Nokia enlists students to create phone imagery

As part of its Future Creatives scheme, Nokia is working with students around the world to create wallpaper imagery for its phones

Above: by Akseli Valmunen of Lahti University of Applied Sciences

As part of its Future Creatives scheme, Nokia is working with students around the world to create wallpaper imagery for its phones

The pictures are pre-loaded onto a variety of Nokia devices as ‘lock-screen’ images. Students are paid €500 per image used while the college faculty receives a payment of €2500 to be spent ‘in pursuit of photographic excellence’.

The scheme, which started just over a year ago, is run by Nokia Design’s head of visual content David Harrigan and his London-based team. Previously, Harrigan explains, the lock-screen images on the company’s phones came from a variety of sources, licenced in a variety of ways, some of which could have been used by the brand’s competitors.


By Sanni Siira, Lahti


Commissioning original imagery from students, shot using its phones, Harrigan explains, enables the company to “build up a bespoke range of images that we have complete clarity over” (Nokia buys the rights to the ‘digital entity’ of each image to use on all its devices while students retain their copyright and are identified in the file name of each picture). The images are specifically shot to show off the phones’ technical abilities and can also be tailored to local demands. So, for example, if a service provider in China would prefer local imagery to be installed on its phones, Harrigan will be able to provide that or, if such imagery doesn’t exist as yet, will commission it via the network of university partners his team is building up.


By Sarah Jun, SVA


Nokia piloted the idea with students from Arts University Bournemouth and LCC but has now run the scheme with Lahti University of Applied Sciences in Finland, SVA in New York, China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and, most recently, Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town.

Nokia works with 20 students in each location. “All participate in a week long intensive content creation process. Each student is loaned a Nokia Lumia 1020 for the duration of the project,” Harrigan explains. “We provide a creative brief that we share in an initial three hour workshop at the beginning of the project. Each student then has one week to shoot images for us as defined by our brief and references. During the week we have a series of workshops at the University to work ‘one on one’ with the students, giving them advice on the direction of the imagery that they have captured and the direction that they are heading. My team is also on hand to advise on the features of the device and answer any technical queries.


By Leng Wen, China Central Academy of Fine Arts

“At the end of the week there is a final large sharing workshop, where we again meet with the students, review their images and then wind up the project. Once the images have been edited back here in the London design studio and all stakeholders have been consulted we then decide upon which images will be selected for use within our Nokia devices.

For each of the images we accept we pay a standard fee of €500 per image with no limit on how many images may be chosen from each individual student. The university receives a donation towards the faculty of €2500 to use as they wish.”

By Denis Twerenbold, China Central Academy of Fine Arts


Harrigan is about to run what he calls Chapter Two of the project. In May, three students – one student each from New York, Beijing and Lahti – will come to London for a briefing before flying off to either Iceland, the Western Isles or Barcelona on assignment, armed with the latest Nokia phone. Nokia will be looking to buy €10,000 worth of images in total from the three of them.

Next, the project will extend beyond photography to textile design and animation. The Nokia team is working with students at the RCA to create physical textile designs which will be used as textural backgrounds on the phones. The animation students may either work in partnership with textile students to create moving image pieces together or create something on their own. Again, both students and faculties will be paid for their contributions.

More on Future Creatives here


Zhang Chao, China Central Academy of Fine Arts



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