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iF Design Special: Medical Design

How stylish can a walking stick be? How can an MRI station be designed, to achieve the best possible experience for a patient, the easiest working atmosphere for doctors and nurses - and a precise diagnosis at the same time? There is probably no other field as complex and sensitive as medical and healthcare design. With the MEDICA in Düsseldorf just around the corner, we compiled an exclusive medical design special with expert insights!

Scroll through the best in medical design, read how the complex briefings between designers and medical tech companies succeed, where Big Data and AI are heading and find what character traits the best medical designers have to have!

iF awarded medical and health designs 2019

iF awarded medical and health designs 2019

Get inspired and view all 96 iF awarded medical designs in our iF DESIGN AWARD 2019 collection.

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Interview Prof. Detlef Rhein, Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design: "It is a field of design with general validity"

As one of the most sought-after medical design experts, speakers and professors, German Detlef Rhein knows what good medical design means – and what challenges it poses on young professionals. Read about the role of Artificial Intelligence, pragmatism and radicalism and why designing a plain sofa can be as complex as designing a medical diagnostic tool.

About Detlef Rhein

Detlef Rhein

Detlef Rhein studied Industrial Design at the University of Darmstadt and the State University of California, San Jose. Professional stages while studying include Adam Opel AG and frog design. Later, he started as a designer at wiege GmbH (Wilkhahn Entwicklungsgesellschaft). After many years working in the Netherlands at ninaber / peters / krouwel and then in Hamburg as a partner of npk design, Detlef later founded the design studio open fields together with Till Garthoff. Since 2009 he is professor of industrial design at the Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design.

iF: Companies have high standards when it comes to the design of their products or solutions for medical and healthcare. There are many components to consider. What are the challenges designers in the medical sector are facing exactly?

DR: The field of medicine, or rather health, is a very complex area. Designers know many facets, not just medical technology, which in turn is also very divergent. Central to the design in this field is certainly the importance of man and his individuality as well as his physical and cognitive condition. It is about empathy and accuracy, a sensitive field, with very different perspectives, demands and needs of professionals, developers, sponsors, patients and relatives. And: It is always about the design of partially highly specialized systems, interfaces and processes in specific contexts and with specific regulations and organizations as a framework.

iF: There is a great need for a purposeful exchange and briefing between designers and companies in this area in particular. After all, it's about sensitive topics, unlike the design of a sofa. How do you see that?

DR: By the way: the design of a sofa is also a sensitive topic, quite complex and also very interesting. New developments and designs in the field of medicine should be obliged to a central question: Does something in a specific context with the relevant users and actors really work as one had imagined? Is it valid AND resilient? Do you agree with the assumed interaction setting and the declared user experience? Does the whole thing create a new quality or break it off somewhere? You should work together very well, intensively and confidently, and experiment, test, simulate and discard a lot in the development process in order to make good decisions. In fact, briefings always capture only part of the truth, and experience has shown that the results are never really a direct translation of a briefing. What was not yet recognized? That would always be an important question in cooperation. And not to forget: What are strong unique selling points in the market? How can you convince? These key questions should definitely be clarified.


„The treatment of health conditions of all kinds is per se interaction and information design in historically and culturally conditioned knowledge, technology and social contexts.“


iF: How important is design in the medical field anyway? For many, the focus is first and foremost on functionality or diagnostic precision. How can and must design "perform" here?

DR: Basically, medical design has always been there, from the beginnings – if it is understood as the design of relationships in the health context, because the treatment of health conditions of various kinds is per se interaction and information in historically and culturally conditioned knowledge, technology and social contexts. With the differentiation of health care markets, the field of creative activities has also become more differentiated, so we are talking about markets, competition and societal values, that have played an increasingly important role since the late seventies. Today's medical/health design is at a comparable level, such as the areas of work, leisure or mobility. It now has to meet the high and highest demands of all concerned, not only in function, but in refinement and perception - lack of sensitivity and negligence are no longer an issue. In addition, there is the crucial question of the image of humans, which is built into every project. If it reduces man, makes him an object or activates him and assigns him an individual dimension. For design, this is a fundamental question that needs to be clarified.

iF: You have already been awarded for your seca designs in the past, with your studio open fields. Biotronik is also among your customers. Can you briefly outline your work for the company?

