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Marko Ahtisaari interview: Nokia Senior VP of Design

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Marko Ahtisaari
Marko Ahtisaari

Deep conversations about user experience and iconic forms come easy to Marko Ahtisaari. The son of Finland's tenth president (and winner of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize) studied philosophy at Columbia University before being elevated to the position of Senior VP of Design at Nokia. His most notable achievements thus far are the MeeGo Swipe interface of the N9 and the polycarbonate monobody design shared by both the N9 and newly unveiled Lumia 800.

I had the chance to interview Marko in London as a followup to my conversation from last year. While there's no way that Markko could have foreseen the switch to Windows Phone back then, the fact that he finds such harmony with Albert Shum's Metro UI demonstrates the synergy that exists between Microsoft's and Nokia's design teams. As Marko explains while gesturing to his beloved Lumia 800, "What struck me so much is that when we got together, and looked at design principles that went into metro, the design principles that went into this design language — it's nearly identical, slightly different words. So great teams think alike."

Nevertheless, Marko's clear that innovation in the phone industry "isn't done yet," reminding me that it took 15 years for the automobile industry to standardize on the steering wheel as the dominant interface. While voice interaction like Apple's Siri is an important development in the humane machine interface, Marko's near-term interest is improving "design on the glass" via "sloppier gestures" that allow users to do something without requiring their full attention. He's also exploring off-the-glass gestures, calling it a "key area where we'll continue to innovate." "The prototypes already exist," he reassured me with a glint in his eye.

Check the video below if you're passionate about design or just curious to hear what the man in charge of the Nokia user experience has to say.