Welcome back to Design Story, your glimpse behind the design studio doors. Today we’re focusing on individuality: Every designer aims to create something unique, but what happens when you push that further? The designers at HTC wanted to move beyond the fun color choices that define existing HTC Desire smartphones, and they did it in an unexpected way: by using mass production to generate uniqueness.
As smartphones become more similar in design and performance, customers want theirs to stand out from the crowd. Inspired by sportswear and street art, HTC’s design team created a new “micro-splash effect” for the exterior shell.
“We set out with the ambition to create one-of-a-kind phones that have a unique, painterly fingerprint to them,” according to Hannes Harms, HTC senior industrial designer, in San Francisco. “They are objects as unique as you are.”
Specially designed spray nozzles give each phone a unique pattern as it goes through production, treating the phone as a canvas. The team played with adjustments in pressure and viscosity to create a speckle disbursement that ensures no two devices look identical.
The painterly effect is also dimensional. When viewing the housing close-up, you’ll notice a depth to the material that differentiates it from traditional solid painted parts.
Each phone color gets a micro-splash effect that enhances it—the black phone is treated with sparkling gold, for example, while the white phone receives dual layers of gray and coral. (Customers can choose a phone with the micro-splash effect or one with a traditional solid color.)
Other playful details are intentionally applied to emphasize areas that matter most to users. The power button pops with a strong color and a groove pattern that invites tactile engagement. Bold trim surrounds the camera elements, while the prominent hole pattern of the two front-facing speakers draws attention to the device’s media experiences.
These details are meant to be visible because today’s smartphones aren’t relegated to pockets or purses—they’re out in the open, documenting the details of daily life. So, each device also includes a lanyard that secures to a recessed connection in the shell. With the phone attached to the lanyard, it becomes a fashionable accessory that is ready to record (and won’t accidentally tumble onto the pavement). You can be hands-free but camera-ready.
And all of this distinction does not come at great cost. Challenged to keep production costs low, the design team’s exploration of new plastic treatments that can delight customers paid off, making the Desire 530 among HTC’s most affordable smartphones.
Whether it’s emphasizing individuality, experimenting with materials or working within creative constraints, HTC’s designers continue to explore new ideas for our next products. Stay tuned for more Design Stories that give you a look at what happens in our studios.