Talking with Master Lock’s Lea Plato, lead designer of the ingenious Speed Dial combination lock.
Introduced in 2009, Master Lock’s Speed Dial is the first “directional” combination lock. It replaces a series of numbers with a sequence of up-down and left-right movements (like a video-game cheat). We talked to Lea Plato, one of the designers who worked on the lock, about how the lock came to be and why it’s easier to use than what we’re all used to.
Co.Design: The Speed Dial lock does away with numerical combinations and replaces them with left-to-right and up-and-down movements. What inspired the change?
Lea Plato: The combination lock for lockers has been around for so long, so Master Lock is trying to push different ideas. The Speed Dial is a very different and unexpected design. That’s what attracted us to the idea.
The face of the lock—just four arrows—is clean and straightforward. How did that design come about?
We were trying to play off of simplicity. We wanted the appearance of the lock to match that simplicity. It’s really basic—up, down, left, and right—and easy to remember. So nothing too fancy.
The center button has a nice accent ring around it to show that this is what you push on to make the movements. And the arrows are really simple triangles to suggest which direction you should be moving it in. A lot of the design of the actual body of the lock is driven by the interior mechanism. But we also wanted to give it a nice round shape so it fits well in your hand and it’s easy to move that button up and down.
Another thing we focused on is how everyone could use it. A lot of the numbers are too small for people to see. If you’re visually impaired, you don’t have to see anything to be able to open this lock. Or if your dexterity isn’t very good, the lock is still easy to use. We wanted the lock to be something that everyone can use without making it look like it was designed for just one person in particular.