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Move over iPhone

Posted by: Helen Walters on June 6, 2008


As pre-new-iPhone speculation reaches fever pitch, I caught up with this concept for a touchscreen phone, from RKS Design. Known as the Mimique, it’s “designed” to work with Google’s Android platform. In other words, users could customize the look of the phone or download exactly the applications they need, thus allowing as-needed customization and significantly extending the lifespan of a phone. Such personalization is exactly what C.K . Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan are talking about: the unique, individual experience of millions of consumers. This particular phone may just be a concept, but the reality of such applied design thinking isn’t far away.


Reader Comments


June 9, 2008 4:39 PM

Very cool. Great design / concept.

It never ceases to amaze me that products that appeared difficult to conceive, are realized as soon as an open source alternative is made available.

Here are my thoughts on Mimique+Android...




June 9, 2008 10:34 PM

What a bunch of absolute nonsense! This is BS industrial design from the ground up, no thought what so ever, no research, no interaction with user, and no design thinking at all, this is fundemental selfish design.
The only thought that went into this is which texture map should I use in Studio Tools.
Be weary of design spin talk: "The Mimique is a response to feature-heavy cell phones that look more like PDAs than phones. Playful and engaging, the Mimique's design marries the heritage of old-school cell phones with next-generation style and touch-screen technology." -- Clearly they haven't been trained in interaction design either---
Furthor more lets present this trash design for what it is, the display screen is not feasable to start with, no manufacturers is going to sell you a display which doesn't fit a pre defined aspect ratio, cost is too high manufacturing is to complex even with OLED technology.
Secondaly software developers are constrained to build software to specific defined aspect ratios, no rounded edges or corners allowed! secondaly, you've got an impossible undercut on the cover part which no one will be able to make. Even Apple can only push there manufacturers and engineers so far before a product becomes impossible.
Finally what a waste of space with that power button.
This concept doesn't even work a as a concept, it looks like a fat ugly iphone. Stop trying to design with Studio Tools and go back to the core design process basics, pen paper and alot of questions that have to be ANSWERED and finally engage users.


June 11, 2008 2:34 PM

I could not agree with you more. It is amazing how much BS in the design industry there is nowadays. Sometimes I get sick of the thought that I am part of this. It is one thing for RKS (a great firm) to float a design like this to intrigue, attract, facilitate, show off, whatever. It is another thing for so many blogs and pseudo-mavens to go gaga over things like this. A concept product from my firm recently leaked out and I could not believe the BS discussion that it triggered. Some blogs wrote about it as if they actually tested it (and loved it) while it was nothing but a paper concepts done by one of our designer in one day for internal purposes. But the hype (and BS) will continue, because we don't want to piss off Bruce or Helen. After all we need them. That's why you and I are writing anonymously. Let's see if BusinessWeek will be true to good journalism and keep this entry here :-)


June 11, 2008 3:47 PM

Jay, Simon,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. You'll note that in my original post I was very clear that this is a concept for a phone. I was actually less interested in the industrial design, which as you both point out is clearly not market-ready. I flagged it because I like the idea of using the Android platform to create personalized, customized phones and interfaces. We've already seen this with the addition of apps to the iPhone and clearly a phone that can be completely changed via a software update is a compelling proposition in our ever eco-conscious age. (I don't have to throw the phone away to update it any more).

Concepts are a hugely important part of design. As you say, Simon, their job is to intrigue, attract, facilitate, show off... While I think people can be thoughtless in hyping things and concepts should be viewed through an appropriately questioning lens, I also think that they serve an important role. They can help get people to think about product design in terms of ideas rather than physical form. And while some consider that by now this should be old hat, it's still a hugely important exercise. There's a world of possibilities out there, and such mock ups can move on the conversation effortlessly.

I sent this thread to the guys at RKS to suggest that they weigh in too. We'll see what they have to say.

ravi sawhney

June 11, 2008 4:00 PM

Simon and Jay and others,

Please have at it. Blast it, Blow it Up and Discredit all you want.

For ever concept that is so inconceivably "wrong" as claimed by those as not being based in Research, Technology and Human Interaction, there are those that stimulate and challenge us to achieve what was deemed impossible or even ridiculous.

I might also point out that RKS roots lie in Interaction Design with my contributions to the first generation of touch screen UI in the late 70s.

At that time using a monitor, or what was really a high resolution TV screen, to control technology was completely ridiculous and unaccepted.

It was difficult enough to even get anyone to touch the screen, let alone interact with it.

You only knew to stay five feet or more away from the TV and touching it was absolutely a taboo concept.

Would you have said the same thing about touch screen interaction from Xerox in the 70s?

