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HTC's head designer on what's exciting in designing for mobile right now

Neil Bennett | July 1, 2015
HTC's head designer Drew Bamford tells us how you create interfaces and experiences for increasingly large phones and VR headsets – and how you design differently for Asia.

"We think most of the time you're switching between those nine apps. You're not going to go back 18 apps ago and use that app. It's just not a common use."

NB: HTC recent financial results were poor. Can design help turn that around?

DB: "I certainly hope so or I wouldn't be here. I love design just for design sake, but I don't think we're successful at design unless it's selling products. It's my belief that design's already played a huge role in HTC's evolution from, we started off as an ODM back in the 90s. Then even as recently as 2006 - just before I joined HTC - we were still making [PDAs like the] Compaq iPAQ and Cingular 8525.

"The transformation from ODM to global smartphone brand was enabled largely by design. I mean we created an industrial design language that built the brand, we created HTC Sense - an experience design language - and I think without those we never would have been able to create a consumer brand.

"Now we're in kind of a transition to our third act. That's what I like to call it, which is beyond smartphone brand to kind of personal technology brand or experience brand. We're going beyond phones to fitness, to VR, to home, other categories, imaging with our Re Camera. I think it will be design that carries us into those new spaces."

NB: What's your approach to VR for your RE Vive headset (above)? Unlike phones, it's an area where there aren't set conventions for interaction design.

DB: "It's almost the opposite of the smartphone. It's super exciting for my team because we're really in that phase where we have the opportunity to define the way that people interact in VR and to ask them to come up with those new patterns. It will take probably years for standard patterns to emerge in AR and VR. So we're in that super creative phase where we can just try lots of things.

NB: Where do you see the usefulness of VR in people's lives?

DB: "Of course the early adopters will be gamers because many of them already have the PC that will be required to power such a high-powered high-fidelity experience. But beyond games, one area that's really exciting for me is this kind of emerging new type of film or cinema experience. I think it won't be regular linear films of course, because you're immersed in the film. You can actually change your perspective, maybe even change the course of the film. I think there already are a lot of people working on that in Hollywood, for example. That's pretty exciting.


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