Okay, so this started with someone’s tweet:
To summarize the thread, it turns out that Chase uses a different background photo depending on where you are; the photo above is what New York City area customers see, but this varies by place in the US. There are actually two different photos used in each location, one for day and one for night. (I’m showing daytime photos here, because they’re more distinctive than night photos when viewed at lower resolution.) Towards the end of the twitter thread, there are excerpts of the 30(!) page photo brief. The pictures were taken for this purpose, with the goal to show local content but not necessarily local landmarks. This whole thing intrigued me.
It actually intrigued me sufficiently that I built a little photo downloader utility, to see what photos were used where. Here’s what I know.
There are, to my count, 31 metropolitan areas with unique local pictures. In general, it’s not a surprising list; generally the largest areas. There are a few interesting inclusions and omissions; Minneapolis, St. Louis and Cincinnati don’t have pictures, while Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Columbus do. New Orleans and Jacksonville do, while Charlotte, Raleigh and Nashville don’t. Baltimore and Pittsburgh don’t have pictures, but Tucson somehow does.
I use the term “metropolitan area” here deliberately; as an example, here are a bunch of locations in northern California. The three colours of dots correspond to the three daytime photos on the left.
The orange dots representing the picture with the ziggurat (an office building in West Sacramento) are in the Sacramento area; the blue dots with the skyline showing Coit Tower are in the San Francisco area and the green dots with the picture of a bridge in a forest cover the remaining parts of the state. Here’s that same map, with county boundaries shown and the Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) highlighted:
The photo selection follows the metro boundaries exactly (within the vagaries of zip codes). This is almost always the case. I’ve only found two exceptions; in the Indiana suburbs of Chicago, Lake County (the one adjacent to Illinois) gets the same pictures as the rest of Indiana, while Porter County (adjacent to Lake County) gets the Chicago picture. And in the Miami area, one picture appears in Palm Beach County, a different picture in Broward County, but the actual city of Miami in Miami-Dade County gets the same picture as the rest of Florida. I suspect these are bugs.
Anyways, what this means is that New Jersey residents in NYC suburbs like Newark get the same picture in the tweet at the top of this post; in Philadelphia suburbs like Camden they get the same picture as in Philadelphia proper. Metro areas that cross state boundaries all share the same picture. But outside the metro areas with unique pictures, it turns out that there are seven generic pictures being used.
Here’s the default picture for every state in the USA:
There are six regions that are groupings of states. Some of the combinations are interesting — Oklahoma is often grouped with the south, but here it’s treated as the midwest. There’s a southwestern one from Texas through Nevada, but both day and nighttime pictures show more water than I’d associate with much of that region.
And there’s an interesting Southern California picture of BMXers and palm trees; it’s used for southern California only — for Bakersfield, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, the Inland Empire and the Imperial Valley. Los Angeles (including Orange County) and San Diego get their own local treatments.
So that’s the story; there are currently 39 different photos in use by Chase for localizing login screens (and another 39 by night). Outside of the major metros (and a couple smaller ones, still surprised by Tucson) they are very generic landscapey pictures. I don’t know that we learned too much (I did build a fun algorithm I’ve been meaning to work on as part of the downloader, I’m sure it’ll come in handy some day in the future), but my curiosity has been satisfied.