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May 27, 2015

Future Creatives: A mobile design revolution in wallpaper

Do you keep the wallpaper on your new Lumia when you get it out of the box, or do you replace it with an image of your own? David Harrigan and his team of students around the globe want to make that choice as difficult as possible.

The visual content team at Microsoft Devices Group is thrilled with the success of Future Creatives, its student design initiative to transform the design of preloaded wallpaper imagery on Microsoft devices such as Lumia smartphones.

We asked David Harrigan, head of visual content at Microsoft Devices Group, about the project, which began in 2012. We also asked four students who took part in the initiative about the images they created.

“We were determined to create the sort of outstanding imagery that could enable people to see the world differently–images to inspire them to make the most of the photographic power of a Lumia smartphone to capture their own lives,” he said.

“That meant finding a new way of coming up with imagery that was memorable, original and world-class.”

David’s mission involves transforming the way that the Microsoft visual content team creates its preloaded wallpapers and championing the emergence of a new generation of mobile photographers.

Over the past three years, the team has worked with 10 colleges and universities in the UK, U.S., Finland, China, and South Africa to organize a series of weeklong workshops for a total of more than 200 students.

Whether they took place in Bournemouth or Beijing, the workshops followed a similar rigorous format. Photography students are equipped with a 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 while design students are given themes carefully mapped out by Microsoft’s visual content team.

Shomwatala Shivute's image of beach huts.
Shomwatala Shivute’s image of beach huts.

As well as providing the opportunity to work on a real professional brief, the Future Creatives initiative provides students with other incentives.

“If their work is selected, there is a generous fee on offer as well as the opportunity to showcase the work to global audience of millions,” David said. “That can be a huge boost to a student’s CV.”

Yaseen Brown, a 21-year old design student at Stellenbosch University, created a delicate and intriguing image of hand-drawn spheres (that’s his photo at the top), which was purchased by Microsoft.

“A lot of students feel that their work won’t be chosen so they don’t put it out there, but now I think they’ll be encouraged to take the opportunity,” he said.

Denis Twerenbold's image of snow-covered trees.
Denis Twerenbold’s image of snow-covered trees.

Marthie Kaden, Yaseen’s supervisor and a senior design lecturer at Stellenbosch University, agreed.

“The invitation to participate created quite a stir among the visual communication design students,” she said. “Microsoft affirmed the changing role for illustrators and designers which the students eagerly embraced.”

The future will only bring further opportunities for more young photographers and designers to put themselves on the project’s growing global map. As such, the Visual Content team is now seeking new art schools and students from around the world to take part in the project.


“We’re really looking forward to showcasing the next set of outstanding imagery with the upcoming Windows 10 release,” David said.

Name: Shomwatala Shivute
Age: 22
Nationality: Namibian
School: University of Cape Town
Course: BA, Fine Art

About my image of beach huts

“The image is of beach huts at the Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town. I was so busy I had started to forget that I was living in a coastal town. The beach is a place I can go by myself, enjoy the sea and get fresh air and some peace and quiet.”

If you could photograph anywhere in the world for Microsoft, where would it be?

“The Skeleton Coast in northwestern Namibia, where the people are beautiful and the nature is, too. I feel there are a lot more photos for Microsoft waiting to be taken in Namibia.”

Denis_cropName: Denis Twerenbold
Age: 32
Nationality: Swiss
School: Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland/Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China (exchange program)
Course: BA Media and Arts, specializing in photography

About my image of snow-covered trees:

“I took the photo in Zugerberg, Switzerland, a small mountain near the town of Hünenberg, where I grew up. I hadn‘t been up there in winter for years but it is still full of vivid childhood memories.”

If you could photograph anywhere in the world for Microsoft, where would it be?

“South America – Chile in particular.”

_DARIAN SELFIEName: Darian Simon
Age: 21
Nationality: American
School: Art Institute of Colorado, Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Course: BA, Photography


About my image of mountains: “I took this image of the Rocky Mountains because I wanted to capture the natural beauty of Colorado that people living here often take for granted.”


If you could photograph anywhere in the world for Microsoft, where would it be?

“I would travel anywhere to make another image for Microsoft. My dream is to experience and document every part of our beautiful world.”

YASEEN-SELFIE_350Name: Yaseen Brown
Age: 21
Nationality South African
School: Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Course: BA, Visual Communication Design

About my image of spheres:

“The illustration is of spheres that were hand-drawn using a ruling pen and ink. I wanted to show geometric forms with an organic and more natural feel.”

If you could travel anywhere in the world to create new designs for Microsoft, where would it be?

“Japan or South Korea. East Asian countries have a rich cultural and aesthetic history in illustration and design that I would love to learn from and explore.”

Do you want to learn more about the beautiful wallpapers that come with your Lumia? Read our previous story, which gives a more in-depth conversation with David. And stay tuned for new wallpapers that will be coming to your Lumia as part of the Windows 10 upgrade later this year!

So tell us, readers, what image is on your lock screen?

Get Involved

Are you an interested college/university lecturer and want your students to take part in the next project? Please contact the Visual Content team via e-mail at [email protected] and we’ll keep you updated.