Why "Programmable" Cartoons?
Trustnode uses cartoon characters instead of real human actors or human-like avatars as the "front end" of our sales engine. We also harness dynamic data visualizations instead of static words or numeric tables to convey concepts. Here are some reasons behind our choices.
Ease of recognition
Studies of human perception show that cartoons can be extremely effective in helping people recognize objects. Through exaggeration and simplification of features, a cartoon can be a closer fit to our "mind's eye" encoding than photographs or other representations of the real thing. (Hochberg, J. The representation of things and people. In Gombrich, E.H., Hochberg, J. and Black, M. Art, Perception and Reality, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.)
Ease of understanding
Insurance and financial products can be complex and difficult to grasp. Online information sources in these domains rely on people's ability to make sense of densely written material or abstsract tables and graphs. Through the use of well-designed graphics and dynamic data visualizations incorporating the Potters characters, Trustnode harnesses our innate perceptual (pre-cognitive) skills in conveying complex ideas. (Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (Interactive Technologies) - Paperback (Feb 8, 1999) by Stuart K. Card, Jock Mackinlay, and Ben Shneiderman)
Brand and trust
Many online sales approaches use videos of real people, actors or human-like avatars to sell product. Videos of human actors are often unconvincing, or worse, anxiety producing in the realms of insurance and finance. Avatars pretending to have human intelligence can appear "creepy" to the user or quickly engender mistrust when they provide non-sensical answers. Instead of trying to mimic human intelligence, Trustnode's cartoon characters are carefully designed to evoke recognition and trust through their distinct visual forms, but also by imparting accurate, easy-to-grasp and personalized information.
Cartoons lessen anxiety
Cartoons can be powerful tools for conveying uncomfortable facts about about the consequences of death, disability or poor financial planning -- topics that can provoke anxiety and drive away potential customers who "just don't want to think about it". People can laugh at the Potters and situations they find themselves in, but also perceive truths about the need for insurance and financial planning that make them "buyer ready".
Powerful, adaptive, design vocabulary
The simple forms and "egg" shapes that make the Potters and friends easily recognizable, familiar and funny are not just drawings. In fact, they are built from a library of "programmable" and extensible objects. Our authoring environment allows us to quickly generate new animated characters from the parts library, but also to provide them with behaviors; they can be programmed to react to user input or to each other. Hence, the ability to create games and simulations.
- What the brain draws from: Art and neuroscience (CNN, September 2012)
- The Uncanny Valley (Presence, August 2007)