“A Social Hunt with No Signal” that builds community (a walkthrough)

What if there is no cell signal… could a hunt still use QR codes and phones? Below we show one model with the goal of connecting community members, and bringing people together to imagine their shared future. 

The design includes four “activity stations” with yard signs to draw attention. The activities can be done by individuals or groups – including writing postcards to the future, taking group selfies, and meeting someone new. The climax is at a special event (a dance in this case) with a prize box that requires solving a puzzle, and yields custom temporary tattoos tied to the event. 

Our demo was tested at a wedding with a group campsite. Yet the approach could easily be applied to a library lawn and imagining the future of the community. Here’s how it looked…

First, participants discovered the yard signs at group locations, such as a lawn near the group campsite and an event table:

Each station had an in-person activity. Station #1, for example, included the art supplies to make a “postcard to the future” on a tree stump:

When finished, participants take out their cellphone to scan the QR code to “save a puzzle piece” to their phone (no service necessary!). Each appears as a contact card that is for a numbered clue:

(In essence, this is a contact with a first name of “Clue #1”, as provided by the QR code. There are many free websites for creating QR codes; if you want to do one like this, just make sure the output is a “vcard” e.g., vcard with QR Code Monkey.)

How to get the final prize is explained very briefly on each sign. It is also detailed on the invitation flier that we handed out (a half page on cardstock), as excerpted here:

At the dance event, the puzzle box was on display. To obtain the combination code, the front of the box had instructions on the top:

…our simple puzzle began with a word (“LOVE”), with the combination number for each letter found in the matching clue (i.e., look for ‘L’ in clue #1, then the ‘O’ in clue #2; the L word in clue #1 was “Larry8” so the first combination lock number is an 8). Bamboo boxes like this one are available for around $20 on Amazon.

The clues then travel on your cell phone, and can be shared with friends by sending along the contact. Players can also organize and find the clues on their own device by searching their contacts for the word ‘clue’:

Prizes included custom tattoos on the event theme, which added to the event and helped spread the word. The approach was deliberately collaborative, so the prizes and clues were all designed to be freely shared to benefit all. Here is one tattoo mid-application:

(If you want to print your own custom temporary tattoos, you can do so with ordinary inkjet and laser printers if you get the special paper, or you can order them from online vendors. The inkjet ones were much cheaper (around $20 for 10 full-sized pages), but did feel more like plastic stickers than modern temporary tattoos.)

The yard signs are portable, and can be set up as a set for group events. We playtested the full experience beforehand on a single lawn, but found that keeping the stations 20+ feet apart gave a better sense of progression and pacing.

Instructions cards for the event were printed out on half-sheet cardstock. The back included conversation starter questions that revealed some little details about the community’s origin even as it invited guests to start conversations about how each of them discovered and relate to the group.

Some observations and design tips:

  • Several of the graphics were generated by AI, such as the treasure map image which came from DALL-E
  • was used for making the yard signs and print materials; it helps to get the dimensions right from your printing service before doing much design.
  • Weather-proof yardsigns can be expensive (> $100 for these), but cheaper versions are possible on simple cardstock that is laminated or simply taken down between events.