This Monster is an interactive children’s app created by former MoMA New York graphic designer and Kate Spade art director Julianna Goodman, who wrote and illustrated it. (Meghan Eplett provided additional illustration, and David Lanza composed its original music.) The game, which might make future art directors out of the five-year-olds who play it, successfully communicates the handmade through the digital. Goodman used color emphatically, as well as fabric and paper collages, watercolors, and hand drawings. Simple but vivid sentences accompany its three “chapters.” This peacock monster is a character from the “Color Eater” chapter.

Sometimes doodles from Goodman’s notebooks made their way into the app’s illustrations. This monster has a robot-like left arm that was both a doodle and a tip of the hat to the mobiles constructed by sculptor Alexander Calder.

Goodman’s favorite part of the development process was gathering and making real objects to create the animations. Some of the materials she used were recycled from other projects, like the newspaper hat worn by this monster, as well as bits of felt or buttons she had held onto for many years. Other elements were found in a craft store and created by hand, a creative process that Goodman considers a great pleasure.

Goodman often keeps an eye out for objects or images with visible texture that will remain visible when replicated on-screen. Often while retouching or cleaning up the app’s images, she deliberately preserved some scratches and rough edges. The Jumping Jackelope landscape from “Monster Pretend” is actually a simple composition, but one that is rich with textures. As a child, Goodman enjoyed making things in miniature--books, Kleenex boxes, cakes--and the app benefited from this vestigial habit. The cactus beside the Jackelope, for example, is made from tiny pieces of tissue paper.

The Polka Dot painter first appears in black and white on paper before morphing into color on the screen. Goodman fashioned it so that a child could think about being creative in a very basic way but also enjoy the rich experience of changing black and white to color--one of the things, the designer says, that digital media does best.

Goodman retains one fun tradition from the videogame world, tucking a few “Easter eggs” into the interactions: If the player moves a certain object on the page, a fish flies out of the water or, as on the Polka Dot painter page here, a dog will bark when a particular dot is touched. She calls these “unexpected rewards.”

The designer’s aesthetic, which embraces imperfections, the handmade, and the hand-drawn, distances the app from videogames proper. The monsters become perfect canvases for abundant texture and color because they are created with such refined simplicity. In fact, Goodman set out to prove that simplicity has an important place in the realm of children’s apps.

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Former Kate Spade Art Director Develops An Adorbs Book App For Kids

This Monster, by Julianna Goodman, bridges the divide between slick digital storytelling and homemade visuals.

It's rare to see and "touch" things on the iPad screen that evoke the texture, color, and unpolished feel of real life. Fortunately, a new children’s book app corrects that shortcoming, bridging the divide between slick digital storytelling and handmade visuals.

Created by former MoMA New York graphic designer and Kate Spade art director Julianna Goodman, This Monster: Creatures That Love Color has got oodles of paper collages, watercolors, and hand drawings, as well as original music and interactive monsters. The game, for ages 5 and under*, features three "chapters" accompanied by straightforward but vivid text: In the "Color Eater," fat monsters with skinny legs turn the color of any object they eat. Kids meet a Jumping Jackelope, a Musical Mermaid, and a Polka Dot Painter in Monster Pretend and, in Monster Get Dressed, create their own characters, choosing shape, color, body parts, and accessories, some of which are animated.

Goodman’s aesthetic of deliberate flaws and artful clarity distances the game from "video-game-land," as she calls it: "I see this kind of story as the digital version of the Pat the Bunny touch-and-feel board book genre." But she also folds in some fashionable touches that parents may appreciate: The monsters wear Converse high-tops, for instance, or carry a Kate Spade handbag.

"I think of the monsters as representing humans," Goodman says, "with all of their quirky balances of imperfections and endearing qualities." She set out to prove that there is room for simplicity in the children’s digital space. Monster mission accomplished.

To watch a short video about This Monster and find more information, go here. To buy the app, go here.

*An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the app and the ages it's geared toward.

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  • Do what, now?

    Using the word "adorbs" is akin to permanently replacing your toilet paper with pages from Hemingway books. Please return to whichever suburban shopping mall you came from.