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Advertising students win competition for app prototype

Sep 28, 2020

Posted in: News

By Ebonique Little, Communication Intern

VCU’s Adobe Creative Jam, held Sept. 11-18, challenged university scholars to form teams and create innovative app prototypes in three days using Adobe XD. Out of 152 contestants, an advertising student group placed first.

Juniors Ethan Parker, Samantha Ratliff and Jess Som impressed judges with their app that would help parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bibme, as it is titled, gamifies chores and other tasks parents want their children to do while at home. It also includes a reward system for the children.


With younger siblings and previous babysitting experience, the group drew upon first hand knowledge when forming the idea. Parker thought back to his defiant childhood.

“I didn’t want to do what my parents wanted me to do,” Parker said. “And so I was like, if I was stuck in a house with my parents, what would make their life easier?”

Parker lent this perspective to the design aspect of the prototype. He said he was well-versed in the software programs Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, which allowed him to quickly adapt to the Adobe XD requirement of the challenge. 

The vibrant colors and animated monster avatars encourage children to “find” tasks their parents have already preloaded into the app. A balloon character named Bibbles assists the child, and a rainbow meter tracks their completion. Once the child is finished, a token will fill their chest, which is redeemable at times already set by the parent.

“It’s really just a simple game — an interface — to provide some guidance on everyday tasks,” Parker said.

The app’s prompts make it easy for both parents and children to follow along. Ratliff said she was responsible for all the text as she enjoys copywriting.

“I was a little hesitant,” Ratliff said, “but I decided to take up the challenge, and I’m glad I did.”


Ratliff balanced the demands of the project alongside her production company, New Surge Productions, which is the first of its kind at VCU.

Founded in August, it seeks to bridge the gap between underrepresented communities and film. Ratliff’s working relationship with one of the group members continues here, as Parker is also the designer for New Surge.

With a solid dynamic, the group was able to navigate the short deadlines of the project even with Som, the final member of the group, living in a different country.

It's actually super interesting and funny because Jess is actually in Cambodia right now, which means she's 11 hours ahead,” Ratliff said. “So we were meeting, you know, in the middle of the night because we knew that she was making a big sacrifice to work with us.”

Despite being so far away from her teammates, Som said she was compelled to do the project because the opportunity to challenge her creativity far outweighed any possible inconvenience.

“During the tough times we are living in, a lot of things are out of our control and uncertain so I wanted to focus on what I could; participating in Adobe Creative Jam was one of them,” Som said in an email.

She said she took on the role of a strategist, aiding in art direction and concept execution. Immediately after the Creative Jam kickoff, Som said they joined a Zoom meeting to brainstorm and assign tasks.

We were really focused on the intent behind the app,” Som said, “and how it could really help children and parents to navigate during these challenging times.”

After the group completed the app, Parker acted as the group’s representative and had three minutes to present it virtually to a panel of three judges. Nine finalist groups also attended the live-streamed event.

The judges critiqued the students’ work based on the target audience and their needs, visual design, user experience and creative problem solving. Parker, Ratliff and Som were especially commended for their execution of the latter. 

The host of the event then announced the top three contestants, and the group was surprised to hear they’d be taking home the grand prize — $250 Amazon gift cards.

“Oh, dude, it was surreal,” Parker said.

The three students may soon be working again on another project. Parker told the host his biggest takeaway was the productivity and success built off the team’s camaraderie.