On every scale, from cottage industry to mass market, production starts with research. Johnstone begins by scouring the globe for team members who have the right skills and design sense to match a new user interface with a good-looking phone. “We were scratching our heads,” he says, remembering the first stages of putting it all together. The challenge was to find the best balance between affordable and savvy–inherent values in the market of Skype users. At the same time, the interface had to be easy enough for everyone to pick up quickly. “We have an idea of what customers want,” he explains, “and we have to be able to give the phone to someone who has never used Skype, and they need not only to understand it, but to like it.” The process kicks off with a three-month collaborative concept phase between HWL’s London office and AMOI in Shanghai, with two big questions in mind: How are they going to integrate Skype into the phone, and how would they make a phone that sells for around $100 feel high-quality and cosmopolitan?

skypephone concept sketches
The early conceptualization stages sees dozens of marker sketches.

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