Trans*cend is a system developed to work with Transgender clients to design custom characters for use in online VR games. The goal was to give this demographic an opportunity to escape the distress they feel with their bodies and connect with others online more authentically.
Designer and client work together to create characters that reflect the personality of the client, allowing them to form deeper connections with others in-games. The process emphasizes building trust, easing social interactions, and relieving physical fixation for users.
Through frequent communication, regular progress updates, and heavy involvement of the client in the decision-making.
Users from the Transgender community felt most comfortable speaking online, so all interactions were performed over text.
Much of the emotional distress Transgender people experience comes from an acute fixation on their physical bodies. Speaking over text helps ease this
Characters are designed gradually over time wth input from both the client and the designer. This co-creative process primarily utilizes texting for communication and project updates, allowing for a casual, ongoing conversation about the design.
All of the tools, strategies, and milestones for this approach were compiled in a set of cards to teach the approach or implement it on a larger scale
This project stemmed from a fascination with how people visualize themselves in digital spaces. I interviewed over 30 different experts and users over the course of the project.
Transgender people experience extreme discomfort with their bodies, and are often victims of social stigma. Many find it difficult to connect with others as a result, but have found online communities to be a safe space to interact in a more anonymous, controlled way. Text-only communication lacks social satisfaction.
After exploring various options for digital communication, VR showed promise for deeper social connections in addition to allowing users to take control of their visual expression.
I went through this process with two clients to receive feedback and refine.
I started with an in-depth conversation online to get to know them and what they wanted before moving into inspiration boards and rough sketches, then 3D models. Every 3-4 days I checked in with them to give brief updates on my progress and receive feedback, and would not move forward with the design without their consent.