Monday, January 5, 2015

Designing for Choice: The Making of the Wood-Back Moto X [VIDEO]

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As a designer, there is this leap of faith that is hard to describe. You come up with a great idea. You know there is a need for it. And then it’s time to make it real, not only in the designing but in the engineering. The two have to come together.

When it came to designing the wood Moto X (what we now fondly know as the Natural Collection), we had to take that kind of leap. We looked to you, our consumers, for inspiration. We visited your homes and listened to your stories. You showed us what mattered to you and why.

We knew that allowing people to customize their phones with a variety of colors—bright, dark, shy, loud—their own accents, and a personalized message was an important step. But we wanted to create another choice that would make a really unique statement. Looking out into the market of black and white phones, we thought of designing something really different: a wood phone.

It was time for the leap. There were challenges to overcome to make our idea real. We had to:

  • Design for uniqueness. Synthetic materials, like plastics, are purposefully created identical, so that technology like the antenna work every time. The beauty of wood is that it is a natural material, so every piece is gorgeously different. This meant we had to design the shape of the wood backs—as well as the technology inside—to work the same every time, regardless of the wood’s variation.
  • Design to last. This organic material also needed to have the same durability that we create in synthetic materials. The shape and the design of both the wood backs and the casings became key to making the phone weather every day use—art as much as science.
  • Design for choice. Underpinning the ability to choose a wood, leather, or color back was Moto Maker. Moto Maker is what would allow customers to choose exactly what they wanted. Beneath the clean website design was more than just code. We had to develop new software, workflows, and creative teams so people could see their designs online before ordering. Offering a personalized message on the back of the phone made it possible to create a totally one-of-a-kind device, but it also required new, automated equipment that had never been used before.

We moved into a shared space, an epicenter where all the leads could work together for the next 10 months. We were moving so fast and so fluidly that we needed to be able to tap on each other’s shoulders to ask the most random (but ultimately important!) questions. Moto Maker was weaving our teams and company together in a completely new way to address the unique challenges of enabling you to choose from literally thousands of combinations.

The result?

The ability for the first time to express your style by choosing from first real wood—and now leather—phone backs, among other colors and customization. The backs are designed to be unique, just like you. The feel of the wood isn’t slick and artificial. It’s smooth but natural, intended to feel amazing and wear beautifully over time. It’s authentic and crafted. It’s not meant to be your standard mobile device.

As the co-creators of this phone, we’ve spent a long time designing. Now it’s your turn to design the rest. Take a leap. What Moto X are you?

Posted by Katie Morgenroth, Lead Industrial Designer

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