Designing the Future of Digital Memory Sharing
By Allie Rocovich
Content Strategist, Scout
Blurr is a photo-sharing mobile application that connects users who are in the same place at the same time by providing instant shared access to photos taken by them and by others around them. Blurr was founded by current Northeastern University students Dan Arvidsson, Dan Korman, and Sam Marley in Spring 2015. They had just thrown a party for a college friend about to leave for a study abroad program when they realized that they didn’t have any pictures from the night before. Rather than text their friends, they started thinking of a better way to preserve and enrich such memories.
Fast forward twelve months: Blurr has received Gap Funding from IDEA, Northeastern University’s Student-Led Venture Accelerator, and has partnered with Scout and Northout Inc, a Boston-based software company, to design and develop the app itself. Now, Blurr is available for download in the App Store, and its three founder-entrepreneurs have launched a grassroots marketing campaign that is generating buzz everywhere — from Boston, where they’ve hired campus ambassadors, to Austin, where they’ve pitched in the nal round of Student Startup Madness (SSM), a national tournament sponsored by South by Southwest Interactive.
The Design Challenge
Following several introductory conversations with “D2S” from Blurr, Amanda Pinsker and her team agreed to a statement of work that included branding, logo design, user experience design, user interface design, and web design. The challenge was steep: no Scout team had ever designed a mobile application, and Blurr had only as much as sketches on paper napkins to illustrate their product concept. In turn, the design team had to think critically about every aspect of Blurr, from its product concept and its target user to its design and user experience, in order to create a cohesive and effective application.
Logo and the Brand Promise
TIn September 2015, the project kicked o when Amanda led her team through a whiteboard session to nail down Blurr’s brand keywords. During this session, the team envisioned Polaroid photographs oating in space and used this abstraction to identify keywords that describe how photos are collected now and how Blurr would improve that experience in the future. Collectively, they decided that “nostalgia,” “discovery,” and “aggregate” are the three most important keywords in understanding Blurr’s purpose and function, and they defined each keyword as follows:
1. Blurr helps nostalgic people preserve memories
2. Blurr helps them discover their friends’ memories
3. Blurr provides a place to aggregate the memories.
Next, the team considered how they could communicate these three messages through a logo. Recalling their first whiteboard session, the team drew inspiration from floating Polaroids, and they ultimately created a logo whose primary element represents a dynamic photostream that alludes to the ability of the user to view photos taken by others at the same event. It suggests, in other words, that users can remember an event from multiple perspectives, which targets nostalgia by allowing users to develop an even richer memory through the eyes of others who were around them.
Mobile App Design
After developing the logo, the design team moved on to wireframing the mobile application. During this process the team quickly realized there was no central place a user could view all the pictures that had been taken. To solve this the design team built an archive component. “We could have just added it to the camera screen, but we decided on something more elegant,” said Amanda. The team built a homepage, where users were prompted to “Start Blurr” when they opened the app. This button would take them to the camera. While maintaining an immediate call-to-action, the new homepage also gives users the ability to see their own Blurrs, as well as those being posted by people in the area, without having to post original content. This enables the users to create, discover, and aggregate memories all from the home screen.
Designing for the Business Context
When the designers presented their first wireframes to Blurr, the Blurr co- founders quickly expressed concern that the homepage didn’t prompt users to take pictures immediately. Blurr was concerned that there would be too few photos in the app to entertain the early-adopters, hence preventing the app from taking off.
Amanda and her team, however, felt that there was a portion of users, those interested in viewing photos rather than contributing, being neglected by this approach. By building a homepage, users are invited to interact with the app and discover memories without being alienated if they didn’t want to contribute content. Through simultaneously wireframing and prototyping, the design team dove more deeply into the user journey, improved the user experience, and collaborated with the Blurr team to assess and understand their market segments more clearly.
The designers then shifted focus to lowering the barriers to attract as many early adopters as possible. The team decided to remove the page that prompted the user to choose an event after snapping a photo, worrying that it would limit the number of photos in each event. They rebuilt their design so that photos would be collected based solely on the geographic location of the user, which proved to be a more inclusive way of organizing content. With this design, users can see what’s going on at an array of events in their area, rather than just the one event they are attending in that moment.
The designers referenced other photo-sharing social platforms and commonly used photography apps, like Snapchat, Instagram and the iOS Camera, to design an interface users would nd themselves familiar with. “We wanted the users to make a habit of using Blurr to take photos, not the iOS camera,” said Amanda. In order to achieve this goal, the team decided to limit photo uploads from users' camera roll, however, photos taken through Blurr can be saved to their camera roll. By doing this, Blurr becomes an integral part of not only sharing memories, but creating them in the first place.
As a final measure, Amanda and her team designed the company’s single static website, which gives debut information about the app and o ers a redirect to download it from the app store. The website is primarily information, similar to Uber’s website.
Blurr quickly realized the impact of Amanda, Jared, and Kevin’s work. Within just four months, or one academic semester, of the project’s completion, Blurr received a steep discount in development fees from Northout Inc, a Boston-based software company, because of the quality of the high fidelity wireframes provided by Scout.
Additionally, IDEA’s Gap Fund awarded Blurr a non-equity educational grant of $10,000 because they could both speak to the merit of their app’s design and actually allow IDEA’s Investment Committee to see it and “feel” it for themselves. Furthermore, Blurr competed in a nationwide tournament for digital media startups founded by collegiate entrepreneurs, reaching the final round of Student Startup Madness at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.
In summary, Scout propelled Blurr towards its next major milestone by creating a brand and designing functional elements of their business model that earned the team development discounts, competitive funding, and powerful publicity.
It’s really satisfying seeing a project all the way through to the end, and to totally own and be in charge. It’s scary, but good. I learned about trusting my own decisions and thoughts.”
Amanda Pinsker — Project Lead
Meanwhile, Amanda, Jared, and Kevin each had a unique opportunity to exercise their leadership skills and re ne their technical design skills. For her part, Amanda discovered that she enjoys leading a team of peer designers and that there is tremendous value in iterative prototyping. When asked about her experience, she said, “It’s really satisfying seeing a project all the way through to the end, and to totally own and be in charge. It’s scary, but good. I learned about trusting my own decisions and thoughts.” Immediately after the project ended, Amanda started her final co-op as a Design Apprentice at Upstatement. Now, she is about to become Scout’s next Design Director. For his part, Jared graduated at about the same time D2S competed in Student Startup Madness, and he is currently working at Ronik Design and Development in New York City. Kevin, the youngest member of the team, will soon enter his third year at Northeastern and has continued to be a valuable member of Scout Studio, most recently as a member of a team supporting IDEA itself.