How Do You Get Kids To Learn? Have Them Draw Butts On The iPad

The pitch behind Madbrook Publishing’s first product is pretty amazing. It seems like it should for sure be a joke. But it’s not. It’s Everything Butt Art.

No, that’s not a typo. The product is not “Everything But Art”, it’s “Everything Butt Art” — two “t’s”. Butt. As in, the thing you sit on. That’s the basis for the product. And it’s launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York.

So how on Earth is this a product, let alone a real product, and a tech product? Because the founders seem to understand how kids think. And that’s the key because this is all about kids thinking.

Everything Butt Art is a children’s educational book and app that teaches step-by-step drawing. That’s where the crazy name comes in: every drawing begins with the kid drawing the shape of a butt.

While it may not be so apparent at first, many, many things can be drawn when you start with the butt shape. And this unique approach is both humorous and simple enough to immediately engage children.

And at least a few big names already agree. Independent Publishers Group (IPG) has agreed to print the initial Madbrook Publishings and Barnes & Noble are stocking the books on their shelves. That was phase one of the roll-out, phase two is the iPad app launching today.

The app will have several main parts: a full book, a butt hunt (yep), step-by-step drawing lessons, a reward system, and saving/syncing drawings with the web, and a Facebook-style news feed.

The plan is also to create different themed versions of the app that will be available as add-on purchases.

The Madbrook Publishing approach is part of a move toward more data-driven feedback in kids games to help parents see what they’re learning. This is similar to the recently announced Stickery.

Judge Q&A with Jeff Clavier, Shana Fisher, Roger Ehrenberg, Saul Hansel

JC: I think it’s great. Discovery?

A: So the book is out now. The discovery issue is a key one. Steve Jobs thinks education for kids should be a key thing for the App Store.

JC: Free app? Paid?

A: Free app with three characters included. Then there will be add-on packs.

JC: It has potential to please Apple. But will the butt hurt?

A: Well they just released a Playboy app. I think we can say “butt”. We’re being asked to go into school. “Educators are not fearful of butts.” If you can get something in front of kids and engage them that’s a win.

RE: I like butts as much as the next guy. I think what’s you’ve built is very interesting. But how does this go viral?

A: I couldn’t agree more, we have to work with schools. Do events at bookstores. We live in New York, the publishing capital of the world.

RE: Schools don’t have money. So they won’t pay, but they might help distribute. You have to make money somehow.

A: Part of the reason we did print is that. It’s about the brand experience even if they don’t have the device.

SH: Age group?

A: 4-11 I think.

SH: The UI looked too complicated.

A: I’ll challenge that. Sit down with a group of 6 or 4 year olds. They can do it.

SF: I have two kids in that age range. We have some apps that are a lot like it. I think you went too all-in with the butt thing. It’s too much on the gimmick. I don’t think you need that.

A: So what sets those other drawing apps apart?

SF: It’s feature sets. Stamps. Stickers. I don’t like kids learning to draw by touch.