Metal and Glass and Everything Nice

The role of beauty in our devices is not a greatly debated topic; we want it, simple as that. Sexism aside, I want my phone to be a hot, sexy bitch that fits inside my pocket. The question, then, is how do we get there? The tyranny of the iPhone’s irreproachable aesthetic has been amongst the hardest thing for manufacturers to overcome. As content now reigns supreme, it becomes futile to resist the efficiency of Apple’s damnable rectangle. How does the Mozilla Phone break from that aesthetic? How does it visually stand out and make its own statement about your content, the web, and you as a user?

Of the formal problems facing the Mozilla Phone, a revealing perspective is how the material choices reflect on functional elements. Consider this breakdown; if we separate the device into the three discrete elements of structure (metal case), substrate (glass touchscreen) and content (LCD), the object as a whole becomes directly relatable to other categories. Consider cars with a metal chassis, glass windows and interior comfort, or a fine watch’s metal band, sapphire crystal and watch face, or even a building’s steel superstructure, glass façade and interior living spaces. All employ a quasi-hierarchical relationship between structure, substrate and content, if loosely applied.

Of course, these are sweeping generalities, but they allow useful comparisons for thinking about the problem at hand. For example, if you messed with the typical relationship between structure and substrate like below, how would that translate to the phone?

How else could that paradigm be extended and reworked? How can we get away from the monotony of polished aluminum and tinted glass? I’m focusing on material choice and composition here, but what other avenues could we consider in creating a unique aesthetic? I pointed out watches and cars as possible form inspiration, but what other categories might give useful input to gadget design? How beholden are we to the efficiency of rectangular content? I would love to break out the overall shape, but I almost feel there’s something inherently unrealistic about that. I’m only beginning to discover the difficulty in designing a visually unique phone while maintaining functionality, so don’t expect this to be the last post on the topic.

Lets see some comments people.