Talking BlackBerry 10 Product Design with Todd Wood and Don Lindsay

Talking BlackBerry 10 Product Design with Todd Wood and Don Lindsay
By DJ Reyes on 21 May 2013 01:20 pm EDT

Day two at BlackBerry Live 2013 was ripe with exclusive sessions for the Elite guys and as well as the session with Frank Boulben, BlackBerry Elite members got a chance to sit down with the product design team and learn about the ideas and inspiration for building the BlackBerry 10 platform and devices.

Todd Wood, Industrial Design and Don Lindsay, User Experience gave us a look at how they came about designing what the BlackBerry 10 products we see today.

Todd started off by showing off a house designed back in the 60s that was the inspiration behind creating the flow of BlackBerry 10. The house is linear and you can seamlessly flow between the rooms. So, the design team took inspiration from that and started to create the BlackBerry 10 platform.

BlackBerry 10 Inspiration

They showed off a few early design sketches, stating that sketching is still primarily the way they start the thinking process. We got to see a few early sketches of the Q10.

Product Design

BlackBerry Z10

Todd comes across very proud of the final look and design of the Z10. He mentioned the small details in the finish that adds to the appeal. Like how on both the top and bottom of the device curve/slope down. The idea behind that was to make it easier to slip into a pocket.

The back of the Z10 is made of a soft touch coating, which makes it both silky and grippy. And if you own or have held a Z10 know how nice if feels. The design of the back was created using Computer Aided Design (CAD). Overall they wanted to give it a modern, clean pure design.

BlackBerry has always been about thumbsDon Lindsay, User Experience

You'll probably agree with me that the Z10 has the best virtual keyboard out there. BlackBerry definitely hit the mark and have proved that they can give you the best typing experience not just with a physical keyboard but with a touchscreen one too.

Don Lindsay came on and talked about the keyboard. They wanted to keep the frets, so that it mimicked the physical one. I also think that the sound it makes when you type mimics a physical keyboard sound too. I love it.

BlackBerry Q10

They then moved on to the design behind the Q10. Again, sketches were used to to think up design.

Q10 Sketches

The back of the Q10 is made up of woven glass fiber. It is thin, light and strong and also allows for a larger battery to be used as the back door is very thin. It has the same soft touch coating as the Z10 to give that grippy feel.

They wanted the Q10 to have that iconic BlackBerry look, hence it being very similar in design on the Bold 9900. When you look at it, you know it's a BlackBerry.

They showed an interesting picture of the skeleton of the Q10, where all you see is the outer casing around the side and the keyboard frets that go between the keyboard lines. It certainly made me want to get my hands on a Q10 even more.

Q10 Skeleton

As you can see from the picture, it is very sleek and sexy, complete with the 'dove-tail' way they connected the keyboard frets to that outer casing. You can also see the fret that goes around the back of the device. If you own a Q10 of have held one, you'll notice that this is slightly raised but about a millimeter. The idea behind this was that if you laid your Q10 down on a flat surface, the camera would be protected as it wouldn't touch the surface due to the raised fret. Small things touches like this are things Todd is very proud of and it was nice know the thinking behind the designs.

BlackBerry Q5

Tod and Don then moved on to the inspiration and ideas behind designing the Q5. They knew the market they wanted to target, the younger generation. With the Curve series devices having always been popular amongst the young, the Q5 was made to appeal to the same crowd. Inspiration of colors came from those Swatch watches that come in many different colors becoming a huge fashion accessory.

Q5 Rounded Corners

While the Curve keyboard has always been different to the bold, so too is the Q5 from the Q10. What was interesting to note was the thinking behind the overall design of both the device and the keys. They wanted to keep it uniform with the way the icons for the apps look on BlackBerry 10. The rounded corners of the app border is the same as the round corners of the device itself and if you look at the keyboard keys, these have the same design too. With the Q5 each key has its own pocket as opposed to the Q10 where they are all aligned next to each other.

UI/UX Design

After talking about the device design they then went on to talk about the User Interface (UI) and how they had to mix things up a little when designing for full touchscreen as opposed to a device with a physical keyboard. The main thing being word prediction. The unique swipe up to complete on the Z10 of course could not be put on the Q10, so they opted for the the in column UI (similar to that found on the PlayBook). Though this option can be turned off for the Q10.

They also brought back keyboard shortcuts with the Q10. A lot of people have missed keyboard shortcuts and so it was very welcome on the Q10. While the usual popular shortcuts are there like 'T' and 'B' to jump to the top and the bottom, there are a few others that got thrown in and a nice touch was that they show you what those shortcuts are when you look at the menu.

We then move on to the OLED display and dark theme. Kevin has already talked about Q10 and it's dark theme in our comprehensive Q10 review but to recap, an OLED display gives you great colors. With OLED displays it also takes power to light a pixel, so with a dark theme you're not using any power when a pixel is black. Making the Q10 even more of a powerhouse when it comes to battery drain. They did, however, decide to keep the white background for the main messaging tools like emails and texts.

When designing the Q10, they also had to think about how information would be displayed on the screen. With the Q10 having a smaller display, they still wanted to display as much information as they could. They talked about 'Information Density'. Basically, a way to get the same amount of information displayed on both the Z10 and the Q10. One of the areas this is most apparent is when viewing your photos. On a Z10 your pictures are display with three thumbnails going across. On the Q10, you make this four thumbnails and you can present the same information as you can on the Z10.

Information Density

What is awesome about this is that I didn't notice this until it was pointed out during the session. Or maybe that's just me not being observant enough.

