The Color Story Of Nokia Lumia Windows Phones

Karen, over at the Nokia Conversations blog, has let us into the world of colors for the Nokia Lumia (and N9) handsets. Tiina Aarras works at Nokia as the materials designer, and has become the main hand in choosing the final colors for the Nokia N9 and all the Lumia Windows Phones.

The process of choosing the final colors for the Lumia lineup was definitely much more enduring than it may seem to any consumer, it also took a lot of patience. Tiina Aarras takes us through it all, from choosing the final colors that we see available, to choosing the right material that will hold strong and be lightweight at the same time.

About Tiina Aarras

It’s not just plastic, it’s “a single piece of polycarbonate plastic.” And they’re not just colours – they’re the most “saturated, intense colours” you’ll find on a phone, according to Tiina Aarras […]

Tiina Aarras works at Nokia as the colors and materials designer. With a career in fashion, she gave it all up to join Nokia for two years in choosing the perfect colors for the Nokia N9 and Lumia series. Her fashion career involved both being an editor and designer, but she says working with a hard material was very appealing to her.

What the Nokia N9, Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 really are

“These products are about what you hold in your hand, and what you see on the screen. It was about taking away everything that is not needed, and leaving you with the best.”

The N9 and Lumia series are made up of a single piece of polycarbonate plastic. Unlike most phones, the color isn’t just painted on the surface, if you scratch these devices you will find the very same color under the scratched surface.

Choosing the perfect colors

“There are hundreds of colours to choose from,” Aarras says, “But it’s not just about picking a colour. The start of this project was dominated by working on which colours work with the right materials and finishes.”

From the beginning, choosing the right colors was about reduction, as that was the focus of Nokia. Choosing the right, unique colors, went hand in hand in creating the story for each device in itself. Nokia wanted to maintain a great antenna, therefore premium plastic was required, which then gives way to the possibility of colors. These colors that were possible with premium plastic would have been more difficult to produce with any metal material, especially while maintaining that great antenna.

After studying a set of 100 colors, and narrowing them down to the four we see available on the Lumia lineup, Aarras notes it was no easy task. They wanted colors that supported the unique identity of the product, colors that would become part of the same uniqueness of the user and their Windows Phone start screen. Aarras was sure metallic colors and dark tones would not match with these devices. With the idea of purity in mind, Aarras became inspired by the CMYK color group (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black), which was used as a primary color group for printed newspaper color comics in the 1890s. These colors, together with the beautiful black screens of the Lumia series, were the perfect colors in Aarras’ mind.

Choosing the perfect materials

 “These devices have soft shapes and sharp shapes, and we needed colours that highlight both these forms in the right way.”

Once Aarras chose the final four colors, it came down to working with Nokia engineering to find the perfect plastic to display these colors in all their glory. Ensuring that the color permeated throughout the entire material required an intense crafting and design process from both chemists and dye suppliers. They had to make sure the material was the same color throughout, highlighting both the sharp and soft edges of each device. The most difficult part of the process was finding the perfect pigment, and then crafting it to the highest technical grade.

“Magenta is a provocative colour.” It was actually one of the first synthetic dyes to be produced back in the 1850s – and the human eye is particularly sensitive to the colour hues in the magenta range. “Cyan is classic, and fresh.”  And black? Well, “black is both classic and pure.”

Thus, the choice of colors and design process for the Nokia Lumia devices has created a story for anyone to share when they own one. Aarras closes off by stating that in the end the color experience depends on context, and here the context is the person.

“The beauty of these phones is that different people can use these colours and give a totally different expression to them.”


  1. Ray,CK says

    Hi Tiina,
    Well done, your color choice is exceptionally good and it has created an impact on the new range of Lumia handphones.
    I will give you my fullest support.

    Best regards.

Leave a Reply