Steven Universe's

Comic Book by BOOM!


Solo Project

Created as part of my Master of Science degree in Experience Design at the VCU Brandcenter.



The ask:

For Steven Universe's comic book, create a physical prototype with a surprise and delight.

About Steven Universe

A succinct synopsis


In 2013 Steven Universe was released as a Cartoon Network animated series by Rebecca Sugar. 

It is a coming-of-age story about a half-alien boy named Steven Universe living on Earth in the fictional town of Beach City. He is raised by three female humanoid aliens and taught how to protect Earth from their own kind. 

Design Principles & Constraints


1. It must mirror the show's positivity. 

2. Whatever was created had to be fun.

3. The prototype must have a surprise and delight.

4. The content and or end result will need to be based on both the television series and the comic book due to a limited number of comics available.

5. Time: The research, design, and prototype had a week deadline. Therefore, the prototype's mechanics could only be built with locally sourced materials from hardware stores and Radio Shack.  

6. Hypothetically, the prototype was created for National Free Comic Book Day. That meant that the final design needed to stand out from other promotions. 

Design Ideation

I was inspired by Steven's childlike curiosity.

I thought, what would we miss if we didn't explore, pause to think, question things, and lost our inner childlike curiosity?

More importantly, could Steven Universe reinforce this type of thinking beyond those who read or watch the cartoon?

The Solution:

Steven Surprise,

a life-size replica of Steven Universe that rewards people when they upload a picture to Instagram with #StevenSurprise. 


How It works

Made with love.

Over the span of three days, Steven Surprise was built and worked as the initial blueprints shown. 

1. To work, Steven Surprise needs a person to upload an image to Instagram with the hashtag displayed on his stand. 

2. The hashtag is linked to a custom trigger created with IFTTT that states if an image is uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #StevenSurprise then it will send a signal to a littleBits Cloudbit. In layman's terms, a Cloudbit is like a remote control connected to the internet. In this case, the Cloudbit acts as an on/off switch.


3.​ ​​​​​​Before the hashtag triggers the Cloudbit, the capsules are loaded into modified plastic bowl with cardboard and ducktape slide with a hole cut-out at the bottom. 

4. A prize capsule is delivered down a final chute after the Cloudbit turns on and delivers power to an Arduino microcontroller set to control a Servo from resting state to 60 degrees and then reset.

Sketches to Prototype

After 24 hours the prototype, #StevenSurprise, was completed and with fortunately very few glitches. 

#StevenSurprise tested for National Free Comic Book Day


Life-size Steven Universes are placed outside popular comic book stores across the United States.


At the bottom of Steven is an Instagram logo and #StevenSurprise.

If a person decides to take a picture of him and use the hashtag then...



A surprise will pop out of his gem belly button.

The surprise is a cat finger puppet with a mini booklet letting the person know that there is another gift for them inside the comic book shop.



Limited edition Steven Universe Free Comic Book Day comics will be dispersed inside the comic book shop.

Although the limited time for execution made for a less than perfect execution, #StevenSurprise did work.

There was a need for more testing to determine the effectiveness of the concept.

However, when the prototype was displayed outside of a comic book store and elsewhere, a lot of people stopped to look or yelled, "Steven!"


1. View of #StevenSurprise's Working Guts

2. Making of #StevenSurprise

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