Industrial Design Trends: Medical
I’ve always found the medical device industry to be an industry that evolves in subtleties. From the thousand foot view, it can be easy to gloss over all the white products with soft forms as seeming very set in time. They often come across as similar to each other while you check words like ‘dynamic’ and ‘vibrant’ at the door. However, ‘dynamic’ and ‘speed’ could be words used to describe the evolution of medical devices themselves as this is an industry awash in continual research and acceptance of technology. Sometimes, one just has to look a little deeper at what is happening to understand the subtle changes taking place, as they tend to leave a large impact.
One such trend I see is a growing focus on communication between patient and artifact, even in products reserved for medical professional use. Samsung is a company leading this trend. Their new XGEO series of digital radiography machines (XGEO GC80 & XGEO GC60) now incorporate a new level of communication to the patient themselves. Samsung realizes that for better imaging results, a steady and cooperative patient is essential. This new generation of systems incorporate a series of lights on the machines designed specifically to communicate to the patient, informing them when an image is being taken. It may seem simple on the surface, but allows the patient to better understand what is happening, when to hold still and should translate into better imagery results. This is typically an unrecognized need that is being addressed in a subtle way that may lead to a large impact.
Another trend that is incorporated into both of these machines, as well as in the industry as a whole, is the shift in the form language itself. Large soft surfaces have been an important norm for some time now as the need for cleanability and the feel of looking clean have largely been the driving factor. Large and bold character lines are now making an appearance creating medical devices that are a little more interesting visually. This is not to say that they didn’t exist before, but I see a boldness in these lines and sharper edge treatment emerging. Some other great examples of this is the A-Dec dental light (us.a-dec.com), Biolase iPlus (www.biolase.com) and Samsung in-vitro diagnostics systems (www.samsung.com). Even smaller softer products are coming to sharp ends like the Sabi pill management system (www.sabi.com) and 5aver emergency breath system (www.5aver.com). There is a renewed crispness that is making a statement in almost all areas of medical devices.
Additional trends seen among these new devices are white or transparent high gloss and reflective materials. Rougher surface treatment has been a favorite for its ability to hide dirt and contaminants making a product appear cleaner that it actually is; however, one thing that is more important than looking clean is actually being clean. I believe these surface treatments are now highlighting dirt and contaminants in a push to clean them when they do look dirty. With the heightened awareness of bacteria and disease growing in the general public, I see this type of treatment as becoming more prominent as we move forward. With micro-droplet decontamination systems and anti-microbial surface materials growing in the industry, I believe we are simply moving toward devices that are as clean as they look.
Chris Stefko studied industrial design at College for Creative Studies and Coventry University. Before joining ROBRADY his experience has been in the safety industry where he has recently won an Occupational Health and Safety New Product of the Year Award.