The KDDI au design project

Balmuda recently caused a bit of a stir in the tech press by announcing the launch of an Android-based smartphone of their own design. A phone launch in itself is nothing very special these days, but this one is a bit different in that Balmuda is not a phone maker or a computing company. Instead, Balmuda makes home appliances. The Japanese company is most known for its beautifully designed, high-end toaster ovens that have apparently achieved cult-like status in their homeland.

The Balmuda Phones somewhat pebble-like shape reminded me of the KDDI au design project.

Starting in 2002, the au design project was born as an effort to revive the company by collaborating with designers to produce a series of original phone designs, some of which have now ended up as part of the permanent collection at MoMa in New York. The commissioned designers included superstar names like Marc Newson and Naoto Fukasawa, who continued the collaboration and designed the new models of the Infobar series of phones.

I can't remember how I found out about the project, probably from a design blog like Core77 or some other. What I do remember, is lusting after every new concept they released, one wilder than the other. While we had rather boring, albeit reliable Nokias and Alcatels that were downright ugly and unreliable to boot, the Japanese had all these wonderful delights. There was no way though, even if I could have afforded these shiny toys at the time, the cellphones of Japan were not compatible with the networks in Europe. concept, designed by Naoto Fukasawa

infobar2, also by Naoto Fukasawa

ishicoro concept by Naoto Fukasawa

Talby, designed by Marc Newson

All images are courtesy of the KDDI au design project.