Planting the seeds for a successful fundraiser experience

We were first presented the opportunity to work on this project by designing the invitation and donation collateral well before the virtual garden concept had been born. This was an exciting design challenge in itself, as the client wanted to carry over the farm-to-table theme into the actual design and production of the invitations. We sourced sustainable parsley seed paper as the branded piece that held the invite, reply card, and inserts together, which could then be planted in the recipient’s’ own garden at home.

To carry the sustainable planting concept through to the Virtual Garden experience, we then designed and produced seed “tickets” on more parsley seed paper that each donor at the event would take to our physical garden. They would then rip and plant the “seed” design of the ticket and keep the stub for planting at home. At the end of the night, the garden was filled with planted parsley seeds – the virtual garden reflected this in all the plants that appeared on the screen. This garden was then taken to the Fresh Food Farmacy in Shamokin, PA to produce parsley that could be used by FFF patients in healthy meals.


The physical garden design was a collaborative process involving custom vector art, branded signage, an adventure at Home Depot, and a garage-based construction session. Building the physical box along with the electronic components was a great opportunity for the Posture team to showcase their maker skills. The box itself was prototyped first, and built using ¾ inch plywood. Measuring in at six feet long and two feet wide, the planter was designed to accommodate a large amount of plants.


The electronics side of the planter ran on a MakeyMakey. We drilled holes throughout the planter with an exposed copper lead coming out of each. Donors used a small metal shovel, which was wired to the MakeyMakey, to plant their seed paper tickets into the planter. The soil was measured out to cover the exposed wires and was kept damp to maintain a consistent level of moisture. With that, donors could complete the circuit with the grounded shovel and the leads inside the soil.


Figuring out how to handle such an interactive experience was an interesting challenge to overcome. We’ve previously used Processing for Generative Art installations, but we knew we needed to find a tool that could handle concurrent processes and animations better. We landed on Phaser, an open source “Desktop and Mobile HTML5 game framework”. We were able to use a fast and modern Javascript framework to handle the animations, reading from an API and listening for user input. The entire front end was designed to be modular and completely customizable by using Javascript ES6 classes and the Phaser 3 syntax.


We knew from the start we would need some sort of database and admin area in order to capture and seed the game (pun intended) with donation information. Once we became more familiar with Phaser and its capabilities, we decided the best approach would be to create a PHP wrapper to encapsulate the game and use a standard JSON file to pass data back and forth between the game side and the admin side. This project required a custom built MySQL database architecture to tie all the data together, and so we chose CakePHP as our framework to rapidly build the foundation of the admin area and to easily interface with the database. We then built a locked down website to prohibit outside users from potentially accessing any parts of the game, since it would be publicly displayed on a large screen at the event. The admin area included a section for inputting donor information, as well a customized troubleshooting section, to provide added redundancy in the event of a connection, software, or hardware issue.

We were also on hand the day of the event to set up, run final testing, and execute the experience for users as they arrived. Setup included fully filling the garden with the soil, interfacing our computers with a large display, and feeding our video feed out to one of 4 main wall projectors in the event space. During the event, we guided users through the garden, helped the client keep track of donations and amounts, and ensured that our build ran as smoothly as it did during testing. Ultimately our station was one of the highest trafficked tables at the event, and generated a high amount of donations for the Fresh Food Farmacy.