A few days ago, Stefan Pannenbecker, Vice President Industrial Design at Nokia was a guest here in the Netherlands giving a behind the scenes look at how the Lumia 800 was created. Interestingly the story begins way back around November 2009, which should give the user an idea as to how long it can actually take for a mobile device to go from idea to ready-to-ship.

He details how the lead designer for both the N9 and Lumia 800, Anton Fahlgren showed an early model of what was to become the N9 during their monthly “Creative Review,” basically a monthly meeting that oversees all current projects that are going on. Axel Meyer, known for the N97design, was also part of the team.

When asked  how they were able to deliver the Lumia 800 that fast, Pannenbecker mentions several reasons: Doing less things, but execute them better, focusing on the right things, to deliver faster and they build on something “somewhat mature, not finished” referring to the N9. This also means that Nokia does consider the Lumia 800 as a “version 2.0” if you will of the N9 and not just an N9 with a new operating system as many seem to suggest. He mentions 4 principles that would define the N9 and the Lumia 800: Clear, Refined, Human and Advanced.

Digging deeper into the specifics, it was all about making decisions about what is important in a product and bring that experience to the foreground and the rest to background. In other words, the hardware should disappear into the background when you use the UI. I’d say they pretty much achieved that with the curved screen, which creates an illusion of the software almost floating in the air. This  pretty much sums up Nokia’s principle of “Clear.” He also talked about “less elements,” referring to less buttons as well as less design details. I also found it interesting that because Windows Phone is mostly about  portrait use, they decided to make the sides “soft and nice to use.” Another interesting detail is that they wanted  the 3.5mm headphone jack to be perfectly parallel to the sides. From a design point of view, that’s the place it should be, but due to the components underneath, this posed a challenge. That’s why they decided to use modified components, all in the name of design.

Nokia has been talking a lot about how both the N9 and the Lumia 800 fuse software and the hardware. I tend to agree with this. On previous Symbian devices for example, software always somehow managed to lag behind the solid Nokia hardware. In this case he mentions how the Metro UI’s square tiles and soft internal match the rectangular footprint of the Lumia 800. Perhaps this also affected Nokia’s reason not to go Android? Perhaps it wasn’t just about differentiation, but also the fact they were pushing “hardware should match software” and Windows Phone clearly does that.

The two products were also about refinement in the sense that they wanted to improve antenna performance, which he says is kind of a black magic, never a sure thing and very difficult to do. That’s why they decided to use Polycarbonate, basically a type of plastic and one allows for great reception. Even if it’s plastic, they also decide to do things differently, treating  it as if it was a premium material and precision milling the speaker grille for example. The final product and I think you will agree, doesn’t look and feel like plastic at all. One could almost be fooled into thinking that it’s some kind of brushed aluminum.

As some of you might know, the Lumia 800 lines doesn’t have painted on color, but the Plastic itself is this color, making the device environmentally friendly but also scratch proof. This is what Pannenbecker called the human touch. Give people color choices and a curved glasses that facilititates the UI is also part of this human touch.

Lastly, he called the 800 advanced in the sense that it’s beyond trends, a new level of reduction and softness.

The Lumia 800 is indeed a departure from the previous Nseries and the design story really shows that. While the Nseries was all about technical achievements, the 800 focuses on design and the human aspects, almost blending the Nseries with Nokia’s premium 8000 series. The video above pretty much covers the entire presentation.