DR: The role of design has changed significantly in cooperation with both companies in the last 10 years. Whereas previously it was more traditional design projects for a hardware design with ergonomic aspects in which Till Garthoff and I worked together, today it is always combined hardware, information or interface designs. How is data collected, processed and presented? Who will deal with the data then? But new measurement and sensor technologies have also been added that dissolve traditional ways of thinking, create completely new product categories, and also demarcate many entrepreneurially as more accurate and comprehensive measurements can be made. We have a new strategic role in the development of possible new fields of application, e.g. in the area of data handling and interface design as well as system innovation.

iF: Big data and AI play an increasing role in the medical / healthcare field, e.g. collect data and analyze it meaningfully for diagnosis or patient information. Also, so-called brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are a thing tofday! This requires medical tools. How do you encounter this topic so far in your work or at the university?

DR: This is one of the big questions, in which it is important to clarify what desirable qualities are, because data is not a solution to everything and to itself, but actually must be good for something and make sense. Both in my design practice and at the university, there have already been a large number of projects that have addressed this topic, i.e. in cooperation with Siemens. More precisely, it was about the future prospects of mammography or the application of ultrasound. In addition to handling the hardware, the design of the technical images in particular was a question, as KI-based systems are revolutionizing diagnostics and image analysis. How does the communication work then? How is the diagnostic certainty increased? Occupational fields change, for example in radiology. And not to forget: Patients are getting more and more informed. We must ask ourselves: What influence does this have on the doctor-patient relationship in the future, especially if not all information is also substantial or utilisable?

iF: Can you give us your personal three trends, in the field of medical design?

DR: In short, I see the following fields in which we must fundamentally rebuild our understanding: the aging society, the changes in age image and understanding, and the question of technological support in this highly human relationship field. The environment and health complex including climate change and health in a global context (potential threats and rare diseases from distant regions are also beginning to show themselves). And of course there is also the trend of the entire field of e-health and digitization, including remote diagnostics, data processing and information transfer. There will be completely new tools for self-examination that need to be designed. I can not go into the present possibilities of changes of the body by e.g. invasive technologies and genetic engineering.

iF: Some of your students were also honored with our iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD. What are reocurring problems of the students in the design process?

DR: Pragmatism and radicalism are the two antagonists who keep coming back into the ring. Design needs framework conditions, requirements and information in order to orientate oneself and to develop criteria. Where can I get them? Information gathering and analysis is a challenge. On the other hand, these aspects lead to nothing in terms of design, it needs an idea of a new quality, of a change, in short: a new understanding. This is built into every design project. How far do you throw and what compromises do you make? The force of the expert opinions and regulations can be intimidating, I see this currently at work on the reorganization of the emergency department in hospitals. Only visionary strength and posture help here, which one must develop in order to generate substance and bring new qualities into the world. At the end of the day, it's basically just that and not the kind confirmation of the established.

iF: And what advice would you give your students if they want to specialize in medicine and healthcare?

DR: Provocatively: It is a design area with generality. Understanding people and actors, exploring specific contexts, shaping social and technological change and becoming very sensitive, critical and precise; Coordinate systems, processes and interactions, make information meaningful and create collective value. So, working on truly sustainable "futures" for a healthy life. This skill set is so comprehensive and sophisticated that it basically leaves a lot of future-relevant areas and innovation settings open beyond medicine.

Download: Interview with Prof. Detlef Rhein in German

Detlef Rhein’s Students awarded with the iF Design Talent Award

As Detlef Rhein puts it, Medical design is a complex discipline that requires an awareness of many aspects of human life and health. Yet, this does not entail a loss of innovation and daring creativity – only to meet certain standards. See below the student concepts of his classes at Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design, that were honored with the iF DESIGN TALENT AWARD.

Student Concepts Medical Design

A central venous catheter (CVC) is a thin tube that can be inserted into a patient’s large vein in order to administer medication or other fluids, especially if other methods of giving medication are not possible. However, current central venous catheterization methods require many tools and the special skills for using them appropriately. This becomes a problem for the application of a CVC in pre-hospital situations. Cevec is a product system that enables paramedics to insert a central venous catheter quickly and safely, taking into consideration the special conditions of emergency situations.
2017: Gabriel Müller with CEVEC, Installation of a central venous catheter in emergencies

A central venous catheter (CVC) is a thin tube that can be inserted into a patient’s large vein in order to administer medication or other fluids, especially if other methods of giving medication are not possible. However, current central venous catheterization methods require many tools and the special skills for using them appropriately. This becomes a problem for the application of a CVC in pre-hospital situations. Cevec is a product system that enables paramedics to insert a central venous catheter quickly and safely, taking into consideration the special conditions of emergency situations.

