This year’s Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East event in Boston is where the industry’s medical designers and thought leaders gather.

As Accumold works with leading med-tech companies, it reached out to Dr Bryce Rutter, the expert moderator of the ‘Award-Worthy Medtech Design on a Dime’ session at the event and CEO of Metaphase Design Group in this exclusive Q&A Interview.

Accumold: Do users interpret functionality via form?

Dr Bryce Rutter (BR): Good design effectively communicates interactions to users by conveying functionality through product form, colours, and textures. Bad design miscommunicates to users in ways that solicit improper usability. That in turn, leads to “use errors”.

Users rely heavily on visual cues conveyed through product design. The importance of having functional aesthetics that speak effectively and efficiently to the user cannot be overemphasized. In other words, do users/patients put more confidence in products that are ultra small, elegant and beautiful? Size, elegance, and beauty all contribute to interpreting a product’s intended “use” semantics, but good design goes further to include each and every detail on the product, and the entire product ecosystem that includes instructions for use, secondary packaging and the product‘s digital footprint.

Products that project ambiguous usability cues erode users/patients confidence, slow reaction times, and introduce usability complications that in medical product design can lead to life-threatening outcomes.

Accumold: Is great design in med-tech necessarily opposed to a cost-cutting approach? Can’t they be harmonious objectives for OEMs?

BR: Cost reductions made in a vacuum, with no understanding of the functional value those changed or eliminated features offer the user/patient, are the true problem. Good design is based on thorough user-centred research that identifies product and human performance requirements.

These requirements provide a decision-making structure where cost-cutting is evaluated within the framework of its impact on usability. Without this evaluation, good designs are gutted, user experiences are dumbed down and brand loyalty is eroded.

Accumold: Are bulk and size one of the biggest challenges in medical technology design? If so, what innovations are helping overcome this challenge?

BR: Bulk/size are one element of the design challenge. The biggest challenge in medical technology today is understanding user needs, both articulated and unarticulated need states. The most effective instrument in developing world-class designs, including the bulk/size issue, is conducting a detailed contextual inquiry before the pen even hits the paper.

Watching what people do, listening to what they say, understanding what defines successful completion of the task at hand, and what is the most cognitively and biomechanically efficient way to interact with the device or system to achieve these goals is the holy grail of great design.