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An iF gold award-winning product that took 10 years to develop

Interview with Oliver Blackwell, CEO of Clinical Design

(published by courtesy of Package & Design - one of the most influential professional design magazines in China)

Urine testing is a standard medical diagnostic method. But perhaps few people realize that, whether done in a small health clinic in a rural area or in an elite private hospital in a first-tier city, urine testing has always used the same traditional method. Among the 75 gold award winners of iF DESIGN AWARD 2020, the Clinical Design Urine Testing SystemTM has updated people’s understanding of urine test methods with its unique design language and novel urine test solution. The driving force behind this iF gold award work is the UK’s Clinical Design, which focuses on the design, development, and production of medical devices. As the first product launched by Clinical Design, Urine Testing SystemTM has not only won an iF gold award 2020 but is also listed in the top 10 of all UK and top 25 of all health and medical winners (2016-2020). Therefore, it’s not only stunning for the creative industry but also sets a new standard for this kind of medical device. Surprisingly, the product took over 10 years to develop.

Oliver Blackwell, CEO of Clinical Design
“The more conversations you have, the better a product becomes. But it’s important to journey into the fringes and to embrace diverse thinking – no matter whom you are having conversation with.”
Oliver Blackwell CEO of Clinical Design Technologies Ltd, Cornwall, UK

Founded by product designer Oliver Blackwell and located in the UK, Clinical Design addresses global healthcare issues with a “human-centered” design concept and working intensively alongside clinicians to improve care, efficacy, and performance through technological innovation and intelligent design. What, then, was the development process of this gold award-winning work? Why did it take 10 years? For this issue, Package & Design conducted an exclusive interview with Oliver Blackwell, Founder, CEO, and Product Designer of Clinical Design, who shared with our readers his journey of leading Clinical Design in the development of this iF gold award-winning product.

Interview with Oliver Blackwell

Q: Package & Design | A: Oliver Blackwell, CEO of Clinical Design

Q: First of all, congratulations on your Clinical Design Urine Testing System™ winning an iF gold award 2020! Please introduce the design concept and highlights of this award-winning work, and talk about what this award means to you.

A: Urine testing is one of the most common diagnostic health tests in the world – yet most urine tests are still conducted by colour-matching a urine test strip by eye. We used insight-led design thinking to challenge current urinalysis practices and improve outcomes. The result is Urine Testing System™, an integrated system that provides a digital, easy-to-use and affordable solution for all healthcare providers to standardise and improve the efficacy of urine testing. The component parts – including the UTS Digital Analyser™, UTS Desktop Software™ and consumable items – all work seamlessly together. The iF gold award and making it into the Top 10 of all UK and Top 25 of all Health and Medical winners (2016-2020) recognises the evolution required in urine testing, and realised by our design. It’s a moment to celebrate.

Clinical Design Urine Testing System™  | iF gold award winner 2020

About the Clinical Design Urine Testing System™ - iF gold award winner 2020 (see image above): 1. Applying UTS-10 Cap™ to UTS Tube™; 2. Inverting UTS Module™; 3. Loading the UTS Module™ into the UTS Digital Analyser™; 4. Reviewing results on UTS Desktop Software™

Q: Could you please briefly introduce your background and about Clinical Design?
A: I’m a Product Designer and trained under former IDEO designer Roberto Fraquelli – a calm and deeply empathetic man who can always draw the best from those he was interviewing or observing. Since my degree in Product Design, I’ve applied Human Centered Design to develop products from agricultural machinery to consumer goods – but I was drawn to medical devices because the outcome is to improve, or save someone’s life. I couldn’t find greater meaning for my work than that. Clinical Design started its journey over ten years ago with a specific focus to design, develop and manufacture medical devices. Now we have a core team who bring commercial and clinical experience – and an extensive network of hundreds of clinicians and specialists who have supported us at different stages in the product development.

