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Our Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of 2019

How do you measure a year? One way we like to do so is in pageviews! These ten posts were 2019’s most popular, going from least to most — the number one post at the bottom was 2019’s most read.

Four of the top ten are from the Design Defined series of videos we launched in January 2019 to shine a light on design principles that excite, intrigue, inspire, and/or guide us. We released a new Design Defined video every month in 2019, with a blog post to dig further into its meaning and implications. You can watch the Design Defined videos and find the principles featured below in our free, downloadable Design Defined eBook (vol 1).

Besides Design Defined, our top ten is a delightfully mixed bag. Our design and innovation strategy team did a lot of work analyzing megatrends to predict industry shifts through 2030, and those make an appearance. Topics in medical and rugged product design are here, and of course, at least one side project always makes the cut:

Countdown to MDR

10. Countdown To MDR: Are You Ready for the New EU Medical Device Regulation?

User researcher, Sarah Fairchild, PhD, gave valuable advice in this post about a timely issue for those in medical product design — the new EU Medical Device Regulation (MDR) that comes into effect in May, 2020.

The new regulation, which is four times longer than its predecessor, applies to any medical device sold in Europe. (No wonder people are searching for help to better understand and meet the MDR’s requirements!) The increased scrutiny, Sarah writes, is “a necessary response to technical and scientific developments that are quickly shaping the medical device industry.”

This popular post is roughly formatted like a decision tree that asks you questions about your medical device (is it existing or new?) and takes you through the process of figuring out whether you’ll need MDR-related assessments and usability testing. It concludes with a list of FAQs about human factors validation studies that will satisfy the new MDR.

The post: Countdown to MDR: Are You Ready for the New EU Medical Device Regulation? by Sarah Fairchild, PhD

How Anthropomorphic Form Shapes Product Design

9. Design Defined: How Anthropomorphic Form Shapes Product Design

In his post, “How Anthropomorphic Form Shapes Product Design,” Senior Industrial Designer, Ed Mitchell, explains why humans — both designer humans and non-designer humans — are drawn to forms and patterns that exhibit human-like traits. (But not traits that are too literal. Overtly humanoid forms  can come off as creepy.) The post names icons of anthropomorphic form and goes on to discuss the principle’s representation in digital design. It asks how we might expect the principle to shift as gender norms evolve.

The post: Design Defined: How Anthropomorphic Form Shapes Product Design by Ed Mitchell

From Design Thinking to Integrated Thinking: Making Business Needs Part of the Innovation Process

8. From Design Thinking to Integrated Thinking: Making Business Needs Part of the Innovation Process

In this post, Director of Design and Innovation Strategy, Ryan Chen, explains why combining two mindsets that are often seen as mutually exclusive — design thinking and business analysis — is a winning formula. Look closely at some of the products from the past decade that failed spectacularly, he writes, and you’ll note a commonality: They didn’t fail for lack of design attention, but because they fundamentally misunderstood consumer expectations and the competitive landscape.

It might sound counterintuitive but the most important design decisions are often not made in the design department. That can be a hard thing for designers to admit, but design must ultimately serve the needs of the business as well as the user, and business considerations often trump creative briefs. Design Thinking alone is often not the answer. Teams need to practice Integrated Thinking instead.

The post: From Design Thinking to Integrated Thinking: Making Business Needs Part of the Innovation Process by Ryan Chen
Related: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research To Drive Product Innovation by Mathieu Turpault

product design for the circular economy

7. Design Defined: Product Design for the Circular Economy

In this next-popular Design Defined post, Seth GaleWyrick explains the notion of a circular economy, where products are designed to use resources for as long as possible, after which they’re recovered and regenerated so that waste is nearly eliminated. GaleWyrick discusses the key role product design can play in enabling the circular economy by creating long-lasting products that are easy to reuse and recycle.

The post: Design Defined: Product Design for the Circular Economy by Seth GaleWyrick
Related: Innovative Technology To Combat Climate Change: Our 7 Favorite Solutions by Dan Marcq, Jr.

Reducing Medical Device Risk with Usability Testing

6. Reducing Medical Device Risk with Usability Testing

Medical devices are commonly recalled due to usability issues that can be prevented with proper usability testing during the development lifecycle. There’s significant opportunity to reduce the potential for harm by conducting quality usability testing early and often.

Chris Kim, MD, explains how — specifically, how to draft a strategic Human-Factors Engineering (HFE) and Usability Engineering (UE) Plan, and a User Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (uFMEA) assessment. He briefs readers on three usability testing approaches, and he touches on resources, tips, and misconceptions around regulatory compliance.

The post: Reducing Medical Device Risk with Usability Testing by Chris Kim, MD
Related: Go ‘As Far As Possible’ with a Simulated Use Environment for Medical Device Testing by Chris Kim, MD and Using the PCA Method To Assess Use Errors in Medical Usability Testing by Alex Visconti

The Sociocultural Megatrends Transforming Healthcare

5. The Sociocultural Megatrends Transforming Healthcare

For this post, design and innovation strategists, Ryan Chen and Anat Mooreville, Ph.D., examined each of the ten megatrends in Bresslergroup’s megatrends framework through a lens of medical and wellness consumer experience.

