Design note 01: buttons
In 1963 Western Electric transitioned from the rotary dial to the touch tone phone with the model 1500 series. These touch tone buttons are perfectly sized, with rounded corners and a concave imprint. Most importantly, they’re nice and springy and a pleasure to press (something lost on modern phones). When considering button design we began with these ideal buttons in mind. The original idea was to reproduce these buttons exactly. While they’re ideal for a heavy stationary phone, this forceful press wouldn’t be appropriate for a hand-held device.
We also considered going in the opposite direction by eliminating the buttons all together with touch sensitive technology. You can see this concept in earlier posts. The advantage here is that while the phone is not in use the form would appear uninterrupted with an opaque face. Visually this is the best option, but touch sensitive buttons are unsatisfying in practice. We’ve settled on buttons sized and shaped like the original touch tones and by keeping them flush to the phone face, they have the most subtle presence possible. We’re using the old iPods as a reference for the feel and click of the buttons. Also, the numbers will glow only when the phone is engaged. When the phone is off only the button outline will be visible.