acting out every part by yourself. We opted to build innovative social features around sharing and watching shows asynchronously instead of real-time multiplayer because it was faster to build. Perhaps we would have been even more successful if we decided to build multiplayer sooner.