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Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game Goethe’s iPad Game

Key skills: Visual communication and testing

5 - 10 minute read


The Goethe Institut (South Africa) – a German educational organisation providing information on cultural and societal diversity.

Project overview

The Goethe Institut, dedicated to introducing children to a variety of languages and cultivating a love for culture, has created a series of interactive, tangible games. Their eleventh endeavour marks a turn to digital, driven by the requirements of an audio-based format. The concept involves an iPad game where children match audio clips to the respective languages spoken.

The Cast

Designer and developer – Me | Graphic artist – Freehand Studios | Project manager – Tina | Content manger – Christina

Summary of my role

Design a beautiful, child-friendly language game for offline iPad usage. Test the prototypes on the Goethe staff, then build the Progressive Web App with sound, animations, and a pinch of humour. Finally, test the design on real users at a Goethe event, iterate the design, and provide the final product.

The timeline


The game mechanic

It’s simple, just guess who’s speaking. Listen closely though, there are ten languages at play!

Requires active listening

Unlike traditional tile-matching games, the Goethe Institut does not want you to race past begin. They stressed that users must listen to each audio clip in full and be encouraged to familiarise themselves with the language.

Once-off short gameplay

The game is to be played within a fast-paced and noisy environment, with people queueing to be in the next round. The full experience should be around ten minutes and it was anticipated that users would move on after playing the game once.

Prevent stereotyping

Each language should be represented by a unique character. With seven of the official South African languages and three European languages being used, it was important to convey cultural identity, yet avoid stereotyping.

Research & testing

Studying the audience

The typical audience for the Goethe Institut’s cultural events are school children, ages 6 to 19. The question of how make a game which can entertain and educate across such a spectrum became the topic of my research.

My most important insights were uncovered from the Nielsen Norman Group. The differences between age groups are vast, but keeping accessibility best practice in mind, I decided to design for the earliest age group — in this case a 6-year-old.

As long as all users can operate the game we have basic usability. Accounting for potential boredom in older children and adults would require adding difficulty levels.

User testing

  1. I applied an iterative approach to prototyping, involving Goethe staff as wells as friends and family.
  2. During the web development, I continuously used this same method of testing.
  3. Once I had a working game, I observed while children and adults of all ages gave it a go during a Goethe Institut event.
  4. Throughout, I iterated the game until the final product was enjoyable and seamless.


The “Multilingual Challenge Game” is a brief, 10-minute experience – a rather short time to make a lasting impact. I aimed to set a realistic and achievable goal, one which aligns with the Goethe Institut’s broader mission of fostering a love for language, yet scaled to the short time frame. I wanted to identify outcomes which are both specific and immediate, thus…

My goals:

  1. The game must be inherently enjoyable – a seemingly obvious, yet fundamental requirement.
  2. It should leave users with a sense of accomplishment, regardless of their performance.

Guided by these straightforward principles, I embarked on the design process with a strong emphasis on user experience.

Design cycle

Initial wireframe and copywriting


Effective game design for children often relies on visual metaphors rather than text. A notable example is using an animated traffic light and countdown timer to indicate a time-sensitive challenge. This approach captures attention and clearly conveys the concept of racing against time.

Conveying time visually


A game which artfully oscillates between calm anticipation and rapid action. Players engage in a focused listening phase, absorbing a minute-long audio clip in an unfamiliar language. This is swiftly followed by a race against the clock to select the right answer.


  • Listening phase: use slowly animating, audio wave-shaped progress bars.
  • Guessing phase: use urgent, colour-changing timers.

High fidelity onboarding experience

UX Decisions

  1. Simple, consistent layout: A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  2. Cohesive use of color, font, and art to match Goethe Institut’s existing games. The only commissioned artwork was the character design.
  3. Visual communication was prioritized. Required reading was limited to 1-3 words at a time.

Tutorial Phase Overview

The Goethe Institut’s logic is that users will play the game once and then proceed to the next booth. Recognising that most users will be new to the game, the tutorial comes first – with a handy exit button for repeat players.

The tutorial itself is a condensed version of a single game round, focused on quickly familiarising users with the game’s functionality.

User testing revealed that the majority of players were able to complete the tutorial in under one minute – a success given our 10-minute limit.


This game was designed to be robust:

  • It works without internet
  • It is set up by staff and installed on a stand
  • It loops back to the beginning if abandoned

The one variant? Audio. Users must successfully collect a pair of earphones, plug them in, and hope that the volume hasn’t been turned down. This is where my troubleshooting screens come in. During testing, I had no users get to the stage where they required outside help.

Level design

Given the range of users, difficulty levels needed to be introduced to prevent boredom.

I identified two variables to adjust the challenge rating:

  1. The number of available choices
  2. The amount of time in which to make your choice

After testing, I tweaked the time allowances: young children needed ample time whereas older children got a thrill out of snap decision making.

Score cards

There’s no easy way to deliver a failing grade, but with UX copy I injected a little humour into the sign-off experience.

These playful quips are designed to prompt a little chuckle and end on a lighthearted note.

Project Outcome

Within just three months, this game went from concept to reality. We conducted one round of user testing (with approximately 50 people at the Goethe Institut’s event) and this was followed by one round of iterations. Feedback from users was overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the game’s fun, engaging, and user-friendly nature.

The Goethe Institut continues to incorporate the game in their events, featuring it on several iPads for offline use. They have reported numerous successes engaging with this as an educational tool for children.


Had we the budget, I would choose to work on the listening experience. As anticipated, younger children struggled to maintain focus while listening and would sometimes tap and swipe across the screen in frustration.

Idea 1: Tap = speech bubble

Anticipate the tapping and show a series of playful rebukes (in the corresponding language). This adds responsiveness and aids in learning.

Idea 2: Add some visuals

Listening without comprehension is challenging, why not anchor the audio storytelling with a illustrative visual component?

Brought to you by Laura Ann Seal, 2024