We quiz BlackBerry designer Todd Wood on the new range of phones

BLACKBERRY UNVEILED its two latest models earlier this month. We spoke to the man behind the new design about the new features and how he dealt with the pressure and expectations.

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE BLACKBERRY IDENTITY WHILE PUSHING THE DESIGN?
That is the challenge. We have this great base of customers who love our products, so we asked ourselves what elements are essential. People recognise things like the red light as a BlackBerry attribute. The same was true of the keyboard. We’re famous for it and they are the best. We have customers who insist they want the keyboard, and that’s why, with Blackberry 10, we have the Q, which stands for QWERTY keyboard. That’s always the thought process: is it essential? We don’t want to just redo the old Blackberry, we want to reinvent and reengineer the brand.

DID YOU FEEL UNDER PRESSURE WORKING ON THESE PHONES?
Without a doubt. There’s so much focus on this category, it’s part of social culture. But the engineering we’re working on is necessary and if we deliver, it’ll be successful. People are always concerned about how things are going; it’s just about really believing in what you’re doing.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO WANT TWO YEARS FROM NOW?
As designers and engineers, we’re always envisioning the future and where things are headed. It’s important to have a road map and a vision. You need to ask what the problems are going forward, otherwise you’re just reacting.

HOW MUCH DID YOU CONSIDER YOUR RIVALS?
We are aware. It’s an art of war. You need to know your competition but it’s more important to know yourself as a brand and understand what the values of our customers are and how they’re different to our competitors. If you become too distracted by other brands you lose it.

PEOPLE HAVE SAID THE Z10 LOOKS LIKE THE IPHONE...
The differences become very clear when you start to look at its utility. It doesn’t slip out of your hand; it feels good up against your ear. There’s no home button, the navigation is gesture based and it flows easily between applications. So there are similarities, like four door sedans are similar, but there are differences. There’s a sleekness to the new phones, an elegance and they are understated in their design. This allows the user experience of BB10 to shine through. People look at it and think “that’s fresh”, but it’s still recognisable as a BlackBerry.

TELL US ABOUT THE GESTURE CONTROLS
It feels like a noticeable change to begin with but it’s easy to learn and once you do, you’ll never forget. It’s new and what’s interesting with innovation is that people have this primitive response. They either love it or they run away from it. But once you go past the threshold, you can’t go back.