Through that exercise, they singled out four profound shifts in the field — 1. ‘Healthcare Consumers’ Replace Patients; 2. Anytime, Anywhere Solutions; 3. Expectations for Seamless Experiences; and 4. Personalized Treatments for Better Outcomes. In many cases, the impact of these shifts is already evident, usually via startups offering new services, or existing products and services that are becoming more widely accessible.

Ryan and Anat describe the shifts and their drivers, and they spell out the implications and opportunities for brands and manufacturers.

The post: The Sociocultural Megatrends Transforming Healthcare by Ryan Chen and Anat Mooreville, PhD
Related
: The Mega Megatrends Post: Your Guide To the Ten Consumer Megatrends Reshaping Product Design by Ryan Chen; Five Megatrends Driving the Future of Medical Devices, and How To Design Health Products of the Future [downloadable PDF] by Ryan Chen and Anat Mooreville, PhD

our DIY split-flap display

4. Our DIY Split-Flap Display: An Adventure in Inefficient Nostalgia

Like everyone else, we at Bresslergroup were sad to see the split-flap ‘departures’ board removed from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station last January. The news got Nick McGill, Brian O’Connor, Ed Garcia, and John Kurcheski talking about split flaps and how they’re made.

One fateful Friday evening, all that talking led to the discovery of a starter split-flap display project, meticulously crafted by software engineer, Scott Bezek. If nothing else, this group of enterprising engineers just had to give this project a shot.They didn’t set out to invent something radically different, but they wanted to prove to themselves that they could make their own split flap.

In 2019, many readers were interested in this story of how three engineers and one model maker set out to assemble Bresslergroup’s very own connected flap jawn. Maybe it’s inspired others to make their own!

The post: Our DIY Split Flap Display: An Adventure in Inefficient Nostalgia by Nick McGill, Brian O’Connor, Ed Garcia, and John Kurcheski

Designing Military-Grade Products: The What, Why, and How

3. Designing Military-Grade Products: The What, Why, and How

The growing demand for rugged design across sectors has companies asking when, why, and how to accommodate military specifications. With specialized knowledge and experience in this topic, Industrial Design Manager, Dan Massam, and Senior Program Manager, Eric Kemner, proposed a post that would answer these questions — and raise some, too.

In product development, MIL-SPEC means designed to MIL-STD (military standard). This standard was developed by the United States Military as a means of ensuring a certain level of expectations for the performance and maintainability of military equipment.

MIL-SPEC products are designed to perform at expected levels under a variety of harsh environmental conditions. While meeting the military standard is required by funding agencies who purchase products used by or developed for the military, it’s been gaining in popularity in consumer, commercial, and industrial arenas as well. “Military-grade” as an attribute is applied to a wide range of consumer goods, from pickup trucks to picnic coolers.

This escalating demand for rugged devices begs the question: Should product designers and manufacturers simply design to military standards and then sell these military-grade products to consumers? The answer is yes — and no.

The post: Designing Military-Grade Products: The What, Why, and How by Eric Kemner and Dan Massam

Design Defined: What Does “Hierarchy of Needs” Mean To Product Designers?

2. Design Defined: What Does “Hierarchy of Needs” Mean To Product Designers?

What does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have to do with product design? Ed Mitchell explains why a product design has no chance of success if it doesn’t meet people’s most basic needs.

Ed references Steven Bradley’s Design Hierarchy of Needs, which translates the five sets of needs from Maslow’s Triangle into a product design context. From low to high (essential to nice-to-have), the needs sets are: Functionality, Reliability, Usability, Proficiency, and Creativity.

This post discusses that hierarchy in the context of more complex products, as well, such as the digital-physical devices that make up the bulk of designers’ work these days.

The post: Design Defined: What Does ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Mean To Product Designers? by Ed Mitchell

Design Defined: What’s a “Nudge” in Product Design?

1. Design Defined: What’s a “Nudge” in Product Design?

In behavioral economics, “nudge” refers to influencing individuals or groups through positive reinforcement or indirect suggestions. Ed Mitchell shows how the concept of “nudging” provides a helpful lens from which to view product design and how minor design changes can markedly affect individual behavior.

The post provides plentiful examples of effective design nudges and embarks on a discussion of nudging for good versus nudging for evil (i.e., sludge), even providing economist, Richard Thaler’s, three guidelines for ethical nudging.

The post: Design Defined: What’s a ‘Nudge’ in Product Design? by Ed Mitchell

Thank you for reading! See you next year, when we’ll continue to explore these and more themes — sign up for one of our newsletters for monthly dispatches! (Nudge.)

Check out all of our Most Popular Posts from 2013-2018.