Mima is a concept for a measuring instrument that provides help for apiculturists with regard to controlling and maintaining bees’ health. Instead of opening the beehive for each inspection, the hive can now stay closed. Thus, the sensitive climate in the hive is maintained and the bees can live and work without being disturbed. The instrument is a tool designed to support apiculturists by providing important information regarding bees’ health.
2015: Lisa Reichardt with MIMA (Minimally invasive observation assistant for beekeepers)

Mima is a concept for a measuring instrument that provides help for apiculturists with regard to controlling and maintaining bees’ health. Instead of opening the beehive for each inspection, the hive can now stay closed. Thus, the sensitive climate in the hive is maintained and the bees can live and work without being disturbed. The instrument is a tool designed to support apiculturists by providing important information regarding bees’ health.

CONFIO is a diagnostics system for the digestive tract. The patient swallows the CONFIO capsule, which contains several miniature cameras. The capsule has a wireless connection to a control unit to provide the physician with a three-dimensional view of the small intestine in real time. The patient requires no sedation and doesn‘t need to undergo an unpleasant procedure.
2012: Rebecca Loaiza with Confio (endoscopy capsule)

CONFIO is a diagnostics system for the digestive tract. The patient swallows the CONFIO capsule, which contains several miniature cameras. The capsule has a wireless connection to a control unit to provide the physician with a three-dimensional view of the small intestine in real time. The patient requires no sedation and doesn‘t need to undergo an unpleasant procedure.

  • 01/03

Fred Held’s Favorites: iF Juror and medical designer picks his favorite iF awarded Designs of 2019

Fred Held is the founder and owner of Held+Team, an industrial design agency specializing in medical technology based in Hamburg. He looks back on many professional years in this sector and customers from Europe, the United States, China and Japan. No wonder, he has a keen eye when it comes to picking the best medical designs – especially as a three times iF juror. For the medical design special, we catched up with him and asked him to scroll through our design excellence of 2019 and pick his most favorite designs! See his exclusive selection with comments below.

“Striking for me is the on the one hand very successful formal integration of the functional assemblies and beyond the independent overall impression.”
FUJIFILM CALNEO Xair / Medical device, iF gold award

“Striking for me is the on the one hand very successful formal integration of the functional assemblies and beyond the independent overall impression.”

“Pleasantly restrained designed and shrunk in dimension, as it has long been desired for the function<br />of electric &quot;teeth brushing&quot;.
Omron Electric Toothbrush HT-B22X series / Electric toothbrush, iF DESIGN AWARD

“Pleasantly restrained designed and shrunk in dimension, as it has long been desired for the function
of electric "teeth brushing".

“Perfect system design down to the smallest detail for a demanding application. To manages to overcome the usually very technical impression.”
Straumann Modular Cassette / Dental instrument container, iF DESIGN AWARD

“Perfect system design down to the smallest detail for a demanding application. To manages to overcome the usually very technical impression.”

“A remarkably unagitated design. To dispense with the display and to use a smartphone compulsory seems to me timely.”
Omron Blood Pressure Monitor HEM-7530T Complete™ / Blood pressure monitor and EKG, iF DESIGN AWARD

“A remarkably unagitated design. To dispense with the display and to use a smartphone compulsory seems to me timely.”

“Detailed, beautifully designed product with a function appropriate appearance.”
Dräger Alcotest 5000 / Non-contact rapid test device, iF DESIGN AWARD

“Detailed, beautifully designed product with a function appropriate appearance.”

  • 01/05

Interview with medical designer and iF juror Fred Held

Interview with medical designer and iF juror Fred Held

As an industrial designer, do you really need to know “nothing” about medical technology, if you want to work in the field of medical design? Read the interview and see for yourself how Fred Held understands the profession of medical design and why all surgical devices have black handles.

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Seca presents new product solutions at MEDICA

Just a couple of weeks ago, Seca celebrated their 50th iF anniversary - at the Medica 2019 they will showcase four new soloutins: Scale-up line - individual solutions and increased patient safety through ID display; analytics 125 - cloud-based mBCA software for optimized diagnostics and therapy support without maintenanc; mBCA 555 - three measurements and data transfer to the cloud in less than a minute; and a shatter-proof stable Bearclaw glass platform. A reaction to the current needs, as Robert Vogel, seca's managing director sales and marketing, put it: "Increasing competition and efficiency pressure, high patient demands and the constant digitization of processes ask for new solutions for the medical user. We take account of this with our new developments at all levels: in the field of weight and length measurement, body composition analysis and supporting software. "

SECA: 22 iF Awards since 1969

Container_Seca CEO Frederik Vogel + iF's Dirk Bartelsmeier

Congratulations on 50 years of iF awards to Seca! The German world leader in medical measurement and weighing has won 22 iF design awards since 1969! Due to its high degree of specialization, Seca is still one of the hidden champions. Seca develops, produces and sells scales, linear encoders and measuring units for measuring body composition. Seca’s approximately 100 different medical devices are exported to more than 110 countries.

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