Strategy, Interface Design


April 2012

When Toronto-based Syrp Inc came up with the goal to make their latest app, Cloud Photos, replace the native Photos app on iOS devices to become the go-to place for photo management, we knew it was an ambitious target. However, in December 2011, starting with an initial set of integrations with Dropbox, Syrp and Jet Cooper got together to do just that.

The Narrative

Much of our initial time in the project centred around understanding the problem that Cloud Photos wanted to solve first and foremost. Cloud Photos was conceptualized to have 3 core features: photo management, a camera, and cloud-based storage. These would blend to become the 3 pillars behind the app’s experience, but which one would truly be the leading narrative?

Through much research and discussion, we decided that Cloud Photos was to be about photo management, which was inclusive of organizing photos across local and Dropbox albums, and then sharing them with friends. This was a critical definition and later impacted the approach to keeping photo actions readily accessible from anywhere in the app while the camera and cloud storage features remained crucial, but secondary in the experience.


Early low fidelity wireframes were crafted against our newly defined vision for the app. Our greatest UI challenge was to squeeze a full set of actions – copy, move, share, select – into the interface in a usable manner without cluttering it.

Setting context for the actions was equally important. Our original concept gave users access to actions for a particular album by tapping into the album. However, in our user testing sessions, we quickly learned that many users were unable to find these actions and often looked for them at the root list of albums rather than inside any particular one. These tests provided many insights and we were quick to respond with new solutions.

Art Direction

By the time we came around to exploring the art direction for Cloud Photos, we had come to understand the important role that the visual system would play in helping a user understand where they were and what they were expected to do on any given screen. One aspect of this was to ensure the user understood the difference between their local albums and their Dropbox albums, especially since much of their activities involved moving photos back and forth.

The Interface

Working closely with the client, we refined one of the art directions that we both liked and began crafting the app’s interfaces. This was where all of our work and thinking around architecture, interfaces and interactions (and a handful of gestures) really started to come to fruition.

Icon Design

A notable component of this project involved the design of a beautiful app icon that would help Cloud Photos shine on the shelves of the App Store. Again, much of our early exploration of Cloud Photo’s narrative came into play, however we also had to be conscious of choosing an identity that could allow the app to be easily recognized as a photo application. This also inevitably decided which apps we wanted to compete with and in what context we wanted Cloud Photos to be thought of.


Every great app needs a home so we set out shortly after the completion of the app to create the Cloud Photos landing page. We wanted the app to be centre stage and to bring users as close to the Cloud Photos experience as possible short of downloading the app from the App Store. We also threw in an Easter egg interaction to further support the concept of cloud-based photo management.

The Outcome

Simple in concept, ambitious in vision and pixel-perfect in execution, Cloud Photos hit the App Store with great success. With an initial launch under its belt, Syrp now plans to continue its path to photo-world-domination by integrating more cloud-based services into Cloud Photos to allow users to further consolidate their photo management activities into a single app.

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