March 2005

Designing a brand of products from scratch

By mid 2005, Asus had just released its second mobile phone and – motivated by the products’ success – the company’s leadership wanted to win a bigger share of this fast-developing market. The design department was tasked to devise a strategy that would help achieve Asus’s goals.

After defining the company’s first notebook design guidelines a year earlier, I led this effort together with Kyle Shiau and Jen Chuang and we were not only supported by a team of more than 20 designers, but also received help from Asus’s Business, Marketing, and Engineering Departments.

An underlying strategic framework

With the intention to unify Asus’s mobile phone aesthetics in the process, an extensive in-depth research effort laid the foundation for the program and helped to create a strategic framework. We surveyed competition, technology, and aesthetic trends, identified market opportunities and target customers, and – based on our findings – outlined a series of three product segments that would cater to our users’ specific needs and desires.

Consequent design execution

The program’s industrial design effort determined aesthetic and functional principles for Asus’s lines of mobile phones based on the aforementioned framework. It led to definitions of design themes for each of the three product segments, and finally to detailed design specifications of shapes, colors, materials and finishes.

We designed several reference prototypes for each category that served as guiding images for Asus phones in 2005. Above are examples from two of these product categories; one targeted at the professional market and guided by the theme “Refined Precision” and the other one focused on consumers, with friendlier shapes, colors and finishes and a “Food for the Fingers” motif.

Going the distance

In order for the design language to have the impact we desired, we did not stop with the design work itself, but also prepared materials to communicate our work and presented the design guidelines to two Asus Senior Vice Presidents. The ensuing discussions were vital for the reception, result, and retention of the company’s first Mobile Phone Design Guidelines, that would inform and inspire the design of Asus’s mobile products for several years to come.