Nicola Chamberlain, Color Materials and Trend Forecasting Specialist, Ergonomidesign
MEDdesign

What Can Color, Material and Trends Forecasting Do For Medical Devices?

By Nicola Chamberlain
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Nicola Chamberlain, Color Materials and Trend Forecasting Specialist, Ergonomidesign

When it comes to understanding which colors to choose, how to apply color and why, and what kinds of materials and surface finish create the most value, design expertise and direction is required. It’s time to make medical products object of desire rather than disinclination.

CMF, or color, materials and forecasting design, is a design expertise which is becoming more and more prevalent. As products and markets become more complex the need for specific knowledge about color, materials, surface finish and trends has increased. 
 
Image from a colour trends mapping and analysis exercise
Image from a colour trends mapping and analysis exercise
The healthcare sphere is becoming more complex; the idea of creating one ubiquitous device to fit all cannot be the default approach any longer as health consumers are influenced by the breadth of custom, bespoke, personal and desirable objects available to them in the consumer product sphere and are drawing parallels between what’s on offer in both categories. 
  
As we see more and more influence coming from the consumer technology markets into medical markets it is important to adopt longer term color forecasting methods through the analysis of global color trend reports and the creation of an extended color and materials palettes. The inclusion of regional input is critical here as we see medical relevance as well as cultural and economic difference play an important role in the appropriateness of choices.  
 
Image from a conceptual exploration of faceted form trends and targeted colour  for a handheld digital device
Image from a conceptual exploration of faceted form trends and targeted colour
for a handheld digital device
How can CMF be applied to medical devices? 
Medical devices can be given a personal and sophisticated competitive edge when we work with color pallets beyond navy blue, black and silver and with high quality manufacturing techniques and sophisticated finishes. The right application of CMF can also diminish the negative feelings often associated with the need to use a medical device which represents ill health and perhaps the need to alter one’s life as in diabetes for example. 
 
In the category of Automotive and Mobile, where complex production techniques  and a high level of quality and desirability is demanded, CMF designers are an integral part of the design development process and work alongside the product designers who focus mainly on the form, usability, and visual expression of the product. 
 
Aerocrine's Niox Mino
Aerocrine’s Niox Mino

At Ergonomidesign, we are increasingly offering this expertise to our clients who develop products within the field of medical. As patients’ and consumers’ demands on medical devices grow and diversify, so does the need for giving greater attention to segment targeted color pallets, differentiated material use and refined surface finish design. As well as working with these physical aspects we observe, synthesize and translate key consumer trends into innovative ideas for the medical market. Trends analysis and innovative design ideas often helps to spur the development and design of devices early on in projects and can be part of guidelines for the entire design and development process.

The Swedish company Aerocrine develops and commercializes products for the monitoring of nitric oxide. Aerocrine asked Ergonomidesign to design the look and feel of a small, light, portable and affordable product which could be used in clinics and at home, even by the patients themselves. Designers David Crafoord and Daniel Höglund decided to give the device, Niox Mino, a playful and friendly shape that conceals the advanced technology and downplays the rather awkward situation of taking tests. Because the device was to be used in patients’ homes the designers chose a look that reminds the users of other technological products in the home, like electric kettles, mixers or jugs. It has a rounded, glossy, white finish casing and metal colored details. One user said the design of Niox Mino reminded him of products from interior design brand Alessi.
 
The influence of consumer brands on user expectations
Product customization has been an important trend in consumer technology markets for a long time now. Smartphones, for example, are the ubiquitous personal device we can accessorize to make our own with skins, cases, pouches, lanyards and other embellishments. This market has bloomed. Many accessories have been designed with care and thought. Users are beginning to expect this level of design in all their personal devices.
 
One example of the personalization and customization trend in medical is the work of bespoke fairings that designer Scott Summit has developed for amputees who use prosthesis. The fairings integrate CMF to its full. Fairings are individualized to express the users’ personality, become a more natural part of their lifestyles, and ease the awkwardness of wearing prosthesis in social settings. With leather and metal surfaces, the possibility to etch patterns and tattoos and the choice of a number of colors and carved-out patterns, the fairings can be compared to fashion accessories. They enhance the experience of needing and using aids in a positive way and boost the user’s confidence. 
 
Another important direction, as consumer concerns about the effects of short life or throwaway products on our environment grows, is designing for longer life. As CMF designers we can use our materials knowledge to create solutions which age with grace and become better with time.  
 
Many medtech companies are inspired by the opportunities CMF has to offer and look to the big consumer brands for inspiration. When it comes to understanding which colors to choose, how to apply color and why, and what kinds of materials and surface finish create the most value, design expertise and direction is required. It’s time to make medical products object of desire rather than disinclination. Thoughtful and careful colour, materials and surface design enhances the possibility to do this and create more accepted, appreciated devices which are a natural part of users’ daily lives. 
 

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Nicola Chamberlain, Color Materials and Trend Forecasting Specialist, Ergonomidesign

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