Q&A WITH VICTORIA FORREST, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR, VIKA BOOKS
TELL US ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO
VIKA designs books and brands that showcase the artists and organisations of the future. We combine the conceptual rigour of book arts and the high production values of fine art publishing with the dynamism of creative technologies.
I am a graphic designer and I founded VIKA to work with companies, galleries, institutions and individuals to tailor elegant and innovative designs to each vision.
Our first book, ‘Baby BSL: Where is the Bird?’, uses Augmented Reality (AR) to inspire all families to use British Sign Language (BSL) with their children.
VIKA has won many international awards for distinctive and innovative print designs, and its designs have been featured by the BBC, The Bookseller, Design Week, TechSpark, VR Focus, and The British Journal of Photography.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE COMPANY?
I came up with the idea for 'Baby BSL: Where is the Bird?’ after a frustrating experience learning sign language with my hearing son. I’d heard of baby sign language as a way to speak to babies before they could talk. It made perfect sense, especially as we’d been told our baby would speak later raised in a bilingual family.
Teaching materials for BSL are surprisingly limited, even though the impact of being able to sign with children under the age of two is huge. This is a particular problem for the 90% of deaf children born to hearing parents. For hearing families, the complexities of speech are a possible contributor to the ‘Terrible Twos’, a time when a child has independent thoughts, but cannot adequately express them. Sign language helps to bridge the gap, helping children communicate complex concepts earlier.
As a uniquely visual language, BSL is particularly well represented by Augmented Reality. English is a sonic, linear language separate to BSL and d/Deaf children often find printed books static and uninspiring. For hearing parents, 'Baby BSL: Where is the Bird?’ capitalises on the small window of opportunity when hearing parents are proactively willing to learn sign language with their children, improving awareness of d/Deaf culture.
Historically, VIKA are designers of fine-art quality books. VIKA saw a gap in the market to create a new supercharged style of book, one where printed & digital content function equally, independently or combined, allowing the reader to control which medium to access and when.
IN A YEAR OF INCREDIBLE CHALLENGES, CAN YOU SHARE SOME POSITIVE NEWS THAT’S HAPPENED FOR OVER THE LAST 12 MONTHS?
We were featured by Apple UK for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and have won or been nominated for nearly 20 awards (see below).
VIKA has featured on the CreaTech ‘Ones to Watch’ list, published by the Creative Industries Council (CIC), and is part of DIT’s trade delegation to SXSW, and a graduate of Digital Catapult’s Augmentor. I have been named Great British Entrepreneur of the Year for the Creative Industries, one of the UK’s TechWomen100, and a top 100 UK media innovator.
We were also featured by Design Week, under the incredible headline of Sign Language Book for Children Leads UK's Immersive Tech Boom.
WHO SHOULD HAVE VIKA BOOKS ON THEIR ‘ONES TO WATCH’ LIST?
Any organisation interested in the power of print to educate and inform using XR technologies, but especially anyone who works within the arts, education and publishing markets. Our tech is patent pending, and we have an amazing opportunity for investors looking to profit from helping us to secure our global AR patents.
WHAT NEW OR EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT RIGHT NOW AND WHY?
When I started working with AR, QR codes were something that we needed to explain to people. Now everyone knows what they are and how smartphones can connect to a range of technologies. This opens to the door to consumers allowing combinations of technologies into their homes, which is the foundation of the work we do.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR VIKA BOOKS OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
The biggest challenges for the company over the next few months will be increasing consumer awareness of our book, scaling up, and protecting our IP.
With 'Baby BSL: Where is the Bird?’ our ambition is for every parent in the UK to know the 20 signs in our book. If we achieve this, then not only will there be far fewer frustrated toddlers in the world, but the affiliated awareness of BSL will improve integration between deaf and hearing communities. Watch out for our books and merchandise!
Apple’s Tim Cook has predicted that "AR will happen in a big way and we will wonder how we ever lived without it.” Through a combination of our own books and licensing our our unique IP, we want to make AR books mainstream, available in every household across the globe, reconnecting us with the multimedia way in which we now learn. And to make VIKA Books the 'go to' publisher for AR books.
For the industry more generally the challenges are making sure that we develop our technology in a way that protects our environment, we really need to move forward to Carbon Zero.
WHO IS ON YOUR ‘ONES TO WATCH’ LIST AT THE MOMENT AND WHY?
I’ve been fascinated by companies making strides with haptics, wearables, holography and VR. I really can’t wait for all these elements to merge.
AVA Digital Gold; Best Business Awards: best innovation; Best Business Awards: best new product or service; Best Business Awards: outstanding entrepreneur & outstanding female entrepreneur; Bristol Prestige augmented reality product of the year; Corporate Excellence Awards: most innovative immersive publishing company;
Creative Industries Council ‘CreaTech top 100 ones to watch’; D&AD Future Impact Award; Digital Catapult Augmentor; eLiterature Publishing best multimedia book: Bronze Award; Great British Entrepreneur of the Year: Creative Industries (South West); Innovate UK Audience of the Future: Design Foundations; International Business Awards ‘Stevie Award’ startup of the year: consumer products; National Technology Awards: best vr/ar product; Natwest Accelerator; South West Creative Technology Network Immersion Prototype Award; UK Enterprise Awards: fine art publishers of the year; Women in Technology: techwomen 100; West of England Combined Authority Creative Scaleup Program; Woman Who Achieves Solopreneur Awards: Creative World; Woman Who Achieves Solopreneur Awards: Home Business; Tech Innovators Top 100.
The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards: new entrepreneur of the year; London & Partners: The Mayor’s International Business Program; National Business Women’s Awards: best new business; National Technology Awards: best consumer product; National Technology Awards: tech startup of the year; SXSW Pitch; The Bookseller Futurebook Award: tech startup of the year; British Book Awards Small Press of the Year 2021.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT VIKA BOOKS
Buy the book: http://bit.ly/babybsl
Android app: https://bit.ly/babybsl-gp
iOS app: http://bit.ly/babybsl-app