The making of Mi MIX: How the Philippe Starck collaboration was born

This September, Philippe Starck took the stage in Beijing for the launch of Mi MIX 2, the stunning full screen display smartphone. Starck joined forces with Xiaomi last year to revolutionize the smartphone industry with the original Mi MIX, the world’s first full screen display phone. But, the road to the renowned designer’s connection to us dates back to the end of 2014, when several Xiaomi products won a series of design awards. Starck was impressed that a brand from China – a country criticized at the time for lacking strong industrial designs – created such simple, neat, and impressive works.

In the spring of 2015, Starck was introduced by his friend to Xiaomi and experienced several products. He felt there was a common understanding with us on the design philosophy in terms of democratization for elegant and high technological designs.

How Mi MIX 1 started

With our founder and CEO Lei Jun‘s commission, Liu De, our vice president who leads Mi Ecosystem went to Spain in August 2015 to meet with Starck and showed him the Ceramic Edition Mi 5 Pro. Starck believed the device was a world-class product, and a manifestation of a shared vision: the simpler the design is, the more important the material.

Given the mindshare, Liu De let Starck in on the company’s plan to launch an all-new concept phone product line, which would become our most important project, to date, emphasizing the desire to create a product for which mass production was not a priority, and could simply focus on the possible forms of future phones.

By the end of the meeting, Starck accepted our invitation to lead the design of the project – taking a leap of faith to design a phone for the first time.

It took Starck only three days to develop the first design, followed by a year of fleshing out the ambitious concept.

Led by Starck, our engineers created a series of mockups and models, and frequently flew to France and Portugal for working sessions with Starck. Lei Jun also immersed himself in the manufacturing process and worked directly with engineers to solve structural and engineering challenges.

Mi MIX 1 had its pilot production in February 2016, which incorporated leading-edge features such as doing away with the earpiece speaker and the proximity sensor with piezoelectric ceramic technology and ultrasonic technology.

By August 2016, we finalized the design of Mi MIX 1. On October 26, we officially unveiled Mi MIX 1.

How Mi MIX 2 started

In November that year, the Mi MIX 2 project was officially started. Starck and Our ID, product and engineering teams had frequent and fast communication, from which they cleared the aspects to improve on Mi MIX 2, including:

  • Change the aspect ratio from 17:9 to 18:9, so that the on-screen content can take centerstage and is more pure, as well as more immersive.
  • Re-enable the diaphragm handset for a better call experience.
  • While keeping the high aspect ratio, slightly narrow the phone body so it can be thinner and have better handfeel.
  • Adhere to the ceramic material and apply a more integrated ceramic unibody design.

“We created the Unibody ceramic Mix 2 because the concept of full monolith fits with idea of fullness, completeness, and simpleness of the ancient China philosophy and the values of the next world. We tried to reach through the unibody a type of serenity. The purity of design of a ceramic unibody gives us the feeling of smooth perfection of jade, a quiet pure jade.” Ph.S

In less than two months, Starck proposed and updated more than a dozen ideas. Our engineering team began building a structure based on the design process and selection. All of our teams met in France and Portugal several times to discuss with Starck about the forward-looking technical solutions.

Then Starck came to Beijing on February 15 to meet Lei Jun and our teams to discuss the design and structure, technology and other issues.

The engineering model of the P0 version of Mi MIX 2 finally succeeded after months of experiments amidst the huge technological challenge of creating a ceramic unibody.

In early May 2017, Starck received the P1 prototype of the first Mi MIX 2.

“Looks like an evolution but it is a revolution. Revolution is the addition of powerful evolution.” Ph.S

“When Lei Jun introduced me the powerful performance of Mi MIX 2, I had the strong feeling that Lei Jun had just gave me the key, the possibility to create the ultimate best for all of us, for all the world.” Ph.S

In August 2017, Mi MIX won the IDEA Gold Award.

On September 11, Starck came to Beijing to attend the launch event of Mi MIX 2, which once again stunned the world.

“Because it’s fantastic, we cannot make better today. It’s done, we cannot go more forward now. It’s ultimate but so challenging to create the next revolution.” Ph.S