What's in a color? The influence of Nokia on Microsoft design.

Microsoft all of a sudden loves cyan & magenta, we wonder why. Oh, right...

Throw this under just observations we’ve noticed in the last few months with some of Microsoft’s new hardware but it looks to us like they are adopting some of Nokia’s more bold design efforts.

The latest being the usage of cyan and magenta for some of their hardware, like the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500, which gained two new Nokia colors this week.

These colors look familiar

Whether it’s the Surface coming with a cyan or magenta cover/keyboard, the new mouse colors, Nokia’s Lumia line or the new color schemes in Windows 8, Microsoft seems to have ripped some of the design principles right of Nokia’s book.

Or perhaps this is part of that deeper partnership growing between the two companies? After all, they are swapping services with each other and working closely on that whole Windows Phone thing, so much so that both companies are doing a joint-press conference on September 5th. That’s a first for Windows Phone.

“Magenta is a provocative colour. Cyan is classic, and fresh.”  -Tiina Aarras, Nokia

Those design principles are really nothing new, of course. Nokia discussed this at length on their Conversations blog in the past, describing the theory on colors. In an interview with Tiina Aarras, a design at Nokia, the following inspiration was presented for the Lumia line of colors:

Returning to the idea of purity, Aarras was inspired by the CMYK colour group (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) which was invented as a primary colour group for printing when newspapers began to produce colour comic strips in the 1890s.“Those colours are pure, defined and exceptional. They’re distinctive modern design icons and people recognise them. Because these are primary colours they contrast with each other – put them together with a black glass screen, and they are ideal for producing a bold and confident approach.”

Much like Metro UI (or whatever it will be called), the focus on pure and simple colors is a brilliant and obvious design choice, one that Microsoft now seems to be embracing.

Cyan and more cyan.Yes, please!

Microsoft never received too much credit for some of their consumer hardware offerings, but their mice, webcams, keyboards and even devices like the Zune HD and yes, Kin, do push the boundaries on design with often great (but under-appreciated) results. Now with Nokia in the mix, they seem to be getting that extra edge to really have products that just “pop” when you look at them—why else is the Surface so fascinating if it weren’t for that design and those colors?

WP Central

The joke in fashion is often that “black is the new black” but in this case, we’re going with cyan and magenta as being the “it” colors this year and next. Let’s watch what both Microsoft and Nokia do with colors and design over the next few months, as our bet is we’ll see even more overlap.

