In the first half of this year, Chinese markets will see a wave of full-screen mobile phones with the notch design. Major Chinese mobile phone manufacturers, including Huawei, OPPO and Vivo have all shifted from last year’s 18:9 full-screen phones to this year’s full-screen mobile phones with notch, and ultimately to real full-screen mobile phones.
Manufacturers are preferring higher screen-to-body ratios for more attractive designs, leaving less and less space on the front screen for various types of sensors, including cameras and telephone receivers. It also means less space for designers to play with, so design breakthroughs can only be realized on the back of the smartphone, where materials and colors shape its personality.
The colors of the R15, and the color master Karim
The OPPO R15 embodies the design obstacles mentioned above.
OPPO has maintained the metal materials and crafts used in the R5. The R11 Barcelona version and the New Year’s Red version have impeccable body designs, including the metal cut, carving, color and color contrast.
While improvements in metal are limited, ceramic and glass are gaining popularity. The R15’s back is made of glass.
The R15 comes in four colors: star purple, dreamy red, thermal red and snow white. The star purple and dreamy red versions have a gradient design.
Behind these color versions is a well-known designer named Karim Rashid, who took part in designing the R15.
While deemed a color master, Karim is a designer and not a painter like Van Gogh or Monet.
Karim Rashid has achieved global fame as a contemporary designer with one of the largest portfolios. He has produced over 3,000 designs and obtained over 300 awards. He has partnered with nearly a hundred international brands in various fields including clothing lines, automotive companies, housing properties, and electronic products. He has provided creative design solutions for Audi, Mini Cooper, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Philips and Coca-Cola.
Why did OPPO adopt gradient colors?
According to an article titled “The War of Colors Among Smartphones”, with increasing homogeneity among smartphones and maturation of materials and coloring technology, it is now easier to produce a smartphone that stands out with a special color.
Gradient colors became a trend by 2017.
In 2016, smartphones appeared in many eye-catching color versions, including the flame red Meizu Pro 6, the grass green Huawei P10, and the red iPhone 7.
OPPO came out with more special color versions: the fresh green R9s, the red and blue Barcelona edition R11 and a special New Year’s red edition R11.
This time, OPPO worked with Karim to design the R15. OPPO integrates fashion into its label and has been digging into the value of color in the design of its mobile phones, and Karim thought that they can do even more.
Karim’s perception of color can be broken down into three main points:
Nature itself does not come in one single color.
Gradients are a very natural phenomenon and an extension of the real world, which is not monotonous.
Color gives a product its personality.
Color is an important tool for designers to capture consumer attention.
Gradient colors give products human emotions.
For example, Karim’s favorite shade of pink is a combination of red and white. Red represents passion and aggression, while white feels tolerant and free. The gradations between red and white give a sense of layering and emotional fluctuations.
The R15’s star purple and dream red versions show OPPO’s exploration of color and Karim’s thoughts on the use of color. They described these two color editions as follows:
Purple is a combination of red and blue. The warm red and the cool blue collide with each other to make a very ambiguous purple.
Purple is also often reminiscent of the stars. The change from black to purple is like a sky with stars, with endless sense of mystery and depth. I would like to use it to express the R15’s infinite possibilities and connectivity in the digital age.
The R15 dream red version features a black to red gradient and is a continuation of R11’s “star screen”. The glass material gives the black and red gradient a more transparent feel, like the combination of crimson and yellow portrays the glow of the sky. We can always get endless inspiration from the sky.
Although mass consumers may not fully grasp the design’s deeper meanings, OPPO may continue to further these design ideas and styles for the R series.
The significance of design masters
Why did OPPO partner with Karim, an internationally renowned designer, to design the R15?
We can learn from another manufacturer’s point-of-view.
When the Xiaomi Note phone failed in the high-end markets, Xiaomi met unprecedented obstacles. With the help of one of the world’s top designers, Philip Stark, the Mi MIX helped Xiaomi regain brand awareness. Although the MIX also had limited sales due to its limited production capacity, it was a regarded as a triumph in design.
Stark’s efforts, combined with the efforts of Xiaomi engineers, gave birth to the MIX and opened a new chapter of full-screen mobile phones. They increased Xiaomi brand awareness, demonstrating the power of design.
After Steve Jobs’ passing, Tim Cook took charge of Apple. However, the vast majority of Apple fans did not attribute Apple’s style to Cook, but rather to Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive.
Ive’s best friend, a famous designer named Marc Newson, joined Apple in 2014. Although Newson’s role in Apple was unclear, it is reasonable to assume that Newson and Ive, who are both in the design field, were responsible for designing the Apple Watch and making it into a fashion item.
In 2017, the Apple Watch was more successful than competitors Fitbit and Xiaomi, and become the leading wearable. The Apple Watch also surpassed Swiss watches in sales volume. While the Apple Watch did not become a fashion necessity, it gave a sense of high-class fashion style after its partnerships with luxury brands Coach and Hermès.
OPPO cooperated with the famous designer because of past concepts and future considerations.
Karim’s representative design work includes Garbo trash cans, which has sold seven million units priced at $9.99. Karim advocates for “democratic designs”, meaning they are not only for the elite but should be more popular and ubiquitous.
Mass produced smartphones now have what Karim calls “democratic design”, as evident from the rear design of the R11, and OPPO’s concept of “beauty for everyone”.
Karim’s brand message coincides with what OPPO wants to do this year.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of OPPO’s globalization, and OPPO calls this year the Globalization 2.0 phase. We previously predicted that Chinese mobile phones would expand overseas this year, and OPPO has made extraordinarily bold moves. Earlier in January, OPPO entered the Japanese market with the R11, and will soon enter the European market.
In order for the R15 to have good domestic sales and become OPPO’s most internationalized product, Karim will help OPPO turn the R15 into a product that will attract users globally.
To some extent, the cooperation between phone manufacturers and well-known designers is just as important as having the most advanced chips and developing research hardware with partners like Qualcomm. The success of the phone is about its voice in the industry, the product influence, and its ultimate market position.