5 Questions for Anders Sandell

We have with us for this interview Anders Sandell, founder of TANK & BEAR, a company that designs and publishes children's media and craft toys. He has a background in interaction design, illustration, and toy design. Although originally from Finland, he now lives in India.

He's also the creator of Jörgits, an interactive children novel on the iPad.

In addition to the Jörgits iPad app, he's now creating a physical book. The illustrations are simple and beautiful, and the story is about some cute aliens who crash landed on earth after leaving their planet which is becoming increasingly cold.

He's using Kickstarter to launch the book and you can back it at https://kck.st/1dY0XP7.

It was Kickstarter Project of the day for 29 Nov 2013.

Qn1: Can you give us an introduction of yourself and how you got started in art. It seems quite interesting. You are originally from Finland but now based in India.

I was born in Finland but my family moved to Hawaii when I was eleven. My father is an astronomer and got offered a job to work on the telescopes in Mauna Kea. I've lived in many places since then including, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, China, Japan and now India.

I actually didn't study art in undergraduate, I have a double bachelors degree in Chinese Language and History. I discovered design right as I graduated from the University of Washington (UW).

My last year at the UW, I had an amazing class in Chinese Pop Culture. The first day of class, the professor, Andrew Jones brought in a mixed tape of Chinese music that started with the introduction of the gramophone in China and ended with Canto Pop. That's when I knew the class was going to rock. Throughout the course we watched an amazing variety of movies, I got introduced to Wong Kar Wei before most people in the US had even heard of him. Somewhere in the middle of the semester I had this realization that I didn't want to read about artists any more, I wanted to become one myself.

After I graduated I set out to teach myself design, I then began freelancing as a Flash Designer and a year later I joined Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tish School of the Arts. This was back in 2000, so a lot more has happened since then. Let's fast forward a bit. I ended up in India in 2008 where I started the Toy Lab at the Srishi School of Art, Design and Technology. It was kind of like my own Santa's workshop. From my work with the lab I started my company TANK & BEAR, to publish children's media and design toys, but that's a long story so let's save it for another time.

Qn2: What's your motivation behind creating Jörgits & the End of Winter?

The story is inspired by the year and half I spent in Finland after I graduated from ITP. I hadn't lived in Finland for over fifteen years, so when I returned everything felt strange and new but also eerily familiar. At times I felt a bit like an alien in my own country. I could relate but I was also on the outside looking in.

My intention with the Jörgits is to capture the wonder that you feel when you get introduced to a new culture. But the story also has a strong environmental message. The novel is about a group of aliens who end up crash-landing outside of Helsinki in the middle of winter. Their planet has become too cold and they've come to ours to discover the secret to how we are warming up our planet so quickly. The story is of course about global warming. I'm worried that as a culture we're not quite taking the climate crisis seriously enough.

The Jörgits is my attempt to introduce the issue to people in a tactful and light-hearted way. Stories are a very powerful way to in communicate ideas.

Qn3: What did you learn from creating the iPad app?

With the Jörgits I set out to create a company not just an app. Producing the app is just fifty percent of the work, marketing, networking, and raising money is the other fifty percent. Without doing the business part of the project your ability to create the next one will come to halt. I'm still have a lot to learn about this part of my business but its an exciting challenge.

Qn4: Say someone else is going to create an interactive story app similar to Jorgits. What advice would you give them?

Interactive fiction is a new medium, its not clear yet whether there is large enough of a market to support the production costs of these types of apps. Study the market very carefully, look at the apps that are being released how are they doing in the app store? Is there large enough of an audience for your app. I still believe in the medium but I think my next story book app will look very different from the first one that I made.

Qn5: Now that your app is out, why did you decide to create a printed book? What differences can the readers expect?

I'm creating a brand with the Jörgits. This is just the first novel in the series. I also a have dance game with the characters for the iPhone in concept stage and a first draft of book two ready.

The main reason to publish the book is to reach more people. Some people will want to interact with the characters in the app, some will want to read their story in a traditional book.

Personally I love the app but there is something really wonderful about a tangible book. I prefer the reading experience in the book, but I love the animations and interactive features that we created in the app. So you should get both.

Check out The End of Winter: Jörgits Printed Book Kickstarter project at https://kck.st/1dY0XP7. It ends 20 Dec 2013, Friday.


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