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What comes to mind when you think of a QWERTY phone? I always imagine someone in a business suit furiously typing urgent emails on the train, or while they’re walking down the street.

This common preconception of QWERTY phones – that they are mainly business devices – was part of the challenge facing Ruth Ng and her colleagues at Nokia’s Colour and Material Design team when they started work on the new Asha 205

This is the most ‘social’ Asha that has been unveiled so far, a fact that is underlined by the first ever appearance on a Nokia device of a dedicated Facebook button.

As well as being a social phone that makes it easier to connect with your friends, the Nokia Asha 205 was designed with young and aspirational people in mind. How did they manage to achieve this?

Conversations spoke to Ruth Ng, who is based at Nokia’s design studios in Beijing about their approach to the Asha 205, how they came up with different colour combinations and changing how we think about QWERTY phones.

Nokia Asha 205

One of the most striking features of the Nokia Asha 205 is the two-tone colour approach. Why did you decide to go down this route? 

This was inspired by some research that we did in the India and China markets, which are two of our biggest markets. One of the micro-trends that we discovered was something called dark sumptuous tones – these are tones that are nearly black but not quite.

It’s very fresh and that was what inspired the dark brown colour on the Asha 205 with cyan on the front. The juxtaposition of the dark sumptuous tones on the front and the bright colour on the back is what we thought could give a fresh kick to the QWERTY phone.

How did you decide on the colour combinations? 

We did a lot of trial and error. We brought a lot of colour chips together and got the design team to come up with all sorts of combinations, we documented them and we kept eliminating combinations.

In the end we came up with combinations that we thought are fresh, but still appealing to the full spectrum of different consumers.

For example, you have the more neutral one, which is the dark sumptuous brown with cyan and then there is the light variant, which is the white and orange. Then there is the more female-skewed one, which is the light pink and magenta at the back. 

What about the materials used in the Asha 205?

Nokia Asha 205

The material combination on the Asha 205 is really interesting. I don’t think that many people will have realised that if you look at the battery cover it is made of a two-shot material, plastic and soft polymer. The idea is to bring some aspiration to this value proposition.

A lot of thought has gone into the design of Asha 205 and the choice of materials. The front has the glossy integrated front cover with the screen to give a more seamless look and feel. The pattern on the battery cover helps to give a high gloss effect, which contrasts nicely with the tactile grip along the sides. 

How did you manage to design a social element into look and feel of the Asha 205?

When we start designing the colour and materials of this phone, or any device, we usually start with the consumer. With the Asha 205 targeted at young people, we knew that this was going to be a social QWERTY phone. That’s why we had the unusual colour combinations and the use of soft polymer, a material that resonates with the young and aspirational.

When you think of QWERTY phones, you will conjure images of businessmen. We wanted to break free of those preconceptions and make sure that young people could really relate to our design.