Questioning the tide of today's digital camera market.
Modern digital cameras: What have digital cameras become as of today? Why are they the way they are? How should they be? These are all the questions this project started with. As much of a realistic project this is, it’s also an experiment. I question why digital cameras have been swept away by the tide of smartphone cameras. Looking to find meaning and purpose in consumer electronics, I question what the digital camera market has become.
The project focuses on the importance of providing a pleasing experience for the consumers, and perhaps more meaningful experiences. Perhaps this provides an insight to what the digital camera market should strive for, but most of all, it is a statement for large consumer electronics manufacturers to take a look at themselves.
Current market situation.
In the midst of rising qualities of smartphone’s functions and features, especially the camera, the existing camera market has seen a dramatic change. A lot of consumers no longer feel the need to own a separate digital camera. Even professional photographers recognize and constantly take advantage of smartphone photography. What this means is that even though the professional photography market still remains almost the same, the mid-level and entry-level cameras are losing their focus.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Due to ubiquity of smartphones, many camera companies have resorted to something in the middle between a camera and a phone. These products try to blur the line between a smartphone and a camera, but in fact, they are satisfying neither of the needs. This behavior sounds reasonable, but have been executed poorly. If a consumer is into photography, he buys a specific camera because it has a purpose. In terms of camera phones, it’s an indecisive answer from desperate calls for help in the digital camera market.
On the bright side, there are many brands that are trying to differentiate themselves and offer unique benefits from what smartphone camera experiences can’t provide. These benefits can include distinct ergonomics, special features, and perhaps most important, emotional values. These products still believe in the joy of using an actual camera. Perhaps there is still hope in the digital camera market.
The elephant in the room.
Now there is very little difference in quality in between smartphone cameras and entry-level cameras. Dedicated cameras are heavy and cost more money. A smartphone camera is accessible, easy to use, and the quality is increasing incredibly quickly. Casual consumers no longer have the need to actually buy a camera. This is the main reason why camera brands are trying to persuade the smartphone users. However, these entry-level cameras are only poorly imitating the features and usability of smartphones. They are not integrating the experience in a smart way.
Enhanced photography experience.
In order to provide a camera that can be unique, yet blend in with modern consumer lifestyles, a new direction had to be taken. The project’s direction centered around on changing the focus of the entry-level camera market.
Ask any professional photographer, and they will say: “If you want to learn photography, start with a film camera.” Film has obviously died from the mainstream consumer market. However, there are many reasons why people still use them. On the other hand, the majority of consumers do not want to invest in such a difficult process of film photography, so they resort to purchasing entry-level digital cameras.
Looking at today’s camera market trends revealed that people are nostalgic. They long for the genuine experiences of the older days. It only made sense that the project’s direction try to somehow allow consumers to have access to these experiences in a modern context. The project’s main concept is inspired by how film photography gives a very raw experience. By taking advantage of how computers have become so ubiquitously accessible today, the purpose of the camera can be more focused on the actual photography experience.
Setting a powerful look, for a bold project.
With all the concept direction details having been decided, having the right visual impression is quite important. For such a bold project with strong characteristics, arguably the face of the project, the logo was developed simultaneously with all design developments.
The name FRAME is inspired by the act of choosing the moment to capture with a camera. Because the project's concept focuses so much on the experience of photography, the name FRAME represents that idea. Frame your beautiful memories with FRAME.
In terms of typographic developments, the look compliments the core idea of the project: offering a bold statement that looks directly towards the future. It is powerfully minimal, yet elegantly charismatic. Thick typefaces are characterised by subtle personalities.
All fonts used for the development of FRAME App, software application, are consistent with the project's concept direction. Minimal yet highly visible typefaces were chosen in order to help users focus on the software's contents.
Developing a completely unique camera.
It all started with the thought of a display-less digital camera. This itself was a very bold thought. The challenge was finding a way to retain a similar experience by finding inspiration from film photography.
Also, the fact that it had to be an entry-level digital camera meant that it had quite a few limitations. All the functions had to be easily understandable yet very efficient to use. Therefore, all the buttons and dials had to have a very specific purpose that were easy to learn and remember.
Initially, the layout for the physical features of the camera were developed as well as the features for the software application. Basically, this was the stage of developing the skeleton structure for the project’s concept.
The project looked to develop an intimate experience, unique to photography. Physical objects soon become very personal after long use. Whenever we hold a personal object, we are reminded of the memories that we've spent it with. The goal was to somehow give the familiar nostalgic feeling in its physical features through its shape and materials.
After having been obsessed about accessing loads of new contents and informations, we still want our lives to be simple. Not simple as in dumb, but simple as in elegantly effortless. This philosophy applied to the project's design can result in a very puristic experience. No distractions or confusions. Direct, yet elegant.
Minimal, minimal, minimal. Every new products these days try to be so minimal that they end up obscuring their core functions of a product. It's not about removing as many buttons as possible, but adding the truly essential buttons. It looks like the age of endless number of buttons is passing. But how should we take it to the next level? How do we make it, hyper-minimal?
The look and feel of a unique camera.
A special camera deserves a special design. Various form factors were considered before finalising on its details and features. For example, even though a separate accessory system was considered, an all-in-one system turned out to be the right solution for an entry-level camera. A modular accessory system will only complicate the manufacturing process along with having to develop various small products that will cost more for the manufacturers and consumers.
The physical world and digital world are starting to blend together. What makes something digital feel real? If something can feel tangible, like a real object, we feel more in control and better aware. It can characterise something digital as natural. This is why all digital elements should be tangible.
Especially for a photography-centered software application, its contents are the core focus of the experience. Everything else should be clear out of the view, yet still very accessible. Low-profile, yet highly visible. After all, it's about looking at photographs, and not useless beautiful buttons.
Get rid of complex hidden setting menus and customisations. In such a content-focused software application, no one wants to waste time digging around menus. Every element should have consistency and be easy to recognise and remember.
Confident, yet reserved.
The contrast of a bold look with reserved functionalities best describe the experience of the FRAME App. Sharing similar characteristics with the FRAME A1 camera, the software application continues the visual experience from physical to digital. All philosophies applied to the physical camera has been applied to the smartphone application. This holistic approach to the whole project design direction makes the concept a very unique product.
Continuity of visual experience.
Every visual elements for the FRAME App has been developed in a specific grid. All icon designs share the same proportions, yet are uniquely distinguishable. The location of main control buttons are always located in the same place. The distinct movements of horizontal and vertical movements mean different things. All contents move vertically, while accessing different levels of folders to menus appear horizontally. This distinction makes the whole experience much clearer and direct.