!DOCTYPE html> Susan Huotari - UX Principal Designer

Nokia Phones

Innovating global user interfaces

In 1995, in a bid to capture more than 10% of the mobile phone market worldwide, Nokia boldly built a global product platform that competed on size, weight, battery strength, internal antenna, features and usability. To do so much innovation for one product was to risk everything.

I joined a small team of programmers, mathematicians, linguists, designers, and philosophers to design a user interface that was easily to use without instructions.

User Interface Design

Series 40 User Interface

When we started to design we had no phones. We had to borrow them from engineers. We were embarrassed that we couldn't figure out how to use them. We realized our users would have the same usability problems as us. So we prioritized a global exit key and back and forward softkeys. We iterated a common pattern library and style guide as we dealt with increasing business requirements, technology innovations and user needs. These became the very easy to learn Simplex and Series 40 UI style which is still in use today.

Multidisciplinary Teams

Series 40 User Interface

I used the methods I learned at design school to organized and faciliated design workshops. In one workshop we used colored construction paper to create phones as creatures. Later one of our participants won the internal design competition to design 6110. She told me that this workshop helped her design the look and feel of this phone.

Inventor Mobile Animation

Designing Technology

As designers we divided the features amongst ourselves to design. I had to design the lock keys functionality. I decided to have some fun so I imagined it animated. This lead to proposing to my technical lead to co-create an animation patent. My part was write the patent and pitch it to legal. His job was to make sure it technically worked. The first version was very much like the pixel animation shown on this 7250 phone. It became a very successful global patent in the Nokia portfolio.