Canon Idea Mine: Inspiring photographers everywhere

Squealing dream? Mischievous crayons? Wet snacks? Close your eyes. Visualize. Now take a real-life photo of what you see. That’s the idea behind these fun and funky phrases—just a few of the billions of ideas that can be generated by the Canon Idea Mine app, the result of an open-ended assignment from Canon’s Digital Learning Center. Our only instruction? Inspire photographers. With the final product, we are banishing creative ruts and building Canon brand loyalty with helpful tools, not ads.

About the App

Canon Idea Mine is an iPhone app that solves for inspiring photographers and planning for their shoots, by providing a portable template for describing photo ideas in mini typographic posters, supporting concept through execution. A time, a place, a feeling, techniques—you can record the esoteric and tactical ingredients of your photos in the app. And if you don't know what feeling you want, or where to shoot? Randomize. That's where our nuggets of text come in, to provide some (often strange) inspiration when you're really stuck. Then, you can link your final photo with your completed idea and share away on Flickr and Facebook. 

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Talk First, Build Later

Many of us are hobbyists (if not full-fledged photographers), but to get the whole scoop we gathered an amazing group of professionals who inspire us—and asked what inspires them. We wanted to bring the best practices of the pros to the masses, something Canon already does so well. And we also wanted to hear from semi-pros for their early-career ideas. We learned two crucial things: photographers need a way to store their ideas on the go (hello, iPhone!), and they need help overcoming blank page syndrome. 

Ideation through development

Because our assignment was so open-ended, we were able to have a hand in every stage. First, we investigated whether it should even be an app at all, instead of a workshop or a website or something else entirely. (We decided it should be). Then, once our concept was solid, we went through the painstaking wireframing and UX process, making sure the interaction design was seamless, simple, and intuitive. And then, of course, visual design. For development, we brought on The Nerdery, an interactive development shop located in Minneapolis, who are savvy back-end partners and as nerd-chic as they sound. 

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Uniquely Canon

One thing we wanted to make sure of is that this app reflects the essence of Canon. Since their core mission is to support photographers and provide them with useful tools, the purpose of the app was on point to support their educational efforts and link back to the Canon website. We wanted the function of the app to be the draw, and for it to avoid the trap of being thinly disguised advertising. At its core, it’s a must-have secret weapon for any shutterbug.

But beyond that, the graphics needed to speak to the Canon aesthetic. So we took inspiration from their cameras—a bold black and red color scheme, techie typeface, and hatching pattern that evokes their iconic lenses. The result? A free iPhone app by and for photographers, made possible by Canon. 


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Carbone Smolan Agency combines content, technology, and art to create brand strategy and design systems for the physical and digital worlds

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