Designing Swoop: A Modern Picture Frame

by Lee Cooper January. 21, 2021 685 views

This story describes the process I went through to develop and make Swoop Frames, a picture frame company focused on creating a better DIY framing experience and building unique frames from sustainable materials.

A Swoop Frame hanging in my house and displaying one of my favorite images from my trip to Portugal.

A Swoop Frame hanging in my house and displaying one of my favorite images from my trip to Portugal.

Start of the Idea

I became focused on creating a better picture framing experience after being frustrated with framing some prints I gifted to my family for Christmas. The traditional-style frames I used required a lot of time, research, and specialized tools to mount and hang each print properly. I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with creating t-hinge mounts, cutting precise mattings, and installing framing points. All of which require a lot of practice to execute properly and make it a real challenge for an inexperienced person to protect and display their artwork.

Early exploratory sketches

Early exploratory sketches

Finding a Solution

In the beginning I explored a wide variety of mechanical fasteners and design features to solve those problems. The best solution I could think of was a tool-less way to assemble a picture frame. I figured if using specialized tools and hardware was the critical pain point then why not get rid of them?

Preliminary prototypes exploring a cam tether system to secure the backing

Preliminary prototypes exploring a cam tether system to secure the backing

Early sketch prototypes testing other backing configurations

Early sketch prototypes testing other backing configurations

A Common Theme

One feature of the frame remained consistent through each different concept though. I had originally envisioned a minimalist, understated frame that would complement many different styles of photography and art. To keep that goal intact, I made the thin frame and rounded corners the foundation of each new concept.

Front & Back view of a Swoop Frame

Front & Back view of a Swoop Frame

Solving the Problem

After a lot of trial and error and multiple generations of prototypes, I found that a combination of high quality materials and simple interlocking forms would make for a more reliable solution than my other concepts could offer.

The DOT mounting system allows the frame to rotate between portrait and landscape

The DOT mounting system allows the frame to rotate between portrait and landscape

Key Design Features

The main reason for choosing this concept was the DOT mounting system. This unique approach to hanging a frame uses a single aluminum dot to interlock with the interface on the back of the frame. Using this method allows for adjusting the frame between portrait and landscape freely without making any alterations to the backing.

Press fitting the backing into the frame

Press fitting the backing into the frame

Other desirable features of this concept were the press fit backing and thread loop corner mounts. By adding welting chord to the edge of the backing, a friction fit is created that securely assembles all of the frame components together and seals out dust and debris. Integrating thread loops into the fabric backing was a late design decision, but testing made it clear that it was much more convenient than the traditional hinging methods or plastic photo corner mounts that are available.

Inserting the print's corners into the thread loops

Inserting the print's corners into the thread loops

Handmade Prototypes

Each prototype you see in the photos was handmade by myself. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the process, but it was worth it to execute all of the details.

Late nights spent in the workshop

Late nights spent in the workshop

Meticulously cut finger joints to create a seamless strip of veneer

Meticulously cut finger joints to create a seamless strip of veneer

New Findings

Once the first couple of prototypes were made I was able to explore different ways the frames could live in a space. Hanging each frame individually on the wall is great, but they also display well on tables or shelves, and can pair together to make a unique art or photo gallery.

Displayed on a book shelf

Displayed on a book shelf

Multi-size Art Gallery

Multi-size Art Gallery

Diamond Photo Gallery

Diamond Photo Gallery

Making Swoop a Reality

These frames are not in production yet, but you can help us make this concept a reality by following our Kickstarter and visiting our Website to learn more about our modern picture frames.

Bonus: Behind the Scenes

Here is a look behind the camera at some of the setups and rigs I used to create the product photography for Swoop.

Shooting behind a plexiglass wall to capture the DOT mounting system

Shooting behind a plexiglass wall to capture the DOT mounting system

Creating an exploded view of Swoop

Creating an exploded view of Swoop

Mini studio setup for the Swoop Table Stand

Mini studio setup for the Swoop Table Stand

Storyboard for the Swoop Kickstarter Video

Storyboard for the Swoop Kickstarter Video

I hope you enjoyed this story and thanks for reading :)

Help support us by following our Kickstarter here

Visit our website to learn more about Swoop here

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There are 2 comments , add yours!
Craig Casterline 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow, a complex process for an exquisitely elegant simplicity. Love the frames!

4 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Lee Cooper Replied to Craig Casterline 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the kind remarks Craig! I really like your long exposure images. Really well done.

4 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
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