Edible Island

Edible Island

Summary: I designed Edible Island, a 3d immersive environment built for VR. Assets were designed in Blender, and world built in Unity. 


Ever since he was a little boy in London, Rufus Rowntree was fascinated with nature’s beauty & it’s ability to feed all living organisms. He would read through National Geographic magazine and dream of traveling all over the world to explore the diverse wildlife in the most remote places on earth and find unique plants & fruits to make new tastes. He was enthralled by the intersection of nature, culture and food, and would go on to become an entrepreneur and pioneer in the field of genetically modified plants, making millions by developing nutrient rich plants that could be grown in arid environments, feeding millions of impoverished people in Africa and India. Despite his financial success and his impact on the developing world, Rufus was unfulfilled.

One day, while hiking through a remote Mayan jungle in Central America, in search of exotic plants, Rufus found himself disillusioned. He felt that he had discovered all that the world had to offer, and his dreams of strange plants and foods existed only in science fiction. And then he had an idea. What if he created his own “world” where people could share in his passion of exploring strange, edible plants & fruits? What if those plants had a life of their own? What if people could interact with those plants?

Rufus decided then that he would dedicate every waking hour until he brought this vision to life. He wanted to create a world where people could discover exciting new edible plants/fruits, and use these to create exciting new food combinations, and gustatory experiences. Rufus bought a tropical remote island in Southeast Asia, and began to create the world he envisioned - calling it Rowntree’s Edible Island.

Rufus’s vision was to make this park a national treasure, and an 8th world wonder that everyone could enjoy, but he was never able to get FDA approval for his work. Regulators saw it as a risk that it could cause diseases, make people sick, or worse - that the plants could take on a mind of their own. But this was just hearsay. Because of this, the park did not reach the critical acclaim Rufus wanted, but instead an exotic experience for adventure seekers.

Frustrated by the FDA’s lack of vision & for stalling his progress, Rufus dove deeper into building his island, creating an interactive experience with unique surprises at every turn.

capture moment ux.gif

Design Process

I started by writing out the many different barriers to retention, with hypotheses how we could improve these issues.

For the challenge of extracting the best moments from a live broadcast, we had previously experimented with machine learning to identify the best live moments, but the end result was disappointing, so we knew that there needed to be a human touch in deciding what was “good content.” It became clear that we needed to empower viewers to capture moments from live broadcasts.

I was very inspired by various native tribes of Papua New Guinea. Their sense of fashion is just incredible!

I began to sketch in my notebook & envision a holistic system where users could capture moments, edit/trim them while still in the live broadcast experience, and share them on YouNow and external social networks. There were many elements we would need to design for this system, including the moment creation experience, sharing flow, the moments feed, a redesigned user profile. Ultimately, I led a team of 3 other designers to get this done, and oversaw the product direction of the entire effort, along with our CEO.

We started with high-level discussion to understand the need for moments, as well as our constraints. Why would users want to capture moments? Is this something people would actually do? Should moments record forward looking, once the user imitates recording, or should the user be able to go back in time to capture a moment that has just happened?

We divided up the various components within the system to different designers on the team, but first began exploring and critiquing the experience of capturing a moment during the live broadcast. If that wouldn’t work, everything else would fall flat. 

We then conducted user research to inform our design, interviewing our partners (elite content creators on the platform) & showing them Keynote prototypes of the proposed UX to get their feedback. They were amazed & inspired by the experience of holding your finger on a broadcast and rewinding to go back in time, and the fact that viewers could identify and share their best broadcast moments. 


After many rounds of prototyping & design reviews, we landed on a UX that we felt confident in, and built out a holistic system to capture, consume & share interesting moments from YouNow. Overall, I was very pleased with the end result. 

Our initial hypothesis was if we could enable users to capture good moments from a live broadcast, we could improve retention through asynchronous engagement loops. In the end, "Moments" did not drive as large of an increase in retention as we had hoped, as capturing a moment was an advanced action for engaged users, rather than new users who were learning our app.

In the end, the biggest impact was viral growth. Through "Moments" we increased daily new users +560%, placing YouNow #14 in the App Store.

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