How I gamified Instagram

Gamifying Instagram

We’ve all resisted the urge to tap everything we see on Instagram. From cats following a laser pen, irresistibly cute labradors covered in snow to those images we know we shouldn’t be tapping, the app is compulsive to say the least. Instagram has fast become one of the biggest social sharing platforms around, and the crux of its success is its supreme simplicity of use and functionality. Unlike it’s wordy sister site Twitter (one that’s just added a raft of functionality, ostensibly to bolster its future and make the shareholders happy), Instagram has been able to hold onto its central conceptual theme; to capture and share the world’s moments. Something it does gloriously. 

With a staggering 400 million monthly active users all fighting for followers (myself included), I wanted to see if there was a way to break free from the day-to-day use of the platform and inject some interactive fun into things. I created something, a fun quirky game called ‘Tap the Gap’, to do this.

All the “game” involves is a simple image with a heart missing, which players then ‘tap’ to make it complete. This in its simplest form is ‘gamification’ — taking a piece of functionality and turning its intended use on its head, making the user feel more involved with a clearer sense of participation. Obviously Instagram doesn’t log how many taps you give an image after the initial like, but overall this didn’t concern me. I simply wanted to engage people through an action intended for something completely different. Similar to the ‘swipe up to fly’ effect seen on Twitter.

After bashing out a fair few ‘tap the gap’ images, I felt like the idea had run its course: people were liking them and even leaving ace comments of enthusiasm — WIN! So, next I decided to start looking at how I could expand on this and increase the longevity of the experiment.

I was working on a Super Mario piece recently for a book and it got me thinking about how platform games can be an ace source of inspiration. Take Outrun for example, the most amazing racing game ever (in my eyes at least) on the Sega GameGear. At its core is a background graphic that has a road weaving from left to right and a car (controlled by you) pinned to the bottom of the screen. Your goal is simple: press left or right to keep the car within the road as it weaves.

Keeping the Outrun approach in mind, I thought “why can’t Instagram be a platform game?” I mean, it has the method of interaction ‘Tap’ and the ability to house video. What’s more, it doesn’t use just any video though, it use a looping video! Perfect for gaming. All I needed to do was create a rolling scene which has the heart appearing periodically and pow! We’ve got ourselves a platform game.

To begin with I scribbled out some quick storyboard thumbnails of what the rolling scene could be. I decided on a few of my illustrations that would be pushing down the screen from top to bottom to give a sense of motion, each dropping at different speeds to add a sense of depth. The heart impact area itself had two instances, a normal version and then a bonus version. Why a bonus version you ask? Why frickin’ not?! Everyone loves an in-game bonus. Then, after a few illustrations and a bit of motion dabbling — the Instagame was born!

I was on a mission. I spent huge amount of my time in my younger years contemplating these kinds of experiments and, nine times out of ten, never seeing them come to life . Either through lack of reasoning for the project, not having a ‘real’ client or goal or just simply lacking the motivation, I let them slip. No more. I now treat these things like mini MVPs — a product that you need to get to market with the least amount of energy and effort, just to prove that it works. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a very visually-led being and will never let anything go out looking like a bag of spanners, but the lucky thing is: I’m an illustrator, designer, animator and director with a stupid amount of work available for me to play with. I had all the tools.

During the exploration of the ‘Instagame,’ I also had a brain-fart moment which led to me disrupting the platform’s sponsored posts. This resulted in a video which saw the sponsored text and social name dismantle itself and become part of the visual post. All I had to do was take a screengrab of the sponsored post and rehash it in AfterEffects. 

The amount of people who sent me messages asking me if advertising on the platform was worth it (100+ by the way. I never pay a penny for it) was huge. To me though, this was just a silly, quirky experiment. It was a direct response to the repulsive, intrusive sponsored posts from ‘some’ brands out there. There’s so many companies doing it completely wrong. All you need to do is get someone creative to whip you up some awesome content!!

So to cap it off, what have I learnt? If you have an idea, don’t wait. Find the time. Plan on the bog, strategise while making a brew (don’t get those mixed up), then jump straight in and unleash it on the world. If no-one likes it, who cares? At least it’s out of your mind and into the ether. Secondly, don’t pay for advertising on a platform which people use to consume imagery: it’ll look contrived and shit. True, there’s always the nice side-effect of more followers from these kinds of things, but don’t let that be your primary goal; you’ll end up looking like a tit and people won’t want to talk to you.

