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March 22, 2010

Size and shape – design by community week two

1. IntroGLOBAL – We were blown away by the response we got last week – over 43,000 votes in, and counting. Whilst we finish crunching the numbers on the first week’s tally, we’re going to let you loose on week two – size and shape. We know already that a 4-inch screen is the most popular size so that needs to be kept in mind when it comes to defining the size of the device. But that’s not the only consideration.

A world without borders
We wrote last week about how the screen is probably one of the biggest influencers on a device’s size. Most directly, it has an impact on the width of the device and with a four-inch screen (last week’s favourite), even without a border or a bevel, you’re looking at a minimum width of about 50mm. Given that borderless displays are still someway off for mobile devices, 50mm is looking ambitious, even for our concept. But, the challenge here on Design by Community isn’t to allow existing technology, or a lack of, to stand in the way of what you as users want. We’re thinking here about a concept, so the choices you make will have a direct impact on how long it could be before we see something to match it.

The height of the device is also heavily influenced by the screen, but that’s not the only thing you need to think about. Right now the top and bottom of a device (above and below the screen) play host to a world of behind-the-scenes tech so having a screen that runs the full height of a device is going to be pretty difficult. Still, there could be scope for reducing the space required, so a 100mm height might be an option. Keep in mind though, that the smaller the requirements, the more out of this world the concept will be. Just how real world do you think we should be with Design by Community?

How thin is thin?
Can we ever have a device that’s thin enough? If so, how thin is that? We’ve come a long way, whether you look over the last five years, or the last 50, in terms of how much power we can pack into a small space. With the advent of nanotechnology driving this further, there’ll no doubt come a time where the depth of a device simply won’t be an issue, because it’ll be considered “thin enough”. Or will our aspirations towards what that device can do go beyond the capability to make it “thin enough”. What do you think?

Form factor plays a significant role in the size of a device, too. Opting for anything other than a monoblock will have a significant impact on the depth of a device, along with its overall volume. Whilst QWERTY keypads had a big showing in last week’s poll, the final tally tells us that a touchscreen keypad is a more popular choice. Might be worth keeping in mind when you think about the form factor.

Beyond the screen, the keypad, battery and major components such as the camera play a significant part in a device’s size and shape. Of course, we can use the cover of the concept to simply ignore those influences, but it’s worth noting that optimising a real device with the components and features it’s destined to boast is a challenge designers face every day.

What about the people?
Once more, there’s plenty to consider. What we’re looking at in Design by Community is only scratching the surface of the topics Nokia designers need to consider when bringing a new product to market. We can simplify size and shape by thinking about how big, or small, we want something to be. But it still remains a complex topic that goes beyond the requirements of the technology, and into anthropology so we can understand how it works for the user.

Will it fit in my pocket, or my belt holster? Will the device sit in a suit jacket and remain discrete? Will it fit in my hand, or will the device be too small for me to use? Is there an optimum size for a device, where it works as well for someone with big hands, as it does for those with smaller hands? Is there an average hand size we should think about, or work to? Does a four-inch screen create a device that ends up being simply too big for the majority of the world’s pockets? What do you think is most important when it comes to the size and shape of a device?