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Posts from the ‘Creative Direction’ Category

Pat & Pals

Jen the Hen

I creatively directed and produced ‘Pat & Pals’, a children’s digital content publishing venture established with Colin & Jacqui Hawkins and Ross Sleight.

It took the ‘Rhyme & Read’ learning phonics series as a launch set and designed a set of digital downloads that very young children could play on a desktop PC. The original books had a simple consonant and vowel mechanic – whereby the the vowel would change as the page turned, leaving the ‘at’, ‘en’, ‘ig’, ‘og’ vowel in place.

Parents could access and browse the store, view demos of the download, and browse simple click-throughs of the hardback editions, which we also published and sold via the site.

The site also featured slices of the educational games that featured in the downloads – so children could experience the gentle fun of the characters and wordplay.

Early Learning Centre were a launch partner, and took an initial delivery of the books. Macmillan Books also approached us to create an eBook for Room on the Broom, which I oversaw.

I also oversaw creative direction and production across the site and the digital downloads – or ‘eBooks’. Each book followed the vowel sound character – ‘Pat the Cat’, ‘Jen the Hen’, ‘Mig the Pig’, ‘Tog the Dog’ and ‘Zug the Bug’.

Each eBook was designed along the same template, with multimedia features:

  • Character animation
  • Interactions
  • Narrators
  • Original music
  • Child friendly media controls
  • Settings to vowel on/off
  • Educational Games
  • Printables

This was a pre-iOS time, with children moving onto tablets – which is why Pat the Cat is now an iPad/iPhone app, and recently we’ve started to publish the original titles onto iBookstore, Kindle and Google Books.

Thanks are due to Will Richards (Art Direction) and Tobias Sturt (Development) along with TWP for their fantastic animations; David Ayers at Creation Studios who did the audio recording and original music, and my sister Sally Hawkins and Bill Nash, the actorly talent who brought the characters’ voices to life.

If you would like to see a sample of the eBooks, please get in contact.



As part of an ongoing collaboration with my children’s author parents, Jacqui & Colin Hawkins, I have been producing the Rhyme & Read series as iBooks titles.

This work has involved firstly getting to grips with the iBooks Author software and then a lot of trial-and-error on image and audio manipulation.

Pat the Cat iBook

That said, iBooks Author is a wonderfully rich application, which, while I’m only just scratching the surface on, essentially gives the Hawkins Books team a powerful self-publishing mechanism.

iBook - Pat the Cat

The first book of the five Phonics titles is almost ready to go, with a view to shipping to iTunes this May. I’ll update this post once we’re through submission and I can move onto the other titles.

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom

This was a project I took creative director and producer role for Macmillan Childrens books, who approached Pat & Pals – the children’s publishing company I had helped found with Ross Sleight and Jacqui & Colin Hawkins.

Macmillan were keen to explore a multimedia version of the original best-selling title written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

This was pre-iOS and Mac Appstore days, so the idea was to create a desktop download, which would be available for purchase via – which in turn was powered by Macrovision’s DRM system (now part of Rovi group I believe.)

Armed only with the original source material, an audio recording voiced by the comedienne, Josie Lawrence and some of Julia’s own musical compositions, we set to work.

Room on the Broom

Creatively I wanted to make sure we didn’t mess with the book too much. It was important that we struck a balance between the multimedia ‘effects’ and the simple purity of the illustration.

In addition, due to the gentle lilt of the storytelling, it was important to reflect this rhythm in any animations we created.

The delightful animation and clever flash programming was created by the team at TWP – who I would heartily recommend on any childrens-related interactive work.

Will Richards, now founder of Moon, was Art Director. Tobias Sturt, now Design Manager at the Guardian’s Digital Agency, was also on board for thinking and writing help.

I’m very proud of the finished work – which is sadly no longer available for purchase and download. Largely due, I suspect, to the appearance of the TV version over Xmas 2012*.

The final product featured all sorts of lovely things – the animated storybook, some fun flash-based games – ‘Broomstick Dash’ and ‘Dodge the Dragon’ (thanks to Atari’s ‘Defender’ and ‘Pac Man’ respectively), a drag-and-drop ‘Story Maker’ for kids to create their own Room on the Broom adventures; and some thoughtful printouts – a theatre, a board and card games. Thanks to Tobias for working hard on those!

I’m not able to put up the application it self – but I’ve included some relevant grabs in this post, which you can view larger like if you click the thumbnails.

Macmillan also featured the final product as a CD-ROM on a reprint of the title.

*An odd bit of family serendipity. My sister, Sally, voiced the green bird in the TV version!

‘…the witch tapped her broomstick, and WHOOSH! They were gone.’

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom

Pat the App


Given the initial desktop downloads for Pat the Cat and his other phonic friends were released well ahead of the iOS revolution, it was with some due creative satisfaction to finally produce Pat as an app.

With ‘Pat the Cat’ on iPad and iPhone I also wanted to add some unique features made possible by the transition to the iOS platform.

Children can now literally get to grips with the friendly fat cat while they learn the basics of the ‘a’ vowel sound. Now young users can press chunky controls to stop/start or refresh a page; stroke Pat to hear him purr; tap a caterpillar to make them laugh, or even tickle Pat’s feet to make him chortle.

My favourite added feature was the ability for children to record their own voices – so that they may repeat the sentences, and the large vowel and then on tapping these elements hear their voice played back to them. Parental guidance would be required, although I ensured we kept the ‘listen’, ‘say’, and ‘play’ sequence as simple as possible.

The app was awarded a ‘Kirkus Star’ by notable review site Kirkus Reviews, and featured in its top book apps for the year. Kirkus said:

‘Based on the picture book of the same name, this charming app is a flawless combination of music, sound effects, narration and interactive elements.

The experience isn’t merely entertainment, but an excellent tool to help emergent readers identify and practice the sounds and letters that make up words that rhyme with “at.”  The star of this entertaining show is a very proper British cartoon cat, Pat, who wears a top hat and who, yes, is fat. “He’s even got fat feet!” says one of the endearing duo of caterpillars that move across the expansive white pages with satisfying clicks and bounce on top of each word as it is voiced. When Tat the Bat and Nat the Rat emerge from inside Pat the Cat’s top hat, more good-natured silliness ensues. The spot-on British narration and the droll, jazzy bass-line accompaniment round out this terrific app. There are a few well-chosen interactive features throughout, including a particularly helpful option for beginning readers to practice by easily recording and playing back their own voices. The only quibble one could possibly have here is with the humor at the expense of the overweight cat, but it is so good-natured (and such an obvious rhyme) that it can be overlooked.

This irresistible app gets everything right, proving that simplicity is sometimes best. (iPad storybook app. 2-7)’

Next in Pat’s evolution is being printed to iBooks very soon and hopefully Android at some point this year. Watch this space, Pat fans!

‘Pat the Cat’ is available for download on iTunes.