I wandered up to London this evening to go and see Frank Nuovo of Nokia talk at the Design Museum. I hadn't seen him before, and found him a good speaker, if a little self-promotional (which is hardly surprising given his achievements - I'm sure in his position I'd be insufferable).

I didn't take any notes during the talk itself, but a few points I can remember now (sitting on my train back down to the seaside) include:

  • Details of how the design group at Nokia were first responsible for many of the aspects of phone UI which we take for granted today: the grouping of keys into control keys (softkeys etc) and alphanumeric keypad, the placement of the on/off button well away from these, and so on.

  • Comparisons between the phone market and wrist-watches: both are very personal and expressive products which nevertheless perform an important functional role.

  • How the cycle of design begins with technology and runs through design, style, fashion, and art, before returning to technology again - as we begin to understand more about the limitations and possibilities of this technology.

  • A lot on Vertu, the Nokia-owned (?) company which hand-crafts small numbers of handsets at vast cost to its customers - the core idea being to return to an Olde Worlde craftmanship feel in handset design.

  • How Nokia categorises its handsets into families (the Active, Premium, Fashion, etc. ranges) and how these have evolved over time. Particularly striking was a sequence showing handset faces morphing to represent the evolution of the devices over time. In every case bar that of the Premium family (precursor of Vertu), the screen and control keys have become more prominent over time.

  • A number of internal videos produced as pseudo-"mood boards", to demonstrate the feel of particular handsets, families, or customer segments.

Afterwards, I wandered to a local hostelry and hooked up with Jim, Martin, Ewan and Chris - for industry gossip and a chance to play with a couple of N-Gages: which alternately thrilled me with their multiplayer Bluetooth games and appalled me as I experienced first-hand the joy of disassembling the things in order to change games.