Branding is storytelling – even in medical device design. Every product has a story, and like most good stories it is a summary of not how it grew, but how it overcame failure.
Good Industrial Design tells the story of both the company and the product as one.
Industrial Design is the physical embodiment of the product. Industrial Designers interact with everyone: the clients and the software, mechanical, electrical, CEOs, CFOs, marketing, project managers, Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), manufacturing, suppliers and accounting. We hear all their stories and all these stories affect the final product’s form, functionality, cost, materials and fit.
In short, if Mechanical Engineers say a bearing is not big enough, this can potentially affect the form. If Electrical Engineers say the antenna can only reach a certain distance, this affects the functionality, accounting; cost, manufacturing; materials, KOL; fit; and so on. And all these aspects are part of the overall product story.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine is a great example of branding being baked into medical device design. The basic story of a MRI machine is a bunch of strong magnets which make the atoms in our bodies resonate so the machine can use a scanner to take an image of them.
As a product it tells a lot more stories. The mechanics and general power of a MRI leads itself to a very large form, so large in fact that Architecture and Structural Engineering stories need to be told. It is no longer a machine in a hospital, but a part of the hospital, built into the foundation and walls.
From a Human Factors perspective the product tells many stories. The most prevalent is a story of simplicity, serenity and comfort. It is important the patient lay still, and because he may sometimes be in pain, and as the machine is very loud it is important the patient feels comfortable and secure. In my opinion Philips have done a great job keeping to their company brand identity in the image below “Sense and Simplicity”.
The sleek entrance to the machine is very nurturing while the bright light in the hearth has a very inviting sense of security. You would never know the ultimate power and force of this machine from an initial observation.
You might think all MRI machines look the same. And from a distance you might be right. Below I have shown 3 different MRI machines General Electric, Siemens and Hitachi.
From the company perspective each of the brand identities are clearly and cohesively baked into each of their products. I can clearly see the brand identity of the GE MRI in the tangential buttons and colors of a washing machines I have at home, or the obvious Siemens Green and protruding panels like an old phone I had back in the day or the simplistic Japanese styling with long flowing lines of the Hitachi machine.
Whether it is GE, Hitachi, Siemens or any of the other big companies it is always clear whose is whose. Branding tells us about a company’s pedigree and core values. It also tells us about all of the other aspects that came into play in in the design and implementation of that product.
Different KOLs give different feedback, different engineers solve similar problems differently but good branding ties it all together. If you want your product to sing you need to open your eyes to the big picture. It is easy to get bogged down in the specifics of the problem you are working on and get frustrated by the new problems being introduced to you by other departments or authorities but good branding is taking these challenges and talking about them, whether it’s in the form of the product or your go-to social media site. It’s seeing the light in them and using these challenges and talking points to your advantage. To repeat, good branding is summary of not how a product grows, but how it overcomes failure – even in medical device design.
Niall Redmond is a StarFish Medical Industrial Designer. He brings 15 years of cross industry experience and Good Industrial Design to a wide variety of Medical Device Design projects.
Lead photo source: medicalphysicsweb.org/, MRI system photos courtesy respective manufacturers.