Anyone who has a child and a tablet has treasure. If you mix equal parts of education and entertainment in a cocktail shaker, add some great stories, shake well and decorate with the right amount of illustrations and music… then you have it. A great cocktail that’s suitable for kids, served in the form of an app.
That’s what the founders of Dada Company must have been thinking back in 2011, a time when the iPad was starting to become popular and the world of kids’ literature took off again. They came from the world of graphic design, advertising agencies and animation studios, and they jumped in feet first. David Yerga, one of the founders of the company and its CEO, explains jokingly: “This happened to me because two things occurred at the same time. One was that I had an iPad and the other was that I had a kid. I thought that we had a story to tell and we saw the chance to create high-quality content specifically for tablets”.
It’s not easy to define what they do, especially when they operate in such a young and rapidly-changing market. Honored with numerous awards, they develop fun kids’ apps that enable children to discover, learn, be taught about values and have fun with the family. “Originally, we wanted to be a publisher –David explains- and we were really focused on interactive books. The idea was not to work with a single character, but to enrich their childhood by offering different educational aspects, concepts and graphic styles with each app. Attract users so that we could grow together. We’re now changing our focus to digital games, because we need a global audience”.
Their first two projects were “Off to bed!” and “I learn with transportation”. The first of these, a 21st century lullaby for young children which was selected by Apple as one of the top 5 book apps in “Rewind 2011”. The second of these, which allows you to play with sounds, shapes, numbers and colors, has just been updated in five different languages. “Four little corners” (winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award 2013), “Marina and the light” (special jury prize at the Digital Ehon Award 2014) and “1000 adventures”, illustrated by Sebastià Serra are all equally outstanding. At present, they have a catalogue of twelve applications for kids aged between 0 and 8, which are downloaded in numerous countries, including Spain, U.S.A., Mexico, France, England, Germany and Canada.
-When you’re designing an application, what values are essential for you?
We start by ensuring that we have an original concept with high-quality production and animation. And, within that, we try to ensure that each app has several points of interest. It may involve learning first words, languages, emotion through music, more universal values… We have also incorporated the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, so we focus the apps on eight different perspectives, each to varying degrees: linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, intrapersonal, musical and naturalist. This allows us to see what application interests a child most at any given moment.
-It seems that music plays an important part in your products.
We’ve always liked music and we try to use it to strengthen the story. In some cases, like “Marina and the light”, which includes eight songs, it’s like a little soundtrack. We’ve worked together with Mapa Música and now also Daniel Heredero, who composed the music to Pocoyó.
-How much work goes into your apps?
They can take anything from four or five months to two years to develop. The whole process of creating interactivity, music, voiceovers… it’s highly complex. You have to sell lots and reach a global audience to make a profit out of it. That’s why now, for example, with Apple we incorporate multiple languages in the same app.
-And yet, the audience often has trouble paying the 2 or 3 euros that the app costs.
That’s something that strikes me. The Spanish market is still small and our culture makes it hard for us to pay for these kinds of things. There are currently two business models. One with advertising, where you want the kid to get hooked and you need lots of hits. We’ve chosen the Premium model, without advertising or in-app purchases. What we want is for people to enjoy the app and not have to worry about security issues for their kids.
-Is there a place for them in the classroom?
We’re very focused on the 0 to 8 age group and tablets are gradually making their way in. It’s currently easier at home than in class, but they can be used in small groups or be shown by the teacher. In fact, “Four little corners” is very widely used by librarians and storytellers in the U.S.A.
-Parents have a huge choice of apps. How do they choose? What advice would you give them?
To start with, you have to distinguish the Apple store from all of the others. There are publishers here, especially in the children's section. They’re the ones who include you and demand that you meet a set of quality requirements. But I would recommend that they make a little bit of an effort. Have a good read of the reviews, watch the videos, visit the developers’ websites, use recommendation tools like Boolino… then download the applications that might really be of interest to your child.
Here is a selection of Dada Company’s applications that I would recommend:
“Four little corners”. It is rare for a simple square and a bunch of colorful circles to be able to express so much with so little. A story about friendship, adaptability and equality, based on the original book by Jérôme Ruillier. It’s worth watching the video presentation.
“Marina and the light”. A beautiful interactive story without words. So you can tell countless versions of the story. The illustrations by Alberto Vázquez (2012 Goya Award for best short animated film) transmit delicateness and visual power in equal measure. The music is, quite simply, a delight.
“Musical Trees”. A fully fledged digital game and one of their brand new apps. Sound, rhythm, creativity and improvisation are what make this app special, so it’s perfect to enjoy with all of the family. It offers five different settings with a variety of backing tracks, all watched over by a big tree packed full of amazing characters. They’ll be eager to play, in both senses of the word.
Additionally, they have recently released two exciting packs which each include five aged-adapted applications: “My first apps” (for babies and preschoolers aged between 0 and 4) and “First readers” (for kids aged between 4 and 8). You can find them in the App Store, €6.99 for each pack.