Seabird concept phone designer talks about need for better interfaces

Designer Billy May, 25, is looking for work (see Seabird video, slideshow below)

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In general, May said, today's phones have done "a wonderful job of delivering on metrics we'd define success by," such as 1-GHz and soon-to-come 1.2-GHz processors and many-megapixel displays. "The next step is to expand on the interface," he said.

"We've been pushing on processor speeds until the cows come home, which won't drive happiness as much anymore and offer diminishing returns," he said.

May almost sounds like a veteran phone designer, but he had actually never designed one before. In fact, he is 25 and is "currently open to new opportunities," according to his Web site, which he explained means that he is looking for a full-time job in New York as a product designer.

His most recent hardware design job with e-reader maker Skiff ended in June when the company was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Being out of full-time work gave May time to fully develop Seabird, along with an elaborate 3D video presentation and other materials. And because he doesn't work for a big smartphone maker like Motorola or one of the other companies building Android devices, he can actually talk publicly about his specific design -- something professional designers never do.

May got a bachelor of science degree in business at Washington and Lee University in Virginia in 2007, graduating with "a dearth of design courses," he said. He attributes his interest in design to first developing a working fast-trigger mechanism used in paintball guns when he was still a teenager, since paintball was one of his big hobbies.

His first official design concept was a pair of eyeglasses with fish-eye lenses. "They were designed for safety for delivery workers driving bikes, but styled to be cool," he said.

Coolness matters, as the Seabird concept suggests with its sleek curves. In fact, May believes his ideas are just the kind of thing needed by all the major phone makers.

When asked if he has any design advice he'd give to today's phone makers, May had an answer: "Yes, they need to hire me. I could work for all of them without any conflicts."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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