The first page of StorySign was written a while back. A friend of ours is a French sign language interpreter. We were chatting one day, when she casually mentioned that she had to read the newspaper to one of her clients. We were confused.

‘Why can’t he read? I mean, he can see, can’t he?’

Which is when she told us that literacy is a big issue in the deaf community. Many deaf children can’t learn to read phonetically, and this can affect them for the rest of their lives. (Recent research by the National Deaf Children’s Society suggests it takes them 21 years to catch up with their hearing peers.)

So we did what creatives do, we had some drinks. Then the next day, we worked on a way of helping to solve this hidden problem.

The key issue was helping deaf children link printed words with sign language. So we thought, what if a smartphone could do it? Just hover the phone over the physical book, and up pops a little avatar who signs as the printed words are highlighted.

StorySign was born. But it would just have been another idea destined for the bottom drawer, without the right partners to bring it to life.

FCB Inferno made it all happen. We showed the idea to The British Deaf Association and the European Union of the Deaf, who instantly said they wanted to support it, and make sure the deaf community were involved at every stage of development. Penguin Random House came on board with their amazing stable of classic children’s books, including Spot, everyone’s favourite dog. Huawei’s world leading AI technology powers the app. And Aardman took a break from Wallace and Gromit to design Star, the most advanced signing avatar ever created.

StorySign launched Christmas 2018 in 10 countries, with 12 sign languages. We were lucky enough to create a TV ad with Oscar-winning director Chris Overton, Maisie Sly, the star of ‘The Silent Child’, and Santa himself, hence the rather fetching picture of us on set.


The reaction has been more than we could ever have hoped for. StorySign has raised awareness of deaf literacy, with a campaign reach of over 1.5 billion. Most importantly, it has opened the world of reading to deaf children and their families, with over 50,000 books opened in the app so far.

And this is just the beginning. More countries, more books and more sign languages are coming in 2019. I think we owe our interpreter friend a drink or two.