Design Matters

For those of us who live with diabetes devices every day, this is so NOT NEWS.  But somehow the folks in medical R&D haven’t entirely picked up on the concept that medical gadgetry needs to be sleek and convenient, and OMG — maybe even cool-looking. We LIVE with this stuff day-in and day-out, for God’s sake.

Why is it that Apple can spend millions designing the perfect — and perfectly aesthetic — little machine just to play music, while we wait decades for inhalable insulin and end up with a big plastic bongish-thing in bad colors?  It has to be a Consumerism issue.  Because for the most part, we don’t shop for our D-devices at Wal-Mart. We don’t buy them as Christmas gifts.  We don’t replace them every time a cool new feature is added. 

Fashionflu_maskMaybe they’re hoping we will soon.  Witness Pfizer’s new TV ad campaign for Exubera — reaching out directly for consumer attention and our health dollars.

But better yet, check out these Fashion Flu Masks from NY designer Patricia Lamberti.  They’re embellished with floral appliqués, leopard fabrics and satin ribbons — protecting against pandemics while snubbing the supply store look (for about $12 a pop).  As one observer noted, “Sick is bad enough! We don’t have to look that way.”  That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Baby…  If you’re going to market medicinal stuff, once hidden behind pharmacy counters, directly to consumers, at least try to make it look good, will ya?

Lots of good discussion on diabetes device design issues can be found at Aiming for Grace, btw — my absolute favorite D-blog when it comes to aesthetics.


4 Responses

  1. Scott
    Scott March 19, 2007 at 8:37 am | | Reply

    LOL! You’re totally right about the consumerism issue. But even more to blame is the fact that the ultimate consumer seems to be an afterthought to the product development process, as I discovered from a Wall Street analyst who believed that Pfizer did hardly ANY research into the issues that potential Exubera users actually wanted or needed. The lesson is that what the company believed to be a surefire blockbuster has turned into anything but.

    Some companies do spend a fair amount of time and money, and as a result, have very successful products. Smiths Medical (makers of the Deltec Cozmo insulin pump) and Animas (now part of Johnson & Johnson) both did a fair amount of research on how they could succeed in a market that was assumed to be owned by Medtronic Minimed, and interestingly enough, both have done very well in that market.

  2. David
    David March 19, 2007 at 10:15 am | | Reply

    It’s a war of attrition. As someone who has worn an insulin pump for several years, worked for a product design consultancy, and currently works designing medical device software, I can tell you it’s not because the manufacturer wouldn’t like to produce more usable products. Rather, by the time they’ve done all of the rather lengthy and expensive R&D that goes into a product that first and foremost, mustn’t kill anyone, there’s not much in the way of funds left over (read margins) to make the devices usable. I believe most of this is the result of the lack of process streamlining that consumer electronics companies benefit from because they’re not primarily worried about killing anyone. Ask anyone who has to deal with FDA compliance. It’s not easy. That safety benefit that we enjoy in the US comes at a cost. While I would like my 507c to work as smoothly as my sidekick, I’m not expecting it anytime soon. The downside from companies losing focus on safety are well-known.

  3. birdie
    birdie March 22, 2007 at 10:42 am | | Reply

    Thanks for the kind shout out. I’m blushing and thrilled at the same time. I so feel that aesthetics and design are utterly critical to the quality of living with the products we bring into our lives, and most importantly with the ones we HAVE to bring into our lives, like the pump. For me, as a designer, consumer and diabetic, the idea that I’m supposed to be “happy” with my pump design because it “doesn’t kill me” or it’s “good enough” is hard to swallow. I totally understand and appreciate the insight that David has shared. And I agree that at the end of the day, the state of the medical industry today frames safety and good design as a trade-off rather than as 2 parts of 1 brief. And unfortunately, we, the consumer, are forced to live with that misguided approach to medical product design, 24/7. I wish, with all my heart, that it was different than the way it is.

  4. Best regards
    Best regards June 1, 2007 at 9:39 am | | Reply

    hello !

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