• Transform magazine
  • December 07, 2023


Alphabetical designs AR learning app for nature reserve

3 App On Phones

Thamesmead’s Tump 53 nature reserve worked with London-based brand agency, Alphabetical, to launch a multi sensory placemaking and an augmented reality (AR) learning app.


Thamesmead, an area in south-east London, has more than double the amount of green space than the London average. Peabody, which owns around 65% of the land, sought to increase its engagement with the local community so residents could get the most out the natural assets.

Peabody approached Alphabetical because it wanted to encourage more people to engage with the Tump 53 nature reserve and nearby Water Lily Walk. It also sought to create a sense of pride and ownership among local residents and school children.

“We’re taking a ‘whole place’ approach to improve, grow and look after Thamesmead for the long-term, and Tump 53 nature reserve and Water Lily Walk are key parts of this. We partnered with Alphabetical as part of our ‘Living in the Landscape’ initiative, which aims to engage communities and encourage greater use of our unique green spaces,” says Kate Batchelor, head of landscape and placemaking at Peabody.


Alphabetical created a brand identity for Tump 53 nature reserve, as well as an environmental design and digital learning app to strengthen the link between the green space and the people who live nearby.

Tommy Taylor, creative partner at Alphabetical, says, “This project is about placemaking and creating ways to help people connect with nature. From the outset it made sense to collaborate with locals, especially children.”

Alphabetical created workshops for the young people centred on discovering the local insects and animals of Tump 53 nature reserve and Water Lily Walk, including the places they inhabit, the food they eat, the sounds they make, and why they’re so important to the ecosystem. “The kids were the real designers here,” says Taylor. “Through mimicking the sounds and movements of local creatures, the project enabled them to take ownership of their environment, becoming more and more invested as time went on.”

The bold typographic installations recessed within the undergrowth along the edges of Water Lily Walk aim to encourage discovery. The installations reflect the onomatopoeic sounds and movements Alphabetical recorded the children making when describing their understanding of the behaviour of each animal.

When parents hover over the typographic sounds, the letters come to life, morphing into playful animated creatures that jump, fly and buzz around the viewer. The character design is accompanied by voice recordings that share information on the species, the threats they face, and what people can do to help.

“We really want kids to investigate the brightly coloured letters and shapes along the walkway. So, where a sign says ‘Buzzzzz’, for example, we’re hoping they’ll articulate the sound, and then ask their parents to use the app on their phones to find out more. We want them to think, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that’s what bees eat, or that’s how they see,’” says Taylor.

The educational app integrates custom AR technology, character design, voice and sound recordings, and animation. A gaming area of the app aims to add further fun and make the learning and discovery even more relatable.

“The scheme has been developed to inspire children on their own learning journey,. It’s a new, less didactic kind of approach. The AR element also encourages parents and kids to share the experience, and use their devices to learn about local flora and fauna together,” says Taylor.

“Our outdoor education activities at Tump 53 nature reserve are part of our Making Space for Nature programme, which is about getting people to spend time outdoors learning about and enjoying nature. I’ve seen children making animal sounds and movements as they use the walkway, sharing the experience with friends and family. It has created a sense of pride in the area, and taught children valuable lessons about their natural environment,” says Jack Gower, landscape activation manager at Peabody.