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Behind the design | Polar M200

Most fitness enthusiasts have considered incorporating running into their routines at least once in their lives. Whether it’s to help with a weight loss goal, build endurance, or incorporate a new form of cardio into their routines, running is often one of the go-to workouts. While running is growing in popularity, not everyone knows how to get started or understands how different elements of running can help them meet their fitness goals.

Polar M200 was inspired by the idea that price shouldn’t be the barrier for someone to find the joy of running with a Polar product, and that using a running watch can be simple. We want you to love running as much as we do, so we created a wearable to get you started and help you fall in love.

Designing for the user

We begin design with the user in mind; we always first consider how a person will use the watch. Because we were designing the M200 for a specific type of runner, user experience was at the forefront, followed by aesthetics.

“From the design perspective, the start of the project is always my favorite because it’s when we dig in and analyze all the information we’ve collected,” says Heli Haapakoski, Senior Industrial Designer at Polar. “It’s an ongoing process because we’ll begin to make progress, notice that an option doesn’t work, and then go back to the start and create something new and better. It can be stressful, but it’s also so rewarding.”

With Polar M200, our goal was to make a running watch that was welcoming to the occasional runner or someone looking to try running for the first time. This translated into key design features like having just two buttons for navigation, and keeping the core screen options simple. If someone wants to dig in further to see their training history and activity progress they can, but if they’re just looking to hit the road, it’s a simple two-click process.

Wrist-based heart rate and GPS were also major design elements from the beginning because heart rate and GPS are such integral parts of a successful running program and product. We chose wrist-based heart rate because it is easy to use, and offers a quick transition for runners who are looking to put on their gear and go.

Designing for affordability

“We set out to design a watch that was obtainable for everyone, especially for the novice runner who may not yet need some of the more advanced features we offer. We wanted people to have a competitive option price-wise, and we put a lot of effort into accomplishing that with intelligent use of hardware and mechanics,” says Sanna Meriö, Segment Manager at Polar.

With non-negotiable features like wrist-based heart rate and GPS, we focused on prioritizing the various watch elements and determined how to make it work within the design. Users love the color touch screens on our watches, but in the case of the M200, showing the right metrics and offering key running features was far more important and took priority in order to keep the watch affordable. Even with the various challenges, the design aesthetic was always considered along the way, and we were able to introduce some attractive new features for runners.

Designing for aesthetic

“The first thing people notice is the round watch face, thinking it’s a totally new direction for Polar, but we’ve actually made many round designs in the past,” says Heli Haapakoski. “The world’s first activity tracker, the AW200, was round and there were several other during 2003–2005. During the M200 design process, we looked to the past as well as the future.”


One reason behind a round design is that we wanted to create associations with analog watches, which is why we developed elements like Daily Activity displayed as progressing clockwise around the screen. Even the menu features play out in a clockwise circle, mimicking the passing of time the same way minutes would tick on a watch.

“We monitor color trends, materials and graphics to constantly look for new and interesting options for our users,” says Heli Haapakoski. “Since our core users are sports-based, we want to highlight that in different ways. As far as color is concerned, that means we want options that are sporty and fresh – so much so that the color itself gives positive energy to the user – which is why we developed the red, yellow, blue, white, and black wristband options.”

We hope you enjoy using the M200 as much as we enjoyed designing it. Just for you. Happy trails!

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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