And we’re thrilled with that idea.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • I am so sick of everyone with their identical phones with their little apples on it. I really would like to have a differently colored device just so I can shoe people YES THERE IS A BETTER CHOICE THAN IPHONE.
  • +1 because so many of the cases have the hole in them to show off the logo. I'd rather make a statement with color. :D
  • +1 "statement with color"
  • Its the teens mostly what's trending in school and it is tireing to see
  • And the middle-agers. Mildly plussed that most look really beaten up, dirty, and a little nasty.
  • Im 15 and I chose to buy a Lumia 800 way before it was released
  • +1 Bold colors are awesome
  • Agreed! My Stormtrooper is the best looking phone... Ever.
  • Is this related to the yellow phi photo?
  • Well, yellow is part of the CMYK color code, so yes, it fits.
  • I want to see Daniel paint his apartment with CMYK. That would be worth seeing ;-)
  • I just got an image of a phone in classic PC off-white. More seriously, probably I wouldn't hesitate much if Lenovo made a classic square-cornered ThinkPad tablet with that wonderful matte coating.
  • Heh. IBM "white" which often yellowed after years of office exposure. <Shudders> We've come a long way.
  • I got that exact reaction when I saw a couple of old optical drives when I was looking for a cable in a box of hardware the other day. The old beige/brown from even earlier times had some charm, though. I could see it appeal to people who are into the thrift store style.
  • The old PC-XT's & PC-AT's which were frequently a murky yellow as those were the days when people smoked at their desks!
  • I'm calling it now: Fake wood grain is the future.
  • Needs joystick: Is that an Atari 2600 phone in your pocket, or are you just happy to se me?
  • I would love an orange windows phone:) mind you I love my cyan lumia even tho I wanted magenta:) (yes I am a straight guy)
  • Are you sure some hides in the closet :-P
  • Do you have a walk in closet? Just kidding. Im straight and I wear pink.
  • Well they say you are what you eat and who doesn't like to eat pink. ;)
  • Just...wow
  • Lmfao wow I love wp7 people were so awesome
  • Rly ?....
  • Wowzers..
    +1 Btw
  • Lol your comment made my day. I would love a red or orange Phi wp8 though
  • Huh, Micorosft, please just go ahead and buy Nokia already. And then you can start making awesome phones. 
    Please, help us to help you to defeat the evil fruit co. 
    Vertical Integration For The Win!!!
  • I think their other OEM partners will be critical in defeating the fruits in the tablet market
  • That would be a mistake. Microsoft would wreck them. Give them as much money as they need to stay afloat and keep out of the way.
  • +1
  • I love my cyan Lumia 710 <3
  • I have the cyan l900 love it.. People look at it and they are like WHAT IS THAT?? I there's only 3 lumia 900 at my work place every body else are the tiny iPhones.. Im loving the attention
  • I purposely purchased the magenta Lumia 800 and love the reaction I get in meetings when I place it on the table. I was at my kids basketball game and was using it for something and got several "wow"s and what's that (i.e. Its not an Apple).
    or "I haven't seen Nokia for ages, I didn't think they made smart phones"
    I think the time is right and people are looking for something different and are bored with the current popular offerings.
    Bring on some more colours Nokia.
  • After watching the Surface unveiling conference I and my girlfriend decided we'll be getting cyan and magenta surfaces to match our lumias. Hence I can confirm that MS chose the correct colour options - they are just irresistible now.
  • If Nokia can make a Product (RED) phone, you're not just buying a phone, you're also donating part of it to Global Funds to fight aids in Africa. Now wouldn't that be a smart move?
  • Good idea.
  • +1 and ribbon for cancer...
  • +1 for Red phones like some of the mockups that have been done.  Verizon are you listening?
  • Verizon is not listening at all because Google is having motorola event the same day as Nokia and the sponsor is verizon. If I were you just give Verizon the finger and leave.
  • +
  • Nah VZW and Google have a long partership with the DROID brand, that doesn't mean they will be spurning WP this time around.  They've already said they will have WP8 phones at launch, and rumors are strong Nokia is involved.  Google is setting the date here and trying to do what they can to distract people from WP and the iPhone launches not VZW.
  • Oh they're listening. Rest assured we'll see a WP8 on VZN's 4G LTE. They'll do for us what they did for Droid. I LOVE the Windows Phone platform. But I just can't stomach going to an inferior carrier. Still have my 1st Gen WP7 Trophy!
    Btw.. I know you were talking about (RED) phone mockups. Doubtful they'll make one.
  • Not necessarily (RED), but a red model in general would be glorious.  Love red and the mockups of the few red Lumia style models look great.
    Like the one here for example:
  • My cyan Lumia 900 with the magenta theme looks like the future. So cool.
  • Cyan and magenta are cool but how about some more manly colors like burgandy, orange, or even yellow?  I would rock a Corvette-yellow phone.
  • How about carbon fiber mesh, chrome plating and brushed steel? Can't get more manly than that, at least not if you look at the design of shaving products...
  • Two words - Diamond plate.
  • -
  • MS has been using magenta for Zune-related stuff for years.
  • Microsoft is going to buy Nokia.
  • I just got the black Lumia 900. I wish a different color was available at the time!
  • You've broken the Microsoft commandment! Thou shalt not speak of the kin! Jk--Microsoft's design has been cutting edge, but it never quite made that cut.
  • Shudders... The team that created that thing must've been full of buttkissers
  • Glad to see this happen. Microsoft needed some colour in their products!! :-D.
  • My Cyan Lumia is an eye catcher. I love it.
  • What about HTC green (accent)? That would be a nice colour for any electronic device
  • No:)
  • So if colour represents the 'feel' of the phone is the iPhone 5 going to be the brown colour that an apple core turns after its been left out in the air too long?
  • Bwahahahaha!!!
  • no way im reading all of those comments but just wanted to say microsoft probably isnt copying nokia.  the cmyk thing is just a design trend in general.  its been happening for years now. nokia is just a very design oriented company so they embraced it and now microsoft is following suit. 
  • I don't think anyone said MS was copying Nokia but rather the two are working together. That was the whole point of this article, that Nokia is influencing MS hardware and design. As far as those colors being a design trend...yeah, from 1850. I'm guessing you didn't read the article too closely?
  • The title of your article is the influence of Nokia on Microsoft design. yeah cmyk has been around a while but I was referring to its resurgence on product design in recent years.
  • Personally I would have liked a magenta Lumia 900, but when it came out, it was advertised as pink?
  • I think the lumia line is awesome truly great design
  • The best ever! Nothing comes close to my Stormtrooper
  • I've had them all but my blue meanie is tops for me :P
  • Peace:)
  • Respect
  • Cases? Cases? I don't have no cases. I don't need no stinkin cases! My Nokia 710 wears a cyan cover.
  • Both beautiful, modern colors. I personally prefer rich, blended colors with depth, such as burgundy and teal. Cyan and magenta just feel too bold and young to me for an everyday device, and the latter is too girly (ims).
  • Cyan is the new Windows color. When Microsoft decided to re-brand windows they decided Cyan was the new windows logo color. With all the new Metro logos, they each have a solid color for that particular product or program. I think the slate colors could've been inspired by the Lumias, but the branding and other product colors were decided before the Lumias.
  • All those lumias piled up looked great!
  • a few weeks ago i bought this bright blue bennetton bag based exclusively on the color of the touchcover i want to get for my surface :D https://twitter.com/#!/luiskamino/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2F8DGOl1fM not sure if this bag was introduced in the market before the nokias though...
  • Is there any practical reason why you couldn't build a lumia style phone but use real wood instead of the plastic unibody. Something like a nice oak. All polished? Seriously, I think that would look awesome.