The story of Sony’s Xperia Z illustrates Sony’s smartphone design process.

The Xperia Z was a sleek Android smartphone with a five-inch, high-definition touchscreen. It was Sony’s contender in the 2013 flagship smartphone market dominated by Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

A confluence of factors produced the Xperia Z. Sony research had found that consumers, stuck in a stagnant economy, wished their gadgets would last longer. Sony designers were also influenced by the fact that people cherish their possessions, including their smartphones, but can also find gadgets annoying—forming a barrier between them and content they want to read, watch, or otherwise experience. Sony designers were further motivated by keywords including ‘quality,’ meaning good craftsmanship, and ‘efficient’ as in efficient use of space and materials.

These ideas swirled inside the head of one Sony designer and emerged as a concept that resembled a plate of glass with defined edges. It was a phone that would have top-of-the-line hardware stylish enough to covet, but be so minimalist in design it would seemingly disappear when activated, functioning as a portal into its user’s mobile content.

The plate concept was simple but felt fresh and versatile and addressed the myriad ideas the Sony designers had been mulling. With management’s support, Sony designers and engineers set to work refining the plate concept and analyzing which technologies would best support it.

Like all Sony smartphones, the phone took the name Xperia, a coined term that plays on the word ‘experience’. Sony’s marketing department added the letter Z—the alphabet’s “ultimate” letter, to denote the phone as the “ultimate smartphone.”

The Xperia Z debuted at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, introduced by Sony CEO Kaz Hirai during the company’s annual CES press conference. The plate concept had gone from a paper sketch to a global stage.