10 Philippe Starck designs that paved the way for Xiaomi’s Mi Mix smartphone

The concept smartphone from Xiaomi and colorful French designer Philippe Starck, revealed on Tuesday, has won praise for its minimalist form and bezel-less screen. 

And while Starck is world-renowned for his design prowess, many smartphone users may not realize just how big a deal a Xiaomi smartphone from Starck really is. 

For some perspective, we’ve compiled a short list of Starck’s most inventive tech-focused designs in recent years that push the envelope in terms of form and function while losing none his classic aesthetic flare. 

Fossil Watches 

Years before the release of the Apple Watch, Starck teamed up with Fossil to introduce a series of watches, including the O-Ring and Light Box watches, both of which looked like wearable tech from the future. 

The O-Ring watch, designed by Philippe Starck

The O-Ring watch, designed by Philippe Starck

And while the devices were definitely not “smart” watches, the bold accessories influenced the entire watch market, and have likely informed the design choices of some of today’s Apple Watch competition. 

Flos D’E Light with Device Charger 

Always looking to marry design innovation with unexpected utility, Starck is the designer behind the Flos D’E Light, a museum-style LED desk lamp that not only classes up your home, but charges your mobile devices. 

When it launched in 2015, the company made a point of primarily showing the Apple iPhone as the complementary design element worthy of its display.  

Microsoft Optical Mouse 

One the most famous tech-oriented projects from the Starck design house was its work for Microsoft. 

Answering the call from Microsoft to class up the modern mouse, Starck delivered the cutting-edge Microsoft Optical Mouse by Starck that accessories-makers are still drawing inspiration from years later. 

Virgin Galactic Spaceport 

We know that Starck designs everything from furniture to toilets to photo booths, but in recent years, he has turned his attention to space. Back in 2005, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic’s spaceport would be designed by Starck. 

Branson’s choice of Starck was a clear signal that the space tourism venture wasn’t just shooting for the stars. The company also wanted to give customers the feeling that by purchasing a ticket, they’d get a taste of the future on Earth. (It appears that a new firm has been tapped to design the final spaceport, but the company is still using Starck’s “eye” logo treatment.) 

Parrot Zik Headphones 

Although it’s not Starck’s first tech-focused collaboration, his work on the Parrot Zik headphones may be one of his most enduring in the world of mobile tech. 

Parrot's Zik 3 Bluetooth headphones, designed by Philippe Starck.

Parrot’s Zik 3 Bluetooth headphones, designed by Philippe Starck.

The headphones haven’t garnered the same kind of mainstream traction as, for example, Beats by Dre, but the fact that they keep updating the Starck-designed line is proof the sleek headphones are resonating with a niche market focused on taste over trends. 

Netamo Smart Thermostat and Radiator Valve 

If you already know Starck’s interior design work, it should come as no surprise that he has also penetrated the growing Internet of Things.

His work on the Netamo smart Thermostat and Radiator Valve retain his familiar design touch. Nevertheless, they both stand out among the wide array of more pedestrian IoT devices already on the market. His work in this area is particularly noteworthy because, as IoT devices continue to proliferate, the skill of hiding technology in unobtrusive forms will be in high demand, so Starck’s studio will likely be busy in coming years. 

V+ Volteis Electric Car 

Tesla may be dominating the headlines when it comes to electric cars, but that doesn’t mean competitors aren’t working hard on coming up with other solutions to make petroleum-free vehicles sexy. 

In a collaboration with electric car company Volteis, Starck designed a jeep-meets-golf-cart vehicle that offers a decidedly fresh take on the electric car. Will this be the electric-powered chariot most people will take to work in the future? Probably not, but it’s probably just weird and design-centric enough to attract at least a small group of passionate electric vehicle devotees. 

LaCie Blade Runner Hard Drive 

Hard drives are the last place we look to when it comes to discovering new design treatments. But that didn’t stop major hard drive manufacture LaCie from pairing its tech might with the design flourishes of Starck. 

And the combination didn’t disappoint. Depending on how you look at it, the limited-edition Blade Runner hard drive is either a Zaha Hadid-like piece of desk candy, or a useful hunk of backup space you can tell friends is really a spacecraft replica from the latest sci-fi film epic.  

Moustache MASS Electric Bikes 

With the Moustache electric-powered MASS mountain bike, Starck lives up to his pedigree by allowing the bicycle to retain its rugged underpinnings while accenting the e-bike with just enough Starck-ness to make it truly stand out. 

Steve Jobs’ Yacht 

Yes, Starck is a giant in the world of design. But he’ll likely never achieve the historic design renown of Apple, which is why the choice by the late Steve Jobs to have Starck design his yacht is so important. 

The super yacht 'Venus', built for Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs and designed by Philippe Starck, spotted Sailing In Hvar Island, Croatia in 2014.

The super yacht ‘Venus’, built for Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs and designed by Philippe Starck, spotted Sailing In Hvar Island, Croatia in 2014.

Image: Sipa via AP Images

What it tells us is that even though Jony Ive and now Marc Newsom are the undisputed masters of Apple design, Jobs had a deep appreciation for the mastery of Starck, paying him the ultimate compliment by employing him to design one of his most personal possessions.  

In light of that final design commission from Jobs, could a Starck-designed iPhone have been in Apple’s future? It’s possible, but we’ll probably never know. At this point, the best idea of what Starck might have done with the iPhone is best represented in the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept smartphone. It’s beautiful and futuristic in all the right ways, and a dead ringer for a could-be Apple product. 

That alone is enough reason to keep an eye on Starck’s eccentric but powerful forays into tech design in the coming years. 

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