As the session was coming to an end, a few questions were. One question that got asked before I could ask it was, will the be bringing back the multi-select option? You'll know it's quite annoying when you have multiple emails in a row to the delete. While there is an option to multi-select. I, and indeed many others, would like to use two fingers to multi-select just as you can with BB6 and 7.

It is definitely something there are looking into, so perhaps we can see this option come about in 10.2?

I enjoyed this session very much and was nice to get a insight into what ideas and inspiration behind building the devices and OS we see today.

Reader comments

Talking BlackBerry 10 Product Design with Todd Wood and Don Lindsay


Awesome stuff. Also:
"With the Q5 each key has it's own pocket as opposed to the Q5 where they are all aligned next to each other." slight error...

So REAL engineers sketch things? I thought it was just a way to torture students. I am terrible at sketching :/

Posted via CB10

I bought samsung galaxy s4 and blackberry is only for bbm now... i honestly dont know what to do with this z10...

Posted via CB10 - Z10 STL 100-1

What does s4 do better than the z10? Sure it doesn't have candy crush or Netflix but other than that, I think it's quite capable and excels in lot of areas. Especially productivity.

Posted via CB10

Though the article was written quite well and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, it was very sloppy as if it was rushed

Posted via CB10

Improvements to the multi select.
This would be the right phrase to use, if not the iOS fan boys will jeer us. Please get it right next time.

Posted via CB10

I just love my samsung s4, i feel like i got what i paid for... and now i feels like i have paid expensive only for a phone that can use a bbm... when bbm application cones to android, im thinking to sell this z10 maybe... :) its only about $50 us more to get samsung s4 or IDR 500.000, and i got a phone with a lot of better specs, only without a bbm apps. thank you blackberry...

Posted via CB10 - Z10 STL 100-1

Ok...this is your second post on your S4. We really don't care about the S4 or we would own one. Obviously you do not get BB10 and it's power. You think hardware specs are the end all and be all. Again enjoy your S4

Posted via CB10

With all due respect, while I'll agree that the S4 has some fantastic specs, I don't know that it's actually as usable overall as the Z10. It's telling that they're now coming out with a Google Nexus version of the S4 that charges a great deal more money just to rip out the UI overlay.

And the industrial design is awful. Sorry.

Shut up already. Ok ok we know you have an S4 so go enjoy it. Why the f**k you buy a BlackBerry Z10 for anyways. BlackBerry is for BBM only?? Boy please. No one cares you have an S4. I got money too I could buy one but I don't want it cuz its software sucks a**. I've heard too many unhappy people speak about its crappy software. I'll give it to you its hardware is cool, not awesome, but it's software doesn't come close to BlackBerry 10's QNX base software. It still doesn't come close to Apple's iOS. Software is what's matters, not hardware. Get off of and go spread your BS elsewhere

With all no respect i reply to you, my money none of your business.. i bought blackberry then i have rights to tell what i feel is it wrong? I dont care or even judge that im the only one who can afford an s4 okay? You like it, you buy it..

Posted via CB10 - Z10 STL 100-1

The problem is you didn't mention what you think is wrong with the Z10. All you said was that the S4 has better specs. If you enjoy your S4, congrats. BB10 is not for everyone. But feel free to spread your love for the S4 on the appropriate forum (i.e Android Central)

This z10 is just laggy, and not a good apps here for a phone like this... and its only has dual core whilw s4 is quad core... and which better is the price are almost the same ... i love my blackberry before i bought the s4, and now i feel kinda useless since i found that line is a better and funnier messenger apps...

Posted via CB10 - Z10 STL 100-1

The problem here with your comment is:
1. This thread has absolutely nothing to do with anything android.
2. You are complaining about specs instead of software experience on those specs.
3. The android software has been evolving for quite some time now and BB OS10 is still very new. Of course there will be more apps for Android.
4. BlackBerry made it clear that they are not in a spec race. Who cares what the specs are if the phone doesn't perform to meet or use them!
5. The Z10 laggy? How? My Z10 has the smoothest experience I have ever come across.
6. Stop trolling!

Good day! Lol

Posted via CB10

Uh, watch out, you are being sucked in. This poster is obviously part of the student crew Samsung has hired to go after the competition(s). It was HTC forums when this was first discovered, but its pretty plain to see Samsung is now here trolling the CB boards as well.

Z10 hardware spec just isn't competitive any more. I just wish Blackberry can bring out a Z10+ or something with better spec. e.g. Bigger battery (Z10 is not a small phone, if Samsung can squeeze it 2800mAh battery in S4, why can't Blackberry?), make it water and dust resistance like the Sony Xperia V, sensitivity touch screen like the Nokia Lumia 920 and front facing stereo speakers like the HTC one.

Why? Isn't Q10 first? Or it change it's name?
I'm the z10 user in Taiwan, but BlackBerry World didn't give us the most we using the social networking apps?
We need more, RIM can u hear me?

Posted via CB10

I think that they should have different backs as accessory options to buy. Why not make the Red Z10. I think the Z10 would look sharp with stainless steel or chrome front top and bottom. The other idea might have been to take some style cues from the Torch. There is very little unique about the Z10 - too generic.

Interestingly my fiance (9900 lover) did not love the Q10 keyboard when she demoed the unit. She said the keyboard curved the wrong way. Was the choice to change the keyboard alignment covered at thus session?

Since the trackpad was gone, they thought they would make the keyboard straight to also bring the screen down. It also matches the Z10 which as the straight keyboard design.

They had already toyed with a straight keyboard with the Porsche Design BlackBerry and got good feedback from that.

Posted via CB10

Ask if in all honestly, whether the Playbook, as OS10 device, will be ever revived from the dead?
It was a loss for Blackberry.
I wonder if it is worthwhile for Blackberry to put more money-in considering the dominance of the iPad.