vertu interview with design director frank nuovo
vertu interview with design director frank nuovo vertu interview with design director frank nuovo
oct 24, 2011

vertu interview with design director frank nuovo

frank nuovo, founder and director of design of vertu portrait © designboom

designboom met up with director frank nuovo who is responsible for the design choices of the world’s most exclusive brand of luxury phone makers — vertu.

having worked previously as designer and then design director of BMW, frank nuovo began working with phones as the founding head of the nokia design organization, compiling a global design team that helped bring the manufacturers from a small finnish company to an international presence. it was to nokia that he proposed the concept of a luxury phone collection in 1997, and the first product in what came to be called vertu was released in 2002. the company was conceptualized as a response to the constraints that the needs of mass production puts on artisan craftsmanship and quality:

‘during that process early at nokia I found that there were many limitations in terms of materials that were possible in the mass market. you can’t make something out of sapphire, you can’t make something out of ceramic. it’s very difficult to work with metals; impossible to work with leather. […] now there are volume approaches to working with leather. but when you refer to the craftsmen and traditional crafts of leatherworking or metalworking, thinking for example about the watch industry, which had been served for so many years by fine craftsmen and traditional skills that were increasingly being lost, I felt there was an opportunity to bring that in to high technology.‘

frank nuovo discusses the importance of design for functional objects video © designboom

phones are unusual in the balance that they effect between functionality and technical attributes and aesthetic design and personal expression. as objects that individuals always carry on their person, they have taken over both the place and the market once held by watches. nuovo is quick to note that current practices in technical design create products that many find overly minimalistic, lacking the personal details that have drawn people to their possessions throughout history.

‘when you have an object that is personal, that you take with you,’ nuovo explains, ‘I think it’s important that you have tremendous character in the overall device. so there’s a balance here between allowing what’s on the screen to be featured and to complement that with the physical product: how it feels in the hand, how it responds to your touch. it’s about the ability to allow the content on the screen to stand out without sacrificing the character of the product.‘

frank nuovo on the importance of detail and aesthetics video © designboom

nuovo reflects on the special constraints and possibilities that his work across the divide of functionality and aesthetics poses to design, as well as the influences that his personal background– from dinner table conversations in his lively italian-american family to the jazz performance he studied as a young adult– continue to influence his thinking. as regards his love of music, he notes:

‘the thing that folds back into design work from the music side is the interaction with people. when I’m working with engineers and when I’m working with people from other disciplines, that’s where I really feel the music. if everybody in the group really understands, does their job, and focuses on what they do best, then it makes for good design. I respect people who understand what they’re doing and put a lot of time and effort into mastering the craft.‘

frank nuovo on the concept behind vertu:

‘so the rules of design and how you engage in engineering and production in the extremely high volumes [of nokia] is massively different than when you can focus in on something that is all about people working hard on just a few products a day that are made in an extraordinary way. and that’s the early adventure leading up to vertu. […] I was dreaming about how you could create not only a brand but a culture in a  new company that would serve this combining of high technology, high craft, and extraordinary service.

read more about the ‘constellation T’ itself in this designboom article.

  • Is DesignBoom sponsored by Vertu or something? All we’ve been seeing lately is hyping for Vertu phones, Vertu exhibition spaces, etc:. Seriously: is Design Boom sponsored by Vertu??

    Alex says:
  • to alex
    no, we are not. it all started with one of our tech posts on phones. you know we try to keep you updated on the scene. then we were invited to preview the pavilion by MAD architects. we like ma yansong and his work and published it.
    then we got to know frank nuovo and he was so kind to share with us his thoughts. that’s it.
    enough of vertu for a while?
    thx for asking.

    birgit db says:
  • thanx birgit for the specifics.
    i share alex concerns and already asked jenny about it.
    i like MAD as well.
    cheers everyone @ db

    buzzoff says:
  • Functionality and aesthetics are clearly two things Frank Nuovo doesn’t understand.

    pn says:
  • To pn: I don’t agree, Nuovo is saying that functionality should not be linked to minimalism only and that some customer segments value certain product attributes more than others. Companies tend to choose the largest segments, although the segments with the most consumers are not always the most profitable and usually have the most competition. I very much appreciate Vertu’s very own way, guided by principles of hand-made quality, with exquisite detailing and a superb customer service.
    The Constellation T is designed to appeal to the techno-savvy modern professionals and it is expected to see a surge in sales.

    Herbert Griem says:
  • to birgit
    if you aren’t sponsored by Vertu why ALL the negative posts are censored?

    lucar says:
  • very rarely have we had to delete comments.
    in total we deleted 3 comments (on the 3 articles), because they were too offensive. luxury, in its opposed nature to necessity by definition, is not only about exclusivity and high prices only… but also about design intent and quality.
    we would hope that controversial subjects would receive insightful comments, but most often they are just an expression of hate.

    birgit db says:
  • Sorry but I do not hate anyone, but my six posts have been deleted.
    I did not use inappropriate or offensive language.
    I only expressed my disagreement with the use of skins of rare animals, simply.

    lucar says:
  • we have a few editors traveling at the moment,
    they might have deleted them which we have not been aware of.
    your comment will now stay.

    andrea / designboom says:
  • I think it’s great that he started this company from scratch and has really been able to exercise form, functionality and aesthetic, carving out a market for luxury phones.

    Bets says:
  • If it has been built, by hand, by one individual, it’ll probably last beyond the typical lifecycle of other mobile phones out there?

    Frank says:
  • Although this is just one aspect of the Vertu philosophy, I think translating the craftsmanship of watchmaking and attention to the mobile phone is quite relevant.
    I mean these days, watches though not obsolete have become something of the past – they’re most used for ‘decorative’ purposes. People generally revert to their phones to check time, so why not make it something fashionable?

    Carol B. says:
  • The form of the phone is very nice and made with timeless materials, similar to a purse, belt or watch. Almost everyone is guilty of buying a newer and cooler looking phone and simply throwing away their older and outdated one when the newest model comes out. Instead of continuing this consumer driven process, making a device which people will treat with care (like a purse or watch) and want to keep for a long time is a commendable notion in the fast-paced world of technology.

    Lynn says:
  • I generally respect what Frank Nuovo brings to the Vertu brand. He really does articulate the same ‘luxury and utility’ principles from his BMW-past in his design for Vertu. Understanding one’s phone as an accessory, a piece, rather than an object of necessity is what makes the Vertu concept fascinating to me.

    francesca says:
  • Just thinking about the function and screen of the phone, I think Vertu is a wonderful piece. When considering the shape of the phone, I have an issue with the angular earpiece. simply based on that feature alone, the Vertu is not my cup of tea…

    Adeline says:

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