In this series, we’ll take a closer look at each element in Pigzbe’s World and explain our design choices from an aesthetic and educational perspective. This is part two! If you haven’t read part one in our series: the Money Tree, you might want to start there.

The team at Pigzbe have their head in the clouds. Come rain or shine we’re working hard on something very special — a tech-enabled pocket money app for families. Our aim is to blend fun, kid-centric design with effective financial education for families.

We already told you how in Pigzbe’s world, money DOES grow on trees. But as any gardener knows, a healthy tree needs lots of care. And where in the world can a flying pig find that much water?

Let’s take a look at the magical clouds in Pigzbe’s World and see if we can spot a silver lining.

Where do clouds come from?

As the magical source of Wollo that rains down and nurtures your child’s Money Tree. Clouds have always been an important (and fluffy) part of Pigzbe.

From our earliest concepts, we wanted to frame the act of saving money as a positive behaviour, so building on the visual metaphor of a growing tree and a raincloud was the perfect way to embed a clear educational outcome. Our CEO Filippo put it best:

“At Pigzbe, we’re Londoners. We own clouds! Jokes aside, when we started prototyping the product with Matt Browne and the team at Extraordinary Facility in early 2018, we were set on this idea of growing a rainforest overtime, and we needed rain to make it grow. The metaphor of money travelling across a network on a cloud worked well, and the kids we tested with loved it!”

But clouds never standstill. Beyond our initial concept, almost every bit of the design has evolved. The first clouds were static parts of Pigzbe’s world that had a lot in common with the question mark blocks from Super Mario.

We wanted to imbue the act of ‘getting money’ in Pigzbe with as much richness and learning value as possible.

This meant making each cloud distinctive so children could track, compare and measure different source of money.

Pigzbe gets airborne in a early concept sketch

So, over time, those impersonal white clouds developed colour and then faces and rosy cheeks.

By now you can recognise Pigzbe, and our home tree and goal structure

Meet the clouds

But what exactly about a cloud that wears a top hat and buckets down multicoloured rainbow rain is educational? Well, it’s all in the design.

Every cloud is unique with a different job to do

Wollo can be earned in four ways — as a set allowance, a task, a gift or as a one-off bonus ‘airdrop’ from Pigzbe — and there’s a distinctive cloud for each action.

For example, a parent might give a fixed pocket money allowance to their children, and also set tasks to complete to earn small rewards — just like a family chore chart.

The ‘party cloud brings one-off gifts and surprises Wollo from family members

In addition, the extended family can send Wollo to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions from anywhere in the world.

When you grab a cloud and pop it open it reveals more information about the number of Wollo, where it came from and who sent it.

The working cloud reminds you that you can earn Wollo by completing chores set by mum and dad. Parents can drop chores into their phone and they pop up as clouds and trigger a notification on the Pigzbe device.

This is all about creating an experience that helps make digital money more engaging, memorable and fun for kids in an increasingly cashless world.

At the same time, it helps them understand the difference between earned and gifted money and the difference between one-off and recurring income, in a safe and friendly way.

This cloud pops up weekly or monthly. Mum and Dad choose the interval for a regular allowance that rains down from the Top Hat cloud.

Our clouds fly onto the screen in a burst of colour and rain Wollo down, unused clouds drift gently around the upper branches of the tree waiting to be called into action.

So, while the cloud gang are fun and engaging characters, they actually represent a gentle introduction to some of the fundamental principles of money management. They help show that money comes from different places and can have a different subjective ‘value’.

For example, you might want to use money you earned from chores for a new toy but keep birthday money from Grandad separate, and save it for something you can do together.

Special Wollo gifts from Pigzbe or other surprises come in their own special cloud

Pigzbe lets kids approach these decisions independently and make their own choices, helping to build core money management skills that, as adults, they will need to use every day.

How we designed our clouds

From Mario climbing a beanstalk to a cloud platform, all the way to the angular clouds that scoot across the sky in Minecraft, clouds in computer games have fond memories for us.

We sat down with our hero illustrator Momo to talk through our ideas and some of our geeky 16-bit inspirations. Momo took our ideas and made them into something beautiful. Each cloud became a distinctive character you can really connect with.

Some of Momo’s first cloud illustrations

Momo told us: “it was important to differentiate the clouds from each other, as they represent different functions in the app. We decided to do this by giving them separate distinct personalities, so when the jolly cloud in the party hat appears you instantly know you are getting a gift.

Going digital

We added a bunch more emotions for every cloud character so the interaction feels more natural and friendly. Every emotion is drawn separately per cloud, helping to give each a distinct personality.

The Momo Show

User Testing

So you know what we think, but do kids agree? We’ve already done extensive user testing with lots of children as part of Pigzbe’s development. But getting specific feedback on little features is even more fun.

We’ve been testing the cloud process with kids using a working demo

We’ve been taking dozens of kids through a short demo of the cloud interaction, assessing the educational impact of our design choices and refining things as we go.

It’s been really gratifying for the team to see, kids as young as six intuitively ‘get’ what we are trying to do.

One kid in particular, Ben (six and a half) really loved the way each new cloud translated into a new ball of foliage on the Money Tree, as a clear record of what Wollo came from where. We asked Ben why the clouds disappear after you release the Wollo:

They’ve gone because all they are empty and used up and. And the money is in the tree now.” — SUCCESS!

Each cloud is individually drawn to add an increased level of engagement

Just like every element of the Pigzbe kids’ App, animation and function is stress tested to within an inch of its life to make sure no over-enthusiastic users can break it.

Check out the wilder freakouts some of our clouds had in the testing studio:

(No clouds were harmed in the making of this video)

What’s next?

We’re getting very close to completing the final design of our amazing cloud family, and adding some quite incredible animations to make the act of claiming your Wollo, really fun and engaging.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ve been working on

A work in progress animation

In the next part of this series, we will take a closer look at the Pigzbe handheld device — a brand new kind of home for digital pocket money.