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Handling & Interacting with digital photos




(Thesis Project)



Umeå Institute

of Design


How many pictures do you have in your phone? When was the last time you actually looked at them?

tools & methods







The smartphone has changed the act of photography by enabling users to whenever and wherever take a photo. Most people are nowadays walking around with thousands of pictures in their phone - pictures that they almost never look at. Photos are keys to our memories, our identity, which is why they are important. Nevertheless, the amount has made it an overwhelming task so sort them and photos are getting lost in the mass.


Most photos today simply get stored away on cloud servers, which is limitless. There they both become forgotten but can also potentially cause unnecessary CO2 emission, since it takes a lot of electricity to run the datacenters where they are stored. How could we through a new way of handling and interacting with our digital photos increase their emotional value in a way that at the same time makes us aware of our digital consumption?

watch a 3-minutes pitch




points of interest

1. The act of taking a photo has changed - we can now take a picture anywhere at any time, which has changed the way we value the photos we collect.

2. Most people have thousands of photos in their phone, cloud services, computers and/or hard drives. The large number makes us less likely to visit or organize them.

3. With our digitized society, the digital footprint we are leaving behind increases - have we reached a point where we have to start taking responsibility for the “digital waste” we leave behind?

1. The number of photos we collect will only increase. How will we be able to look back and navigate among our photos in the future? For example, when we want to share them with future generations?

How could we, through a new way of handling and interacting with our digital photos, increase their emotional value in a way that also makes us aware of our digital consumption?



To start the ideation phase, I organized a workshop. Those who participated were students from the Umeå School of Design, four on site and two via video link.


quick numbers about photos

Statistics based on a survey I did at the beginning of this project

interviews x6

To get more insight into how people value their photos, as well as how they interact with them I conducted 6 in-depth interviews. Three of them were with people specializing in fields of interest. One psychologist who specializes in cognition, one tech specialist focusing on how our digital lives affect the environment, and one person owning a photo-book service. Furthermore, 3 interviews with potential users, who use their phone camera daily for different purposes, were conducted.

You take 20 photos of the same "moment" with the idea that you will only keep the best - but in the end, you have 20 pictures from each occasion and you just scroll past them without really looking.

- Quote from interview

I've talked to many who say they have 6000 pictures on their hard drive that they can't sort. It's the same anxiety as having 6 shoeboxes with unsorted photos in the attic. We have now moved that problem away from us by storing all the photos in the "cloud". All of a sudden it's not "me" who has the shoe boxes in the attic but Google.” 

- Elin, tech specialist

semi-remote workshop & ideation

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key insights

Today we take photos for many different reasons, some taken to keep as memories and some only valuable in the moment!


long time use

short time use


concept development


carboard mockups of alternative phone cameras

A big part of the project was about redesigning the phone's existing camera. Therefore, it was specifically interesting to look at the interaction when a photo is taken. Four mock-ups of phones were created with different types of camera options. 


visualising the concept

Simple      Reliable     Available      Personal

creating the identity




Pixels enhance the emotional value in digital photos by allowing the user to interact with, prioritize, and categorize them right from the start. 

This way, the user can shape a valuable product from his/her digital photos!

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step 1: onboarding & set up of preferences

When Pixels is launched for the first time, the user gets a chance to gain more insight into why it is important to manage one's images. Information about how photo management can affect the environment, our memories, and our well-being are presented to the user.

Intro pic.jpg

PIXELS & Organization


PIXELS & Sustainability

PIXELS & Memories

After the tour, the user gets the chance to set up and personalize the app. This by creating personal tags, allowing what data they want the service to have access to, as well as the ability to connect Pixels to Spotify (enabling the app to connect pictures to most listened to music at that time). 

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Choose what info to share

Customize Memory Sections

Customize your first Tags

Add your Tags to the Camera

step 2: the Camera

At the moment the photo is taken, the user has the opportunity to add a tag. The first preset one is "Auto tag", which lets A.I tag the photo with, for example, location and objects in the image. The second is "Short Time Use", for pictures taken with a more practical purpose only valuable for a shorter period of time. These can later be set to be automatically deleted. The user can also add his/her own tags to the camera's "shortcuts". In this way, the user can quickly categorize his/her photos without any extra effort later.


step 3: find your photos

The photos, the different  Memory Sections can be filtered depending on how they are tagged.


step 4: create Memory Sections

A photo collection that has been curated, by adding for example text or music creates a “Memory Section”. By spending time with the photos that really matter their emotional value increases!

step 5: handle your photos through Tasks!

The Helper is a feature that, with the help of A.I., makes it easier for the user to manage his/her photos. The Helper creates different tasks where the user has to sort and make a selection among their images in different ways. By performing the various tasks, the user can see their progress through a level system. The user can also get an overview of their overall progress. Both the history of completed tasks but also information on how the tasks performed have contributed to a more sustainable digital lifestyle.

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Get Motivated

The Helper & Gamification

Do tasks

Get Reminded


Before using PIXELS: Anna is a mother of two /  She uses her mobile camera daily, sometimes to capture a special moment, for example when her kids are having breakfast. / However she also uses her mobile camera to take screenshots of the bus table to remember when the bus for work leaves. / And to preserve notes from a meeting at work. / Anna often feels guilty towards both herself and her children about not sorting and put the photos that she takes in albums. But the amount of unsorted and mix of photos makes it a task that would take far too much time.

When using PIXELS: Anna can now choose already when the photo is taken if it is something she might want to save for a longer time, as a memory. / If it is a picture she wants to be deleted when it is no longer needed, such as a photo of a shopping list, she uses the Short Time Use tag. This helps her to later find the images that actually matter. / She also gets support from "The Helper" who sends her a notification while she is on the bus, suggesting that she add some text and music to some pictures - creating a Memory Section. / After this she can share this curated memory with her children. / But also send it to relatives living far away.


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