A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Designing Palm: Q&A with Howard Nuk

Palm smartphone win Good Design Award

The look and feel of Palm is both sleek and minimalistic, and that’s all by design. Palm’s co-founders are both designers, with experience at companies such as Samsung, Google and Frog Design, so it’s no wonder that the design of Palm is so eye-catching. 

In fact, we’re excited to share that Palm has recently won a Good Design Award for their mobile phone category. To celebrate this award, we wanted to take a look back at the brilliance behind Palm’s design and creation, and interviewed our co-founder, Howard Nuk, on the decisions behind building Palm:

Q: How did you come up with the original concept for Palm?

A: Prior to Palm, we spent years incubating and creating the smartwatch category. In the early days of wearable design, we posited that people would want an LTE connected watch so they could leave their big and heavy phones at home. What we found was that people would still bring both devices with them on the go, because of the limitations of the watch platform - minimal apps, no camera, slow processor etc. We were also seeing the trend of mobile phones growing in physical size, effectively becoming these commoditized one-size-fits-all phablets. Between the shortcomings of smartwatches and the sheer size of smartphones, we realized that there was a completely unaddressed market of those who don’t need or want a huge phone, but still wanted to be connected, with all core apps they love. If you also remember the movie “Her” Joaquin Phoenix’s character has a tiny pocketable device that is primarily used with voice, and he only used its display for confirmation or video capture. We were inspired by the way he simply used his voice to take most actions, and physical product itself became secondary. 

Q: Color, shape, size - where did you begin in your process for designing Palm?

A: We took the product down to its bare minimum - no buttons, no screen, and built back up. This process helped us to truly evaluate what else was needed, what we could scrap and other edits it needed to get it to where we were happy with it.

The making of Palm smartphone

Q: How did you determine the design elements you wanted to use to stand out from the other mobile devices on the market today? What makes Palm stand out?

A: Palm is essentially an entirely new category of mobile devices. We call it an ultra mobile companion because it is so small, yet it has the capability of a standalone smartphone. Palm is also unique because it can be worn however you want. You can wear it around your neck on a lanyard, slip into a sports band on your wrist, or just tuck into a coin pocket. 

The product has a minimalist theme throughout the software and hardware design. We simplified ports and buttons down to a beautiful object that works with the UI cohesively. The ultra slim aluminum mid-frame design gives a low profile illusion that makes the device perceived thinner than it actually is. The hi-polished “PALM” logo contrasts with the black 2.5D curved glass. The sophisticated color and material selection makes the device a versatile accessory for different occasions from fitness to social.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while designing Palm?

A: The challenge for Palm was creating a device with the size and mobility of a wearable while still having the capabilities of a fully functioning smartphone. As you might imagine, there was a lot of miniaturization that went into the hardware design of Palm, from our custom 3.3” HD display to our camera module, among other technology. It was also a huge challenge to design and manufacture at our high tolerances in order to achieve our IP68 rating (water and dust resistant), which is extremely important to Palm experiential value proposition.

We also worked hard to create a user experience that was seamless—enabling users to switch between using their Palm and their smartphone instantly without missing a beat.

Q: How does this design benefit the greater good; consider society, culture, the economy, etc.? 

A: We’ve become so reliant on our smartphones that we’re often missing out on the real world around us. With smartphones getting bigger and bigger, excessive screen time is a real issue for users all over the world. That’s why we designed Palm—inside and out—to help users realistically reduce screen time. By letting you stay connected without being consumed or distracted by your mobile device, Palm is perfect for people who want less screen time and more time engaging in real life. Despite software solutions pushed by many companies, we continue to see news that is packed with studies and reports on the negative effects of smartphone over-usage and screen time.

In Europe, people eat less than Americans, partially because they have smaller plates. Similarly, we chose to address the issue of screen time through unique software solutions mixed with a physical hardware change: a smaller display.

Palm lets users leave their big smartphone at home, without leaving behind the conveniences of a modern smartphone, giving them a tangible option for staying tied into the digital world without always staring at their screens. 

Palm co-founders Howard Nuk and Dennis Miloseski

Q: How does Palm deliver a simple and intuitive experience for its users?

A: Our goal is to improve the mobile experience by making a device that is less distracting, minimizes interaction time, and is easier to set aside. Palm doesn’t demand your attention or distract you from the real world. Instead, it keeps you connected to your digital life exactly how and when you want. 

Palm re-designed the Android experience to be user-friendly on a tiny 3.3” screen, bringing the functions of a smartphone in the convenience of a wearable. To support this, Palm created an action platform to minimize the number of taps required to get users to what they use most. Users can initiate any action by voice, through a single gesture on the lock screen, or through the launcher. They can quickly record a run, play their favorite music playlists, or go straight into selfie-mode on their camera without having to navigate apps.

Palm designed Life Mode as a new way to dynamically push content only when the user wants it. Users love tucking their Palm into a small pocket, turning on Life Mode, and basically forgetting about it.


Thank you to Good Design Award for the recognition of our team's hard work to bring this product to life. If you aren't a member of our #PalmCrew yet, it's never been easier to purchase and connect your Palm - grab yours today!