Now it’s time to take a look at a small but competitive business making a difference for the Korean economy.
As digital gadgets are widespread these days, analog products are diminishing. In this digital era that values speed and convenience, many analog goods, which are now considered rather slow and inconvenient, only remain in people’s memory. In an IT-based society, where artificial intelligence and Internet of Things are prevalent, a company has surprised the world by reviving an old film camera as a mobile application. The company in question is Screw Bar, an IT startup that developed an analog disposable camera app called Gudak. Let’s hear from company CEO Kang Sang-hoon.
The company was established as Screw Bar Inc. in October 2016. But initially, Screw Bar was a temporary project team. Actually, I’m an artist. If I quit my main job and concentrate only on a project, the project becomes a means of earning a livelihood. Then, I have to focus on sales and profits, rather than doing something fun, something I really wanted to do. I don’t want to run my team in that way. So, members of my team all have another job, separate from this work.
Screw Bar is a very unique company. Kang is an artist and head of a local art school for students preparing to study abroad. In 2013, he launched a project team “Screw Bar,” with the name containing the meaning of “breaking out of the previous frame and creating new value.” With the goal of participating in the “Red Dot Design “Award,” one of the top three design awards in the world, the team members got together once a week to share interesting ideas and make products. The four members all had full-time jobs, and they didn’t feel pressured to achieve commercial success in this team. They began to show interest in software, which could represent their innovative ideas. The result was “Gudak,” a unique and charming analog camera app.
When I was little, I would get a disposable film camera for a school picnic. I only took photos of friends I really liked because I couldn’t take many pictures. I couldn’t see the pictures right away, either. I had to wait for a few days until a photo studio developed and printed them. A mobile photo app has revived these old experiences, which may sound rather ironic in this digital age. With this app, you can take 24 photos for one film roll. After you finish the last shot of the film, you have to wait an hour to reload the film. That makes you cherish the film and carefully choose people or scenes you take photos of. After you take pictures, you have to wait 72 hours to see the result. Clearly, it is an inconvenient and unconventional app.
The company began to develop Gudak in 2016 and released the app in July last year to revive an old film camera that had disappeared due to its inconvenience. When the app is activated on a smartphone, a form that looks like the back of a disposable film camera appears on the screen. The viewfinder is just as small as an old camera. It sounds like the shutter clicks and you wind the film, just like using an old camera. As Kang explained, you have to wait for three days to see the photos. In fact, you can print the photos early if you change the setting. Still, he insists on three full days.
When I was a child, a photo studio told me to wait for three days to see what photos I took. I remember I couldn’t wait, feeling thrilled and wondering how the photos would turn out. I wanted to revive that experience. It is said that people start to forget things in three days, but when they are reminded around that time, they are saved as a long-term memory. This app truly brings us precious memories, not countless photos we can easily take and delete.
These days, people can take photos very easily and save them right away. Ironically, the inconvenience of the disposable film camera inspires people, especially the younger generation, to seek the lost aesthetics of “waiting,” “slowness” and “expectations.”
Gudak was downloaded from the Apple App Store more than one million times in five months since it was released. It ranked first in 38 countries in the category of videos and photos. Today, you can copy everything unlimitedly, and you can simply use the “undo” function when you make a mistake. That is, everything is controllable. But that also means you have to choose everything yourself. In this analog photo app, in contrast, you can’t control things—you can’t edit the photos and you can’t see them right away, either. I think this experience itself is quite new to the younger generation. In fact, users of this app are mostly those in their late teens and early ‘20s. Few of them have ever used film cameras before. For that very reason, they are all the more eager to embrace what they call a new experience, which we call memories.
You have to pay just over 1 U.S. dollar for this app, but its popularity is growing. After the success of Gudak, the company is sure of its corporate philosophy of “making valuable products, while enjoying working.” It plans to continue to develop interesting services.
Starting with this camera app, we’ll explore new, fun experiences as well as values we haven’t found before so we can create a new culture. For our next items, we’re eyeing a new social networking service and a broadcasting station featuring a whole new concept. We’re going to use the theme of human relationships and a psychological war between people for a new SNS.
The company changed the conventional way of thinking by embodying the “inconvenient happiness” of the film camera in a digital camera app. After finding fun in a thing of the past, the company will surely continue to develop more entertaining services in the future.