A fun checkin from the AIGA Membership Party/(Re)Design Awards

Over the last few weeks we’ve put some time into updating GIFBooth, our permanent office installation and welcome experience. The initial transformation from static photo booth to animated GIFBooth was instigated by our now-apparently-annual partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival — building on SIFFGIF’s success, we expanded the concept into a complete product, adding the ability to convert the original custom build into a repeatable, branded experience for future events.

The catalyst to invest in this new iteration was the opportunity to test it out with our longtime partner AIGA Seattle and their recent Membership Party & (Re)design Awards Extravaganza. With another accelerated timeline, we managed to evolve the GIFBooth experience and take it on the road, with a number of new features under the hood.

What We Did

Since we built the GIFBooth, one of our outstanding goals has been to recreate the “theme-ability” and co-branded UI that existed in our original photo booth. Although those original images were static, the ability to skin both the booth experience and the resulting photos came in handy for branding some of the larger events where the booth was used. The resulting images made for a good digital keepsake for guests and great social media drivers for our partners.

For SIFFGIF, we hardcoded the booth and gallery experience to align with SIFF’s festival branding. While great for that partnership, hardcoding for every event is hardly sustainable. We needed to simplify and modularize the booth and gallery design, and then create a mechanism to override page settings, allowing for easy theme-ability. In the latest round of work we created this functionality, which required modifying the innards of the entire application (three separate apps actually) to store and consume this new theme data.

Admin Service

The static photo booth was an unwieldy app that had expanded over time to accommodate an entire events and invite system on top of the basic photo-taking functionality. With SIFFGIF we wisely separated concerns, so the GIFBooth has three parts: an admin service (written in Rails), the gallery system (made with React), and the booth (also Rails w/Spine).

The admin service portion of this app trio is responsible for creating, storing, and serving check-in & event data. It contains the event-tracking database, extended in this round of work to store and share even more information about every event.

For each event, we now have the option to choose a series of colors, upload a logo & cover imagery, and add other pieces of content such as event title or specific hashtag. Admins don’t have to utilize all of these features, but if they do, the public interface(s) will reflect the new values rather than the default.

Check-in images were already loosely organized into collections, but hadn’t been gathered and displayed to the user. The new gallery experience organizes and display GIFs, pulling in settings from the service, and allows customized URLs and hashtags to reinforce an event’s PR and social media traffic.

Party Mode

The GIFBooth Setup for AIGA

One of the less frequently used features from our original photo booth was party mode, which allowed users to project an event’s images in real-time, cycling through them in full-screen display. Displayed on a wall, party mode provides a great moment of delight for event-goers, and now, with the upgrades we’ve made, the constant motion of the GIFs certainly makes it hard to look away. Party mode also pulls in some of the theme settings to make the interface appearance consistent with those of the booth and gallery.


The actual photo-capturing action is one of the most prominent parts of the whole GIFBooth experience, but it’s also one of the simplest, without too many (visible) moving parts to be modified. That said, pulling in the settings from the admin area opened up a world of possibilities for co-branding and customizing the look and feel of the whole, yet without so many options as to encourage making things Myspace cluttered.

The Unveiling

The GIFBooth in Action for AIGA

We debuted the new GIFBooth experience at AIGA Seattle’s Membership Party & (Re)design Awards Extravaganza. We were thrilled to see guests getting excited as they captured their GIFs and watched them cycle through the party mode slideshow. With the booth installed as a permanent office fixture, the event marked a nice reminder that GIFBooth, for all of its technical underpinnings, was meant to create delight. It was great to watch another success story in action!

The GIFBooth in Action for AIGA

You can use the GIFBooth on your next visit to one of the Substantial offices. If that’s not convenient you can also always view the gallery.