As derivatives of Alan Kay's work then, I would say, why not, let's play, let's experiment, and next time, let's really get something that's wild and crazy.

Who knows, some say if you can think of, it can be done.

Can it? Should It? Will It?

BTW, its just a concept, picked up by Blogs and Sites around the World, but, it's just a concept.

In the meantime, we are constantly telling those who are in love with it, the same thing: "Its Just a Concept".

But, who knows??????

I haven't discussed it with C.K. whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently and having dinner with.

But, personal expression and individualism is rooted on our very being.

That's what this is all about.



June 13, 2008 11:28 AM

You bring great examples, and I agree with you in principle, and respect you for your achievements (I know you indirectly), but this specific one is not a good example. It is shallow, and does not belong more than as a teaser on the Android pages. By the way, I would love to see Android taking over iPhone, and I am working on a related project. But this is not an RKS issue (again, a great design firm) and my reaction was about the hype created by so many people who have no clue and are superficial at best. back to your example, while one can debate the aesthetics of the design (I like it myself), take a look at the real estate that Helen allocated to text with value/message, and then to pictures, and you will understand what I mean when things are blown out of proportion (hype). Besides, what is "design thinking" and how is it demonstrated by this concept? I am sure you understand me very well when I write to you from the underground because I don't want to piss off Helen and Bruce who leverage on the power of the BusinessWeek brand to create so much hype. I am not brave enough because I need them to hype my own "concepts" once in a while.


June 13, 2008 3:23 PM

Simon. Let me get this straight. This is all about the layout of this blog post? By uploading large image files, I’m guilty of “hype”? Well, you are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I think that readers can both appreciate the images and understand this concept for what it is.

Forgive me if I’m reading too much into this, but there seems to be a subtext to your writing, that upstanding design firms such as RKS should not create concepts that might not be founded in reality, for fear of being picked up (“hyped”) by poor untrained dears who can’t possibly understand the nuances of the design or understand that a concept might be about prompting discussion, conversation and thinking than presenting a new paradigm of reality.

This “them” and “us” snobbery, of designers imagining that no one untrained could ever fully appreciate the true genius of design exemplifies the insidious, anachronistic underside of the design world. Not only is such a patronizing attitude entirely unfounded, it’s unhelpful in the extreme.

I think that non-designers are completely capable of assessing -- and judging -- design ideas. Not only is their opinion valid, but quite often their fresh eye can pinpoint an idea's brilliance/lunacy while experts wrestle with received wisdom.

Design, after all, is for the real world -- and designers should be at the forefront of promoting its power, importance and purpose, not drawing veils over its complexity and smugly imagining that non-designers could never really understand.

Transparency has become a buzzword and a sought-after quality in recent years. It's time designers bought in.

ravi Sawhney

June 14, 2008 10:57 AM

Simon and Helen and others,
This is an interesting discussion and I love the design related part of it.
The challenges are rich and exciting and serve to promote the profession to finally design ourselves.
But, the discussion of what Bruce and Helen do with their venue is not something I feel to criticize.
I enjoy reading them and blogging even though some topics are not relevant to me.
I don’t always agree with the topics written about but, have developed a great deal of respect for the integrity and value this brings to help us design and evolve our profession.
Would you agree that virtually anything and everything that challenges our thinking is healthy.
I also see your point but always wonder about the need to label a design concept “shallow”.
If it resonates with people, challenges their thinking to integrate future technologies and applications while integrating into a design language that has one foot in the past and one in the current/future, why would it not be “design thinking”. Its based on years of consumer study and experience, personal, professional, collaborative, etc..
My great friend Dave Mason wrote the song Feeling Alright. Truth is that Dave and other artists I’ve gotten to know through Dave and our experience in creating RKS Guitars , pull these great songs from the depths of their soles and never challenge what triggered the inspiration.
It’s a shallow song on one level but very deep and facilitates a personal connection on a different plane simultaneously, if you connect with it, that is.
In a very cosmic way, we as designers at times can also relish in the pure simplicity of creation and connection with others.
Music is a great parallel in many ways.
But, we as the current generation of Industrial Designers sit on the tip of a monstrous ice berg and can either float down to the civilization for fresh water or wreck things with.
But, it’s a great time and I live for and love these discussions.
They stimulate us and the criticism is welcomed any time, any where.
Its feedback and we need more of it.
Drop me an e-mail and lets have a beer and a healthy discussion when ever you like.

ravi Sawhney

June 16, 2008 11:20 AM


Please excuse my typos.



January 14, 2009 11:50 AM

how much does this phone cost?

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