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iMemoriam imagines how Steve Jobs would have
wanted Apple users to say goodbye to their old devices.


Electronic waste is a growing problem that contributes to Climate Change. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2012, 3.4 million tons of e-waste was generated yet only 29% was collected for recycling.

Electronic waste will only continue to grow, as our appetite for new electronic devices shows no sign of slowing down.

How can we design a desirable user-experience that will incentivize and encourage electronic recycling?


In order to promote e-cycling and to encourage behavioral change, there need to be different approaches:

  • E-cycling should be considered much earlier in the design and marketing process of an electronic product.
  • Designers and marketers go to great lengths to create electronic products that trigger and sustain emotional impact on the user.  This emotional connection causes the user to create a strong sense of identity with their phone.  A used phone has little monetary value because of its outdated technology, however, it may still hold great emotional value to its owner.
People identify with their smartphones.  They attach emotions, memories and meanings to their phones.  Throughout the day, a phone acts as a companion to its owner; even during sleep, it’s often at arm’s length.   Letting go of a device, particularly a phone, can seem like letting go of a part of you.

Background & Opportunity:

The Apple Company is arguably a master in the creating products that build strong emotional attachment with their users.  Steve Jobs thoroughly understood that in order to create and sustain this connection Apple needed to control all aspects of the user experience.  The Apple Company’s control over hardware, software, marketing, advertising, packaging, retail, and interface ensures that the overall user experience is cohesive and consistent.

A missing step in an Apple device’s overall user experience is what to do with the older device once it’s being replaced with a newer version.

Our initial idea was to create an app that provides data on e-waste and contact information of nearby e-cycling centers.  After user testings, we realized that the e-waste data and e-cycling centers can easily be found online an even through other existing apps.

We then decided that it would be more effective to tap into the emotional attachment that many people have with their devices and use that as a trigger to entice people to e-cycle their used phone.

We would infuse the act of e-cycling into the overall user experience of an Apple product.


The iMemoriam campaign and its iCycle service help users to emotionally detach from their old devices in a respectful and environmentally responsible way.  It is a by-invitation-only experience that embodies all of Apple branding image.  iCycle imagines what the final user experience would be like if it was designed by Steve Jobs.


User Scenario:

Sophie has had her iPhone 4 for many years, and even though the screen is cracked and the volume button sticks, she finds it hard to part with this phone.  It was a present from her Father when she was accepted to NYU.  She tries to call her father in Seattle at least once a week, but when school gets too busy for phone calls, just holding and looking at the phone would give her of warm feelings of her father and home.

Sophie named her phone “Paul” and even personalized it with various stickers and drawings. Even the crack on the screen is memorable because this happened when she’d won a student film award.  She accidentally dropped the phone while receiving hugs from her teammates.


It is definitely time to let this old phone go.  The crack on the phone has grown larger making difficult to read emails.  Additionally, the new iOS upgrade has caused the phone to run sluggishly. However, she doesn’t want to just toss the phone in the dump or hide in the drawer.  These options seem environmentally wrong and disrespectful to the memories she’s associated with Paul.

But a new phone is unavoidable so she ordered a new iPhone online and had it shipped to her apartment.

Upon completing the online purchase, Sophie received an iMessage with an exclusive invitation to experience iCycle.  She had heard about this new Apple e-cycling service through friends and online posts so she was curious to participate.



















Following the web link in the iMessage, Sophie was lead to a dedicated page on the Apple website.  On this page, she specifies the device model as well as her preferred Apple retail location, time, and date.  She then chose People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as the charity where the monetary proceeds of the used device would go to.













On the appointed date, Sophie arrived at the Upper West Side Apple Store where she checked in for her appointment.  Shortly later, a dedicated Apple employee in a well-fitted dark suit greeted her with a small white Apple logo pinned on his lapel.  This person led her to a circular glass booth in the center of the store and gently opens the door for her to enter.

When Sophie is inside the booth, the door gently closes behind her and the glass wall steadily fogs up.  The interior is so quiet in contrast to the noisy retail space. Upon adjusting to the quietness interior booth, she could then hear an instrumental track of “Hey Jude” by the Beatles playing softly in the background.

In front of her, Sophie sees a standing-height half-round table that’s made of the same maple wood as the rectangular Apple retail tables.   The only visible object on the table is a small cylindrical glass flower vase that holds one white tulip.

A hello and welcome message now emerge on the glass wall above the table.  The message then asks Sophie to place her old phone on the table inside the rounded-corner rectangle area and to login to her Apple account.  Upon logging in through her device, the screen shows that all data are now being extracted from her old iPhone.

The extraction process completed and the screen then shows a visualization of all data and contents that were generated on her old iPhone.  She sees thumbnails of all the pictures that were taken with the phone, names of the people that she had called most frequently, the places that she has traveled to, and the songs and videos that she had replayed most often, as well as other insightful information all visualized in clean and beautiful Apple-esque design.

She was asked to confirm if she would like all data to be copied to her iCloud account before it would be cleared from her old phone.  Sophie confirmed the iCloud backup and could then sees that the apps on her old phone are slowly disappearing. When the last app goes from the phone, the screen went black for a second and reappears with a white message that says “Goodbye Sophie!”

Sophie softly says goodbye to the memories she’s associated with Paul as the rectangular areas that the phone is laying on gently recesses into the table.  Two side doors in the rectangular opening now close up and the phone was no longer visible. The table is now back to the way it was.

A thank you message from PETA is now visible on the glass screen above.  The experience must’ve taken no more than 10 minutes but it seems much longer.  Sophie leaves the booth and the Apple store feeling satisfied and relieved that she had experienced iMemoriam.  She was happy to have gotten her closure with Paul and make a small donation to PETA by recycling her device in a responsible way.

The user experience of e-cycling needs to be reframed. E-cycling should not feel like an afterthought but one that’s desirable and inclusive in the overall user experience of a product.

My Role: UXUI, User Research, Interaction Design, Rapid Prototyping

Tools Used: Adobe Suite, Sketch, Invision, Rhino


  • Pam Liou - Prototyping, Electronic Design

  • Dan Melacon - Backend development, Physical Computing


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Billy Dang @ 2018