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Frank Nuovo to leave as Nokia's head of design

Written by: Staff
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ESPOO, Finland, Mar 1 (Reuters) Nokia's head of design, Frank Nuovo, is to leave after more than 16 years of coming up with models which helped the Finnish firm become the world's biggest mobile phone maker.

Nuovo, 45, will hand over on April 1 to Alastair Curtis, who is currently in charge of design in the unit that produces Nokia's lowest-cost handsets, the company said on Wednesday.

Nokia said Nuovo, who has been called the ''Calvin Klein of cellular communication,'' will continue in a consulting role and stay as principal designer at Vertu, its luxury phone brand.

Nokia, which has sold more than a billion mobile phones, will also reorganise and centralise design in a global team to oversee all of its handsets and make sure it is more nimble.

The company lost ground to competitors when it misjudged the market for folding handsets two years ago and its biggest rival, Motorola Inc., also stole a march with its ultra-thin RAZR design that fast became an icon after it came out in 2004.

''The (new structure) will allow us to create a faster and stronger multidisciplinary team, which can drive innovation and innovative culture quicker and faster,'' Curtis told Reuters.

That would help Nokia ''react to new trends, new impacts, new business changes that may happen or come from (directions) that we don't expect or can't always see.'' FOLDING HANDSETS AND THIN MODELS Nuovo was credited with coming up with Nokia's original design style, as well as changeable phone faces to personalise phones. The company worked to hide the antenna in the case and make its handsets easy to use.

But mobile phone design has been in tumult since the launch of Motorola's trend-setting RAZR and other rivals, including Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Ericsson, have also scrambled for the design advantage, with a phone's looks counting as much as what it can do.

Curtis, who has worked for 11 years with Nuovo, said he needed to make sure there was continuity in Nokia's brand identity, but also planned to take it into a new era.

Analysts say Nokia has improved its line-up since stumbling in 2004, adding ''clamshell'' and slider-type phones, and researchers Gartner say it has recovered ground to hold 35 percent of the global market.

''The hallmark (of Nokia's designs) has been consistency,'' said Yankee Group analyst John Jackson.

''There's really nothing over the top or flashy about it.

It's about simplicity and ease of use,'' he said, contrasting that with Motorola's products.

''If Nokia is consistency, Motorola is cutting-edge hip.'' Motorola is also working hard to keep new designs coming and Ferrari designer Pininfarina told Reuters on Monday it had signed a 3-year deal to produce two mobile phone designs a month for Motorola through a dedicated design team of 10 people.

Among Nokia's current successes is the thin stainless steel 8800 slider model, recently named phone of the year by the GSM Association, an interest group of mobile carriers.

Curtis said Nokia was working hard to slim down its phones, with skinny models the current big thing among consumers, but that being thin was not enough.

''You have to address usability, better materials, screen quality, cameras,'' he said.

Chief Operating Officer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who will take over as chief executive from Jorma Ollila in June, said Nokia had plugged the gaps in its portfolio.

''After all, consumers make the decisions, and our market share shows we are the design leader,'' he told Reuters.

REUTERS DH RAI0225

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