Find an interaction, any social platform, disrupt the hell out of it.



Massive fist-pump to the air on this one! The awesome guys over at FormFiftyFive have only gone and smashed together a new piece on my work. Huge kudos to the guys over there - in particular Jack Daly who's also a super talented illustrator. I had the pleasure of meeting the FFF guys whilst over at the OFFF Festival in Barcelona, if your looking to talk to some very creatively clued in chaps then get in touch with them! You can check out the article on my work here - Colour and Lines


Behance Digital Arts Feature

Starwars can be counted amongst the most legendary of sci-fi films to ever hit our screens and I for one can count it as being on my list of inspiration. With this in mind - I've whipped up some Colour and Lines based on some of the most epic scenes from the series, both from the past and the present.

The curatorial team over at Behance have chosen my project to be featured, this time in their Digital Arts arena. I'm really chuffed about this and loving the awesome comments from the public saying such ace things about my approach. 

Big thanks to the curatorial team at Behance!


Working with a streetwear brand - AnyForty

AnyForty - Art Is Our Weapon

This year I was asked by Alan Wardle, owner of streetwear brand AnyForty to join the family and craft some colour and lines for a t-shirt. Every so often AnyForty releases a new collection of clothing which is the culmination of existing and rising talent of the creative world, this collection was my chance to get people wearing my colour and lines! 

The curation of t-shirts was based on the theme AIOW 'Art Is Our Weapon' with each creative applying their style to the theme. Putting my chufffed'ness for being involved aside - I was accompanied by some awesome creatives including 45RPM, Travis Price, Ohnoes, Dale Bigeni and Ashley Willerton who also created the downright awesome main type treatment for the collection. 

Anyforty t-shirt 1

I started my approach by applying a bit of research into the area of art & war, this lead me down a few of routes. After eliminating a couple of routes I focused my attention on people who wear their art and how it ties back to the war - particularly to represent their unit. I've always had a fondness for Sailor Jerry's tattoos so I decided to give my own take on the style. 

The AIOW theme has been so successful that it has been bolstered with enamel pins and sticker sheets which will be available soon. I've had nothing but awesome feedback from the community and tons of people repping my design out in the world. The more you guys buy, the more we'll be able to keep on making cool stuff. 

Anyforty 2

I've been a huge fan of the AnyForty brand and am massively humbled to have been asked to join, so a big thank you goes out to Alan Wardle. Here's a nice little write up about the recent Art Is Our Weapon drop by VNA Magazine:

Anyforty Badge

You can view the entire project over on my Behance page.

Particular awesome photography by Rick Nunn.


T3 Magazine

T3 Magazine - Absolutely Phabulous

Having spent two years with a Samsung Galaxy S4 and only recently making my way back to Apple I found my recent commission tied in very well with the highs and lows I myself experienced.

I threw down some shapes for an article called Absolutely Phabulous and was based heavily on the cutting edge world of mobile phones. My concept explored the envious nature each device relishes between each other.

You can find the full project over on my behance page.

I originally created two colour variants and definitely think the right one was chosen, but here's a little look at the alternative below:

Alternative colourway

Alternative colourway

My favourite part of the illo's was a nice little nod to nostalgia including the trusty old Nokia 5110 - best phone I've ever had!


Colour and Lines Mixtape - Electric Lime


1hr 43min of music to work to:

As you've probably noticed I can smash through an enormous amount of illustrations in a short time, I part blame this on massively loving what I do paired with listening to music at a mentally loud volume through my Bose headphones. I hope the naming of my headphones doesn't make me sound like a snob - it's just I can't stand listening to poor quality music and if your like me and you really appreciate your tunes then I recommend investing in some quality hardware!

Having awesome hardware is only 60% of the journey and if your using a mac then you've come across the same problem as me - sh*t sound control. Bear with me as I'm gallopping to a point, I use Spotify as my main source of music and the only downside to the platform is that it doesn't come with an EQ. So, let's get technical - I use a workaround which some of you may be familiar with, it's a combination of using Soundflower and Au Lab. What these two do is apply a global form of sound control to everything that's coming out of your mac. There's a ton of features but I only require the EQ, pump that base and treble!

Oooof, just look at that control!

Oooof, just look at that control!

