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Updating an Icon: Design Q&A on BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition

How do you update a successful design like BlackBerry Passport?

Released last fall, the device remixed many of the core elements that people associate with BlackBerry — productivity-focused design with a great keyboard — to create something innovative and new. An award winning design, the BlackBerry Passport has been recognized as a Red Dot: Best of the Best 2015 and an iF DESIGN AWARD 2015 winner. It’s also garnered strong reviews from journalists and customers.

Most importantly, it’s become a valued productivity tool for successful people everywhere, including celebrity chef Tyler Florence, this real estate agent, senior hospital executive, manufacturing executive, non-profit founder, software engineer, tech journalist, legal administrator, pharmaceutical CEO, software manager, insurance salesman, corporate IT manager and these workers from multiple industries.


Di Tao, BlackBerry’s Senior Industrial Designer, led the project and faced the daunting task of improving on this already-successful device. With today’s launch of BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition, the efforts are finally seeing the light of day. We sat down with Taodi to talk through some of the thinking that led to the thoughtful evolution that BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition represents.

Florio: What was the motivation to evolve the existing design of the BlackBerry Passport?

0059Di: When we designed our first Passport, we took a radical approach with a unique format and design language, creating an iconic product that represents BlackBerry innovation. For BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition, our focus was to take the design of Passport to a more premium level while extending its appeal to a broader audience.

Florio: What exactly has changed in the design?

Di: The overall structure of the device has been optimized from inside out to improve user experience and antenna performance. We have enhanced the strength of the device both visually and physically. We wanted form and materials that would give BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition a powerful and striking presence — something that would stand out in a sea of devices. We’ve also refined the profile of device, so it fits more comfortably in one’s hand and pocket.

Florio: What guided the material and other changes to the body of the device?Oslo_Frame

Di: The overall device has a very unique tactile and visual quality. The knurled pattern on the back cover provides grip and comfort, making one feel secure when holding it in your hand. The metal frame further enhances the solidness and substantiality as well as durability. The machined details around the functional elements such as camera and receiver speak the quality of precision and premium quality.

Florio: What inspires you as you evolve an existing design like BlackBerry Passport?

Di: Scientific and professional instruments, analog cameras, and modern classic furniture — many of them have unique qualities and characters that enable people not only to utilize but enjoy their functions. We value those qualities and also see them as source of inspiration.

Oslo_Device 2Florio: What are the iconic BlackBerry elements that endure even as we evolve our design?

Di: Frets — the metal bars separating the rows of keys —are the most iconic part of BlackBerry devices with physical keypads. They play an important role in making keyboard easy and intuitive to use. The frets of this design have evolved from the bars on older BlackBerry products. They are now built around the touch-sensitive keypad and are fully integrated with the device.

Florio: What design element are you most proud of in the new Blackberry?

Di: The overall simplicity, structure, and the precision of the design details have made this device one of my favorite BlackBerry devices.


Also check out our BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition’s unboxing video as well this deep dive interview with Passport product expert, Sarah Jacobs.

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