Design Without Walls

How much more simple can a phone be?

This is a question that I’m sure plagues any passionate industrial designer. In a sense, the constant goal of any designer is to further simplify on top of the design that was previously thought to be “autumnal simplicity”. I sympathize with a design team that is faced with their own high standards. Apple, for example, is known for simplifying designs that seemed to have reached their limit in terms of minimalism. And so its incredible that even when you’ve organized your desk setup to its maximum simplicity, the believe that there is no more work to do is actually just an illusion. There is always more to do as we live in an imperfect world. There will never be complete simplicity, but that does not mean we shouldn’t strive towards it. Perfection is definitely not achievable, but it is definitely worth chasing.

This is, in my opinion, rings the most true with smartphones. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the smartphone ecosystem would become one of the most competitive design ecosystems in the world. But it has. I don’t know whether or not this is a result of companies trying to compete with Apple or if its because smartphones are integrally personal like a car or a pair of shoes. Perhaps a combination of the two… regardless, a beautifully designed phone without a doubt adds to the overall experience of using the phone. A good designer pays attention to design of what we see, how things sound, and how something feels. These are all important when designing a phone. And there are trends within the phone design world that sort of navigate designers from quarter to quarter. The most recent trend, without a doubt, is eliminating as much of the display’s bezel as possible.

For those of you wondering what in the world I am talking about, the bezel is the thin black boarder that surrounds the phone screen. Hands and pockets are relatively small. Because hands and pockets are relatively small, phones are small, and because phones are small, user experience designers have little real-estate to fit content on. And content is everything. The goal of the designer is to portray useful information as efficiently as possible. Content should always be first. A square millimeter of extra phone display may not seem like a big deal, but its HUGE. If you remember any trigonometry, the phone’s display (from top to bottom) to our eyesight creates roughly an isosceles triangle. When you increase the size of the display by as small of a millimeter, the phone will look noticeably larger because the distance you’re holding the phone away from your face is not that large. Lets illustrate this another way. If you’re standing 15 feet from a from a 50 inch TV, that TV would look the same as holding a 6.7 inch phone 1 foot away from your face. Lets say you increase 6.7 inches to 6.9 inches….. you would have increased the size of the proportional TV to a 55 inch respectively. So small changes in smartphone real estate are actually major perceptive changes.

And so I’ve found myself salivating over bezeless phones. The user interface should not be bombarded by a black or white bezel. The content should be front and center, always. More hardware designers will vouch for bezeless phones here on out, and I will quickly hop on them… when ones available running Windows lol.

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