IXD301 – App Inspiration – Dumb Ways to Die

Dumb Ways to Die

What is it?

Dumb Ways to Die is an extremely popular and successful mobile app that lead a public campaign to spread awareness on train safety. It exploded in popularity with young adults and children during the early 2010s. Additionally, it included a catchy song that quickly rose in popularity due to its simplistic cartoon nature, catchy theme song and shocking scenes.

Although this app has nothing to do with the periodic table, I am really inspired by its artistic direction and the features (minus the killing) that it includes. I  want to reflect this type of style on my application both artistically and functionally.

The App

The home screen acts as a ‘showcase’ screen for playing the game. It includes many features such as your chosen map, collected characters and customized characters. For my app, I want to include something of a similar nature. My idea is that you unlock an elemental character by reading their story/playing a mini-game then they are added to your showcase collection on the home screen. It’s similar to pokemon cards or any other collectibles in which you store them in books to show them off.

Looking at the bottom left we can see a “next unlock” section that entices the user to continue to play the game and unlock a customizable.


The daily challenge section of the app is a fun and competitive way to enjoy the game. It has a Mario-esque type-level progression. However, it is temporary and you only have limited lives. This is an interesting addition, however, for my project, it would need to be dumbed down if I created something similar.

In the end, you achieve a sum number of coins and experience to level up. This very common yet successful system rewards the user for playing their game making users come back and replay thus further interacting with the ‘product’.




One of my favorite additions to this game is the customization system that is built into the game. It uses both a leveling up and currency system to unlock many customizable features. It is perfect for creating an engaging and interactive experience with it hosting an abundance of unlockable material for your character such as body shape, skin colour, hair, face, attire and death animation. I feel really strong about these features in games as it keeps people in a loop thus continuing to interact with the game and not just a play once type game. I am inspired to create a similar system for my elemental project where users can watch stories, play mini-games, etc, and in return earn customizable rewards for their own personal character. Essentially it is making users learn to earn.

Although, one thing I found disappointing in this section was the currency system, as although you can earn it entirely through gameplay. It entices users to spend real money on virtual currency to buy in-game unlocks. For my kid’s app, I will be creating this is an absolute no-go.



Atlas, the mini-games; the most popular feature and foundation to the success of this app. These mini-games work in a linear progression with the longer it goes on the more difficult and fast-paced the mini-games become. Additionally, the games give the user three lives with one being deducted for every mistake they encounter. One thing I love about this is the feedback screen between each mini-game as it includes humorous remarks and even rewards the player for failing (just not as many points as winning). For children, this is a great way to learn as it lets them know that it is okay to make mistakes. These minigames can be simple fill-in-the-word, tapping the screen or using the device’s accelerometer. It is very simple yet very fun to play.

I would love to add similar mini-games to my project. This is a great way to gain ideas and inspiration as this app has an abundance of simple and potentially easy-to-make minigames. Although, it would have to be dumbed down for my slightly younger audience to cooperate with.



Lastly, once the mini-games are over the user lands on a screen where it shows them on a progression screen where they can unlock new maps, mini-games, customizable and more.  This is a great way to give users their feedback and entice them to play again to further their progression. Ultimately, this sends the user on a loop — play > progression > unlock > play > progress… It’s a simple yet effective system to get the players hooked. Ultimately spreading awareness about train safety.


Artistic Direction 

The Characters 

The artistic style of the characters in dumb ways to die is undoubtedly one of the reasons for its huge popularity.  They’re vibrant, simple and diverse. Although, many of the characters are similar artistically, e.g. body shapes/faces. They all have a small quirk that makes them vastly different from one another, thus giving each cartoon character a personality of their own. Similarly, I am really inspired by this character design as it looks aesthetically pleasing even to my eye. I have been wanting to do something similar in terms of personality such as giving the helium character a balloon as that is representational to its element.


Additionally, another additive I really liked in this game was the cosmetic design of buttons. The designers used a drop shadow and a light backdrop to make it look 3d and clickable. In my opinion, this is a perfect and quirky design choice for my app as it entices children to click buttons and see where it takes them.


What have I learned? 

Looking through this app has given me a diverse amount of ideas and inspiration to work with. It has given me a more in-depth look at what I want my app to look like and function. For example, similarly to how this app functions I want my users to log in, learn and unlock then repeat. Like I said before my app uses a learn to earn system. I am finally set on what I want my characters and the overall design of my app to look like with many features such as achievements, character creation, stories and mini-games. Without looking at this app I think I wouldn’t have half of the ideas that I do now.

What’s next?

Firstly, I will create a flow chart mapping out the intended structural route of my app, then I will begin sketching many of my elemental characters.




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