Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has a mission to connect people with nature and safeguard threatened species’. It supports a wide variety of research and conservation projects around the world and at their two very different sites, Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park.
A large percentage of visitors to their sites are families but research showed that there was a gap in on-site interpretation and that these visitors were not being catered for. Opportunities for connections were being missed.
They approached us to help them with their family interpretation; to work with RZSS to develop a set of tools that would encourage visitors to go on a journey from empathy to action; to understand that we all have opportunities to make a difference to wildlife conservation around the world.
We developed a graphics toolkit that centred on two fun and unconventional characters, for RZSS to use to engage with young visitors and their families.
Firstly, through collaborative brainstorming sessions we developed a set of options that we tested with children of our target age range. We combined what we learned from that exercise with inclusivity factors and the interpretive potential of each option.
Enter Ruby and Zed.
Ruby is a young girl. Cool and clever, she is smart, dedicated and warm-hearted. She knows a lot about animals and is super-keen to know more. She loves nothing more than sharing what she knows with others and she’s a good teacher.
Zed is not of this world. He knows a lot about science but not so much about Earth. But that’s why he’s here – to learn all he can so he can tell the folks back home. Zed is curious, sharp and compassionate. He asks the questions others are reluctant to ask and he has some special abilities that come in very handy at times.
We imbued each character with values, based on RZSS interpretation principles, that support learning and understanding through fun activities. We developed fully rounded characters with back-stories, personalities and defined characteristics as well as delivering multi-positioned character artwork files.
The toolkit and accompanying artwork files work together. The toolkit summarises the objectives of the scheme, captures the nuances of our intrepid explorers and guides the users on how to access the character artwork options. The artwork files were developed with the user very much in mind, ensuring that character options can be manipulated with ease.
Ruby and Zed have been an immediate hit with the RZSS commissioning life-size character suits for special on-site and outreach events. Ruby and Zed have even been guests at a wedding.