A discussion with Motorola Solutions Designers LanTing Garra and Sanne Martens about the design of the SL300 MOTOTRBO two-way radio
Innovation is a tricky balance. You need to understand your customers’ needs if you’re to give them something useful – but you need to add your own creativity too. Henry Ford once (allegedly) said of his Model T: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
When the Motorola Innovation Design team set out to create the SL300, they were eager to fill the customer need for a basic, easy-to-use, low-cost radio. In fact, they went to the next level and took the opportunity to do something special. LanTing Garra and Sanne Martens were part of the SL300 development, and recently answered a few questions about their design process and approach.
Q: What was your first step in the design process?
LanTing: We started by working with our customers. We watched female teachers using older two-way radios in the US. We noticed that the radio was in their hand for most of the time, so clearly the new design had to feel good: slim and light, with rounded corners and a non-slip texture.
Sanne: Then we saw how they used a belt clip – and it certainly wasn’t to clip the radio to their belts since most of them didn’t wear a belt! They attached it to their clipboard; they wedged it onto their fingers, they even clipped it to their bra strap. So we decided to provide better carry solutions. We settled on a neat elastic hand strap and a flexible wrist-strap / lanyard. The PMLN 7076 elastic hand strap was created to accommodate teachers’ needs.
Q: It was all about making the basics better. How did you apply this approach when designing the display?
LanTing: It started when we spoke to property management users in China, and asked them why they didn’t buy radios with a display. They told us that however tough we make it, they always feel a display is too fragile. We needed to do something different – so we created the Active View display: a matrix of LEDs behind the radio’s rugged front panel. It’s tough, but it’s also power efficient.
Sanne: And even though the radio only has a 19x5 matrix, the messages scroll across the display to give the impression that you’re looking at a much bigger area.
Q: Customers were asking for an easy-to-use product as well, how did you fulfill that need?
Sanne: The ergonomics and intuitive design are important. A typical radio is designed with the channel and volume controls beside each other at the top, but we decided to move the volume control to the side of the radio: where you’d find it on a typical smartphone. Similarly, we changed the traditional channel selector to a rocker switch. When you pull it forward to go up through the channels, you’ll see the display scroll down; when you push it back, the screen scrolls up, which aligns with the interaction.
LanTing: Of course performance needs to be good. A slim and lightweight radio is useless if it has poor battery life, terrible range or tinny audio performance. We started by reducing the transmitter power to extend the battery life. To echo the motto of making the basics better, a lot of hard work from Engineering teams has been put into maximizing battery life, getting the best audio performance in its class, and achieving the incredible extended range this radio can deliver with special patent-pending antenna technology.
Thanks to LanTing and Sanne for spending some time to talk about their development of the SL300. Soon we’ll chat with some customers about their experience with the SL300, so stay tuned to Next Generation Communication by subscribing now.
Ben Ansell is Global Marketing, MOTOTRBO for Motorola Solutions, Inc.
LanTing Garra is Director of Innovation Design, Director in the Chief Technology Office at Motorola Solutions
Sanne Martens is Senior User Experience Designer, Innovation Design in the Chief Technology Office at Motorola Solutions.
Learn more about the design process of the SL300 in this video.