Nokia’s foot soldier

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Mikko Aarras, senior designer, Nokia truly works, lives and breathes Nokia. Whether he is cycling 16 kilometers to work (sometimes in freezing temperatures) with the pristine environment of Finland to inspire him, or whether he is taking the first few puffs of Sheesha on a balmy night in Dubai (where I caught up with him), the man proves himself to be a true ‘Nokian.’

His most recent work, the Nokia N8 is constantly in his hand, and not as a marketing gimmick but because of what appears to be an almost child-like pride and fascination in his own creation. He has spent all night snapping pictures with the phone to take back home from his first visit to the Middle East, a trip arranged by Nokia as part of a pre-launch eventfor the N8.

“I feel acts like sending actual designers out to communicate is part of the new Nokia,” Aarras tells me as he tries to explain how the company is slowly waking up to the rapidly changing face of the technological landscape.

“In general, I spend all my time working in an office space environment, so it is wonderful getting out and seeing a product being communicated at the same level at which it was developed. On a few occasions I have felt that endless hours of design work ends up being communicated as just a few ads in a couple of magazines, and that is quite disappointing,” he says.

I ask Aarras to describe these endless hours of ‘design’ – a concept I find to be fairly abstract. Armed with a presentation’s worth of details, he gives me a lecture on Design 101 for the mobile world:

Keeping it real

As a person I like rational and meaningful designs with a visual twist. Finnish design includes a lot simple design in areas like furniture, ceramics and glass as well as something completely opposite, such as paper machines. Designing consumer electronics is very different compared to these, but similar regularities still apply.

Chilling out

A happy moment in life or well spent free time can lead to cool design work. I also get inspired by good teamwork that happens during the design process both with my design colleagues and the design engineers.

Personal aesthetic

I think purity can describe that well, both in physical design and the whole product experience. Purity in the end means to me that you get to essence of the product and support that anyway I can, be it form, material or usability – in other words the purity of whole experience. Purity also is about reduction of noise, visual noise, be it physical or digital.

What people want

Mobile phone users look for freedom. Freedom to communicate, capture, create and share things meaningful for them. People want choice and this means in our design, we need to be careful in how we represent choice so as not be obtrusive.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2010.

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