Crafting an experience that introduces a new way to play.

Barbie® Digital Makeover for iPad® reinvents makeup application.
The Short Of It
Through a great collaboration with our clients at Mattel® and their technology partner, CyWee, we helped create an engaging, connected experience that introduces an entirely new way to play.

The Situation

Depending on your interests as a child, you might remember a time when playing with makeup meant creating a mess with mom’s precious cosmetics – not to mention some hilarious photos. That simple childhood desire to experiment and transform our appearance with makeup has been a core Barbie® play pattern for decades. Today, digital has enabled more ways than ever to make the toys designed for core childhood play patterns more magical and imaginative.
Our client, Mattel®, recognized this and sought to create an innovative approach to makeup play. Their concept was the Barbie® Digital Makeover, which blended sophisticated console hardware, revolutionary facial tracking technology from their partner, CyWee, and the iPad in a connected play experience. A prototype had been built – our team was asked to marry the facial detection API and console hardware with an incredible interactive experience. Translation: Dream project!

The Challenge

To blur the lines between physical and digital in a fun and playful way for Barbie® fans.

Our Approach

We teamed up with CyWee to gain an in-depth understanding of the technology they had developed, along with any challenges that lay ahead. A few international flights later, and we were armed with enough knowledge to get to work defining and documenting the user experience and design direction.
Our goal was to make sure all teams involved were working from the same playbook for the application. Mood boards for the initial design direction, as well as a user experience overview document, established a foundation to work from. Weekly conference calls with our partner teams at Mattel and CyWee allowed us all to iterate quickly.
The user interface was an interesting challenge because we didn’t want it to compete  with the beautiful console – it had to feel like it was seamlessly integrated into the product. We had to make it simple, clean and subtle, but still worthy of the Barbie® label. By creating many of our mockups within an image of the console, we were able to give all companies involved in creating the Barbie® Digital Makeover the context of the entire product. Informal play testing allowed us to optimize the user experience and interface along the way.
The application was built in-house at Smashing Ideas in iOS and utilizes Bluetooth® connectivity to the console.

The Result

Just slide the iPad®into Mattel’s Barbie® Digital Makeover console, and it automatically connects via Bluetooth to power the experience. The Barbie® Digital Makeover iOS app launches, the lights on the console come on, and the iPad’s front facing camera projects your image onto the screen.
Applying digital makeup is an intuitive, fun process and is almost indistinguishable from putting on real makeup. You can select options like eye shadow, lipstick or blush and apply colors and glitter to the “Digital You” by touching a color pod on the base of the console with your finger, then pretend to apply the makeup to the “Real You” with the applicator – the facial-tracking technology keeps the digital makeup in place as you move, as though you’re really wearing it. You can also apply accessories, such as hair bows and headbands to the “Digital You” that also stay in place. Once your look has been perfected, you can strike a pose and take a snapshot of yourself.  Before saving your creation to the Photos app on your iPad, you can apply frames, graphics, speech bubbles, and other touches of flair that reflect your personality or sense of style.
The work was a truly global partnership. We couldn’t be more proud of the results and how the product is being received by Mattel customers.

Applying digital makeup is an intuitive, fun process and is almost indistinguishable from putting on real makeup.


  • Ranked #1 free iPad app by iTunes in Entertainment category.
  • Ranked #1 in App Store in 6 countries
  • Ranked in the top 5 overall in the App Store in over 20 countries
  • Selected as a “New and Noteworthy” app in the App Store
  • Rated 5 stars across all categories in
  • Raving reviews at a top industry event, ToyFair from MashablePSFKSuper KidsUbergizmoABC NewsAOL On TechKidscreen and more!


  • 3rd Party SDK Integration
  • UX Design
  • iPad App Development
  • Visual/UI Design

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