Francine’s winning entry, a multi-player game called Genderloop, was awarded a silver medal in both the Educational Toy and Wooden Toy categories.
“First of all, I’m very happy,” she tells me from her home in Fuzhou, China. “But it’s also a good end to this project. It’s a graduation project, so I put one whole year into it. So, it feels good to have recognition.”
Genderloop, which Francine began developing during her fourth year at ECU, consists of two games in one. Both games encourage players to talk about gender equity, bias and discrimination in daily life.
Initially, Francine set out to make a game about gender equity in China. But early testing revealed that players were eager for a broader scope of ideas and geography.
To research gender issues, Francine first reached out her former professor Hong Lin who she met while finishing her first degree — a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Xiamen University. Her professor connected her with LGBTQ activists and organizers, whom she interviewed. The organizers then connected her with people who had lived experience of gender discrimination.
“I interviewed four people who told me a lot of true stories that broke my heart,” Francine says. “I was very surprised and felt very thankful for that. I based the cards in my first game on those stories.”
Once Francine finished her design, she recalls players expressing surprise all around.
“I received lots of feedback from people who said, ‘I didn’t realize these things were happening,’” she tells me. “That’s good feedback. That’s the kind of feedback I wanted to get.”
Francine also thanked ECU faculty Christian Blyt, Sophie Gaur and Keith Doyle, and technicians from the wood shop and digital fabrication lab and who helped guide her throughout the project.
Now that she’s moved back to Fuzhou, Francine says she’s busy working for herself. Currently, she’s designing furniture and hoping to launch her own brand in the next year. Her previous education in advertising gave her a taste of what it was like promoting products she didn’t believe in. So, she aims to create a brand that produces quality goods she can stand behind. She plans on calling the brand Offcuts.
Francine also believes competitions like the IDA Awards offer young designers a fantastic opportunity to promote their work.
“Competition is a good way of marketing yourself and your brand,” she says. “And some competitions don’t charge students for entry. So, I think they’re a good way for students to learn about that.”