Eyes of Mariam (VR)


“Eyes of Mariam is an embodied interactive experience that follows the journey of Mariam, an African teenage girl, who faces traumatic events that threaten her goal of getting an education. The experience is being developed to raise awareness, promote advocacy, and encourage policy changes concerning children’s rights to education in war-prone African regions.”


Professor Shadrick Addy | Director & Interactivity Design

Mila Gajic | Design MFA Candidate | Character & Animation Design

Emily Subr | Design MFA Candidate | Sound, Narrative, UX Design

Juan Diego Torres Brenes LaRoche | Design MFA Candidate | Environment Design


One of the first things I worked on was understanding the narrational arc. In order to do that, I went through three documents created by Save the Children to understand the experiences of children in different areas. This helped to establish key components that needed to be addressed to our stakeholders.

Next, our group went through the past projects to understand what things had been established and what we could learn and use in our iteration of Eyes of Mariam. We decided to centralize around the school attack and its effects.

One of the first things I did was make a narrative map to highlight key emotions in relation to our three scenes.

Once the narration was established, I worked to map out the user journey. This allowed for us to consider the potential results that come from each scene as well as any points that may not be clear that we need to clarify.

One thing I also got to work on with the narrative was the art that would be an added layer for the characters and a piece that carries throughout the journey. I created around 15 pieces of art. I did a lot of research into African art and its history. I fell in love with the patterns seen in architecture, clothing, and tribes. I wanted the colors to be heavily saturated to match the youth and playfulness of a child. I worked to incorporate the patterns seen and weave them with the whimsical and hopeful lens of children. This was significant because I wanted this to contrast the events of the school attack that would set the narrative in a different direction. However, when the art comes up in the second and third scene, I wanted it to be of strength and remembrance, which is why I picked the lion.


One of my favorite parts of my responsibilities was the sound design. Professor Shadrick Addy worked to gather voice actors/actresses to read lines from the script I worked on. He had each of the voice actors record multiple versions of the lines. This worked great as we had different emotions, tones, and lengths to work with.

During the time he gathered the voice audios, I gathered diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to help create atmosphere and support the narrative. Some of the places I found audio was the BBC Sound Acropolis.

When making the sound scapes, I created two versions. One with just the background noise and one that included the background noise and character voices to understand how they fit together. Because we want to immerse the viewers in the VR space, I built spatial sound into the design, so that the action happening in the scene would match the sound.

The first version I created was too intense, so as a result, I toned it back and focused more on the fire and the collapsing of the building and an unknown presence moving around the person trying the experience.


When we moved into Unity to develop the scenes, I worked on the developing the design for the warning screen and the experience menu.

I really wanted to consider what it meant to work within the space of virtual reality, especially since we were making it a stationary experience and using hand tracking to make it easier for people to interact with the experience. Because there are interactions, like picking up drawings and looking, I started to wonder if we could train a user before entering an experience on how to work with the space, especially with so much art involved. As a result, Professor Addy worked to make the interactions of drawing and I developed the menu screen desk layout.

To start, the player has to pick up a pencil and place it on the start button in the drawing.
Here is the image for the start menu. A button that says “START” is overlaid onto the red box.