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A Look at Transparent Design


Did you grow up with a transparent Nintendo Gameboy or maybe you had a transparent watch? Did you use the super colorful, transparent iMac G3 computers in school? If you said yes to one of these or all of them or were thinking of other transparent designed items you used or saw as a kid that wasn’t mentioned, you’re not alone. In fact, you may have dated yourself as an 80s or 90s kid, sorry haha. But don’t worry, transparent design has actually been around much longer. As we have been checking out the Nothing phone (1) and Nothing ear (1) we have been curious about this kind of design so we took a look and have learned some really interesting things. They are so interesting, that we had to tell someone, so who better than our fellow Heyupers?

When Did Transparent Design Start?

It all started in the 1930s with the invention of plexiglass apparently. While it didn’t become super popular in the 1930s, we did get to see the world’s first transparent car in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair. The transparent car that was debuted was a Pontiac Deluxe Six 1939 Ghost Sedan.

Pontiac Deluxe Six 1939 Ghost Sedan - Image courtesy of Wikipedia

While it was definitely eye-catching, it just wasn’t something everyone wanted back then, and it was likely difficult to implement on smaller objects. And thus, outside of some novelty items, transparent design faded away for a time.

Clear Craze Of The 1980s & 1990s

In the 1980s, we started seeing lots of transparent house phones with blinking lights when there was a call and it was the start of a craze for transparent design. The popularity of these and then other products with a transparent design like watches and other products, even containers like soap exploded and created this craze. We saw transparent design eventually touch on everything during this time, even clothing. But for some of us, it really reached its peak when we started getting transparent technology products, like those famous brightly colored iMac computers that were used in so many American public schools or the super popular transparent Tamagotchi electronic pet toy.

A transparent Tamagotchi, a pet breading console which was popular at the time.

Young gamers in the 90s probably also remember all of the various transparent designs that Nintendo made for their consoles and handheld devices. Like the transparent versions of the Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64, or the transparent version of the Gameboy.

Why Do We Love It?

It may be because of our own innate curiosity and desire to not only know how a thing works but to see it work. It’s wonderful to see the mechanical interactions and how everything is put just so inside of the devices we love. And this love for transparent design is still holding true even today.

Modern Transparent Design

These days not many things are doing the transparent design, but one company, in particular, is trying to bring it back, Nothing. With their Nothing ear(1) earbuds and Nothing phone(1) smartphone, both of these products are working hard to bring the cool transparent design we all love back into fashion, and it looks like it is working as other companies are picking up on it.


Nothing Phone (1) and Ear (1), with transparent design.

Like REDMAGIC with their REDMAGIC 7 & 7Pro phones and their new REDMAGIC 7S Pro that is coming out soon. They all have one or two versions of the smartphone has a transparent back so you can see some of the insides. Since it is a smartphone, it’s not the same experience as before since not much visible, but it’s still cool. There are also some brands like dbrand that make skins for the devices we use, and they have made several custom skins to show what the inside of our favorite devices look like. With these custom x-ray-ish skins of our favorite devices, it is almost like having a transparent design. 

REDMAGIC 7s Pro, with the X-ray-like appearance.

Share With Us

Are their other companies these days doing the transparent design as well? Or is there a particular design from the past that you loved? Let us know on our forums, we’d love to hear about them!



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