Hello Fans, This is part 3 of Indian Express' interview with Miika Mahonen, Principal Designer, HMD Global. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
Recreating previous-generation Nokia devices is something unique to HMD Global. Tell me the whole idea of recreating classic Nokia devices for the modern era.
I’m a big Nokia classic fan. I think this is something very fun, very playful. For example, what we have done taking these old form factors and we can now use much more advanced technology to put in and they still have become very functional devices that can be used in today’s modern life.
I think there’s still a lot of opportunities in these [retro] types of devices that are somewhere between feature phones and smartphones and especially now when we have AI features that can be applied to our feature phones that transform the device into something completely new. Also, you don’t necessarily need a massive display and you’re still able to use a lot of cool functions.
Image: Miika Mahonen, Principal Designer, HMD Global, in Cairo ahead of the launch of the Nokia 2.3.
How do you choose which Nokia classic phone you would like to recreate? What’s the process like?
Well, if I would, we explore a lot. So we start doing concept design around a product that we would like to create. And during that exploration, we develop and lock down the material. For example, this plastic device would fit well in this category. Also, we recognise what could be the impact of the classic phone on our consumers and fans. That’s a big thing that we think about when deciding which retro device we will design. Sure, it’s a difficult process, but definitely it affects which one could have a good impact on our fans and users.
Do you agree that designing a mid-range smartphone is a lot of difficult these days?
When you go to the lower range, it becomes more challenging, because you are dealing with the total cost of the phone. So one area that we are really working really heavily on is the new material technologies and if you look at the last Nokia 7.2 for example, we were developing a polymer composite frame. This is a good example of how we are innovating in the industrial design of these devices. And then, Nokia 2.3, which is an entry-level phone, really looks and feels like a premium smartphone. Natural technologies are one of the areas that we’re really pushing.
We tap Nordic premium design that’s known for simplicity and long-lasting timelessness…. We want to design devices that look great next year and look great even after 10 years.
The smartphone industry is pushing towards 5G and we might see a lot of 5G phones this year. Do you think it is a challenge to design a 5G phone?
Yes, it is a bit more complex because of antenna requirements. So there are a lot of new technologies that we have to incorporate into the phone itself. There are definitely new challenges with 5G smartphone
Which is your favourite classic Nokia phone?
I was a big fan of the Lumia designs. I still have the Lumia 1020, the one with the massive size camera.
What can we expect from HMD Global in the retro phone space this year?
Sorry, I cannot answer your question.
Who is the most inspiring person in the design fraternity to you and why?
I am a big fan of Alvar Aalto. I especially like his furniture and product design. It was very groundbreaking in its time, and it’s very like form follows function so everything is simplified and the materials are used for their qualities and purposes. So everything has a reason to be there. This is something that I really admire and inspires me.
What is your daily inspiration when you design?
I follow a lot of fashion. I found fashion to be very inspiring even in industrial design these days. Fashion is very limitless. So you can see very creative and crazy concepts there because they are very playful with colors and materials. That’s something that I have got a lot of inspiration lately.
What products do you most admire and how do they influence your creative thinking?
I’m a big fan of historic designs. I am a big motorcycle fan. I also love a lot of Nordic designs.
Image: Miika Mahonen, Prinical Designer, HMD Global, speaks at the Let's Talk Design event in India.
In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job as a designer?
Since my younger days, I have always liked envisioning what the future looks like. I’m definitely a big science fiction fan. So now I have kind of a chance to do that in real life as a job.
It’s hard to say what the worst part would be, maybe I am really involved with my work. As a designer, you can always carry on and are thinking about the work, what you are currently doing. And I think I should learn to take more time off and also find the balance between more balance between outside and inside the job.
What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you in executing the project?
When I was studying, I was given advice to always follow the industrial process. And that’s been very good advice because when you keep in mind this process and the steps, it always helps you to follow through and avoid problems. So you always have a very good guideline to help you to come up with a good solution to end results. So follow the process. That’s good advice.
Colour palettes are very important when designing a smartphone. How do you choose colours for a smartphone?
Our colour selection comes very much through our design philosophy. We are very Nordic-inspired, but that doesn’t mean that we select colours from Finland. It means how we use and develop colour experiences is Nordic and that links into the kind of minimalistic design simplicity. With Nokia devices, we talk about the design that lasts, so when we pick a color we want we choose colors that look good today, look good tomorrow and also look good after one year. We don’t pick colors that you will get bored in a week, so we pick them very carefully. So it’s our design philosophy, not necessarily what is the color but how we make the colour to be.