Philips M7 FARO home phone

In 2011 I had designed the MIRA, which marked the very beginning of the Phillips Design Range in the home phone category. The product’s outstanding commercial success triggered the development of a whole range of products at different price points – each of them unique, unconventional, designed to either fit or complement home interiors and offering a great overall user experience. The FARO was to be positioned right below the premium model, with focus on the German market.

The typical procedure to engage in this sort of project would be to surround myself with inspirational material, dive into an intensive ideation phase, produce a number of 3D-prints and then present a few concept finalists to the business category management. In this particular case however, a design concept had already come together in my mind and I had no doubt that it was simply the right solution. Unlike with previous models I wanted to abandon any kind of surfacing and instead create a very pure, geometric and architectural design, composed of an upright oval extrusion for the handset and a simple square base station. Also I intended to introduce the principle of a black and shiny inner core, which basically represents the technology interface (display, keypad earpiece and handsfree speaker) covered by an outer skin with a contrasting matte finish and potentially contrasting color. This formal concept is combined with the idea of a handset which can be placed on the base station in both directions – either with the keypad facing forward or backwards. That way the product offers the possibility to appear as a very discreet and pure object. A large secondary display in the base unit had already been introduced with one of my earlier designs, the Philips LUCEO. It’s a great feature, which allows the user to see the time and caller-ID or phone number of an incoming call from a distance of almost 2 meters. With this design however, the product’s unique configuration also offered the opportunity to add control elements for an alarm snooze function and handsfree talk without picking up the handset. The other unique item here was the introduction of a top-firing handsfree speaker, which delivers a far better audio performance than the standard back-firing design and supports the two-way handset placement concept.

With the design practically preconceived, I could right away move on to 3D-CAD modelling, for which McNeel’s Rhinoceros is my standard tool. The advantage of the design concept was, that it could be developed entirely based on a low-cost component platform and standard AAA-batteries. This was not only a great financial advantage for the business case, it also allowed me to build a very accurate geometry right from the start. The business leaders had been fully convinced by the design, which was presented with a simple mock-up and a few visuals. The radical and geometric shape of the handset initially raised concerns about ergonomics and comfort, but when handling the mock-up it became obvious that the product felt great in the hand and against the ear. In fact the design turned out to be very practical, because the keypad and the display are slightly recessed by a single cut trough the extruded oval body, which prevents accidental pressing of keys and avoids smudges on the display lens.
In the following development phase the major challenge was, to implement the outer shell of the handset as a single tube-shaped part – unlike the typical solution with a front and a back housing. Not only would this make the product much cleaner and more attractive, it would also open up the possibility to offer special editions with interchangeable handset covers in different colors. The finalised design data which was shared with the supplier had been very carefully and accurately built around the component architecture, included the sliding and locking mechanism for battery removal and considered tooling approach. That way the design did not have to be compromised and only very minute adjustments needed to be made during the mechanical development phase in order to get the design ready for production.

The Philips FARO had been introduced at the IFA electronics fair in Berlin 2016 and was launched soon afterwards. Since then it has carried forward Philips’ impressive commercial performance in that category and it is currently available in most European countries, China and many APAC countries. In 2017 the product received the prestigious red dot award for product design.

Holger Höhn

Holger Höhn is and industrial designer with extensive international experience in the field of product design. Born in Berlin, he studied in Germany and the US and holds a German Diploma of Product Design. His professional career includes ten years category lead design positions at Philips and Gibson Innovation. In these roles he created vision and strategy, steering innovation and product development for large product portfolios. Holger is the recipient of numerous design awards including Red Dot Award (5x), IF Design (9x), Good Industrial Design, G-Mark, Plus X Award and Prix de l’innovation du MedPi. You can find more of his work and information about his studio Höhn+Lu Design on his website.