I won't get into the nitty gritty as there's tons of walkthrough's that can tell you better than me how to install the EQ - here's one of them by the guys over at

How To: Equalize Your Computer for iTunes, Spotify, Everything Else 

So there you have it, my first instalment of working tunes and a walkthrough on how to get your mac sounding like a dream.


Illustration agent

George Grace represents

Yo Yo Yo - Don't worry I'm not going to wax lyrical but more let you into some awesome news that's happened recently... I've been picked up by illustration agent George Grace.

That little paragraph break was me yelling in the air and throwing a massive fist bump to the sky - mega excited to see where this relationship is going to take my work... stay tuned for some awesome stuff coming soon!


We and The Colour


Proper nice guys, them people over at We and The Colour for selecting my work to be featured on their site. You can view the article here - Illustrative work from the series colour and lines by James Oconnell

In terms of inspiration sites - they are one of my favourites and have been for quite some time, they always have up to date content that's delicious to the eyes, not to mention their editorial is also spot on.




The awesome guys over at IdN world have featured my work - in particular my rendition of the Beatles - Abbey Road cover. Super simple lines, cutting right to the core of the subject matter - you can view the short, but sweet article here - Colour and Lines by James Oconnell

Music has always played a massive part in my life, whether it's crafting a piece of work or sitting in the sun listening to an audio book. I can see a hell of a lot more music pieces coming soon...

illustration, event


glug sweden

Sweden Bound! Well, not me - but my art - I was asked by GLUG to create a piece of work for the first Glug night in Sweden. Armed with my colour and lines I went forth and threw down some shapes - wavy lines and a heavy looking Swedish flag.

For those of you unfamiliar with Glug: 

Glug is a series of events for the design and creative community. Our showcase event is held in London but there are now 10 other events around the world.
glug sweden

One of the best things I've found through my career is that collaborating and working with people who share the same passion as you has the ability to push your enthusiasm through the roof.

Feature, illustration



Success is sometimes short-lived, in this case it's more of a tongue in cheek look at the subject. My good friend Jenny Theolin recently got in touch to see if I'd like to take part in her recent project The Fiasco Manifesto, a showcase of collaborators from all walks of life who work with Jenny on a project by project basis. 

I was given the following sentence to turn into whatever I wanted...


Being quote an open brief I decided to snap my arm and illustrate the shit out of it - because... who doesn't like tattoos? I'm particularly fond of the memory of my father saying I'll never get a job when I came home one day with my neck tattooed which ties in quite nicely with the subject matter.

On show is a total of 10 collaborators including:

Dan Bull
Dave Brown
Rob Clarke
Lizzie Mary Cullen
Oli Frape
Dominique Byron
Tash Wilcocks
Nick Chaffe
Give Up Art


Behance Character Served Feature

Behance Characters Served

Characters are the lifeblood of most computer games, in particular Ryu and Ken from Nintendo's Street Fighter. I was never really a Nintendo fan and mostly owned Sega's Mega Drive and Game Gear - it was only when I used to visit my cousins that we would all gather around the SNES and fight it out to be the SF champion. Underneath the gaming structure there's a solid narrative behind each character too - I believe this to be one of the main reasons why the game saw such success through the 90s and beyond.

The curatorial team over at Behance have again chosen one of my projects to be featured, this time in their Characters Served arena. I'm really chuffed about this and loving the awesome comments from the public saying such ace things about my approach. I've never been one to hang my own work on my walls but I'd definitely go for the entire SF collection I've done so far.

Big thanks to the curatorial team at Behance - you can view the project here - Colour and Lines Part Quatre


Behance feature

Behance feature

Ever since moving to Behance from DeviantArt so many years ago I've never looked back, I mean they both have their pros and cons but for me - the UI and offering of Behance stands it leaps and bounds above it's competitors. I've had the opportunity to be part of the ongoing testing of the platform too, seeing the change of back end go from strength to strength.

Recently my Colour and Lines was picked up and showcased by Behance on their homepage, recognition like this doesn't come every day as the team involved in the curation process has super high standards. I want to say a big thanks to the curation team for choosing my work which can be seen here - Colour and Lines Part Trois


Shortlist Magazine


Whilst crafting away on my colour and lines work I was pleasantly surprised to have a ton of traffic one day hitting my social media - after a little searching I found that Shortlist Magazine had showcased my work online - so nice of the fellows over there!

It's always nice to find people interested in my work - especially when the work is so much fun to craft. Big thanks to the editor ... for featuring me - you can read the article here - Captivating Colour and Lines