Q: Was the award-winning Urine Testing System™ your own creation or a commissioned project? Please talk about the opportunity and process of developing this product. Is the product currently being put to use? Will there be further research and development plans on this product in the future?
A: Urine Testing System™ was not created from a spark of inspiration, but as a result of hundreds of conversations with doctors, nurses and other stakeholders – the first being ten years ago. These conversations have never stopped, and feedback has informed each iteration. We did have challenges and the fact that urine tests are so routine they’re second nature was probably our greatest. How to create a product so intuitive that time-poor healthcare professionals will change their behaviour? Urine Testing System™ now has a CE Mark and we’re now going to final user trials before our imminent full market launch. Urine Testing System™ is an evolution of current practice to improve process and clinical outcomes – but this is just the start for us.

Q: Clinical Design designs, develops, and produces medical devices. Do you have your own factory?
A: Most new companies in health tech are focused on application development and it’s quite unusual to find an entrant into the market for medical devices because of the start-up costs. Further to private investment, we were successful in the rigorous process of accessing European Regional Development Funding and as a result have been able to invest in a custom-built highly automated production facility in Cornwall, UK.

Clinical Design - UTS-10 Cap™
Clinical Design - UTS Digital Analyser™
  • 01/02

Q: Human Centered Design is at the core of your practice. Could you talk about how you practice it in the actual design process? Or what is your typical design process in developing a medical device? During this process, what other experts do you need to work with in addition to the doctors?
A: It always starts with a conversation or an observation – and with a medical device, embedding yourself in a clinical environment. We seek to understand all facets of a challenge or process, both medical and commercial. We’ll gather insights and data from clinicians and patients, but we might also speak to suppliers, practice managers, the person who manages the store cupboard or cleaners. After this first round of data gathering, we’ll create a cereal box prototype to get feedback on it. We use the principle of failing fast and iterate quickly so we have no emotional investment in a prototype – we can take the lessons and throw it away if needs be. With each iteration we add a level of detail, bringing in professionals to help us solve a piece of the puzzle. We’ve worked with hundreds of specialists – from scientists and engineers to funding experts – to bring Urine Testing System™ to market. With a medical device, I believe a designer can get closer to the optimal design. There is space for aesthetic, but its focus is to support the function and adoption – and it either does that or it doesn’t. For example, I designed a painless cannula and it needed to look exactly the same as the existing device. We found the majority of anesthetists were reluctant to adopt new technology and there was comfort to be found in the keeping the aesthetic the same. Good design is only good design if it results in the desired human behaviour.

Q: You’ve said, “The more conversations you have, the better a product becomes.” How do you explain it?
A: This is a really important point to make. You could have more conversations with, for example doctors, but it may not end up with a better product, because you’ve failed to gather insights from people in different roles with alternative perspectives or mindsets. It’s important to journey into the fringes and to embrace diverse thinking – no matter who.

Q: You are not a professional medical expert, so how have you accumulated your medical knowledge? What do you usually do to improve yourself in this respect? What knowledge and skills do you think you need to do medical design?
A: I may not be a medical expert myself – but Clinical Design is larger than me and has medical expertise drawn from wide-ranging sources. My role as both a CEO and Product Designer is the same, to build and lead a team to deliver an optimal solution. Design Thinking applies to both roles and I endeavor to lead with empathy, an open mind and embrace cross-disciplinary thinking.

Q: In addition to the Clinical Design Urine Testing System™, are you currently developing other medical product designs? Could you please talk about them?
A: Yes, we’re conducting extensive research in other medical device technologies – but this is unfortunately highly-confidential, so we can’t say any more than this.

About the author

Rhonda Jiang

This interview was conducted by Mrs. Rhonda Jiang, the editor-in-chief of “Package & Design” Magazine in China.
With a history of 47 years, “Package & Design” is one of the most influential professional design magazines in China which features packaging design, branding, product design, industrial design, interior design, architecture design, interactive design and design education, etc.

(Source: Package & Design, 2020, May Issue, p. 76-79)

In the last few weeks, we have published five interviews from the May Issue 2020 of the Package & Design Magazine, China - including this one with Clinical Design: