- Created a product personality through the interface that was truly the first insulin pump a wide variety of people with diabetes could use
- Went from newcomer to #2 in the market in a span of 2 years
- Shook up the industry: the competition copied key features
- Garnered great feedback from users
- Demonstrated to Smiths management that early
Insulin-dependent diabetics may opt for an insulin pump rather than injections. A pump provides much tighter control of the disease, more flexible eating habits, and lower risk of complications. Insulin pumps rely on disposable infusion sets to deliver insulin to the body. Inserting a set means driving its soft, hollow plastic cannula into the skin with a needle that is then withdrawn; the cannula is affixed to the skin with an adhesive patch and connected via tubing to the pump. Given the development cost (and risk) of designing and producing their own infusion set, Smiths challenged Bridge to help them create a product with significant user benefits over existing designs.
Most companies do at least some kind of market research before designing or redesigning their products. This research may be informal, such as input from the sales team on what customers want, or formal, quantitative research, often conducted in focus groups or as part of a larger Six Sigma process. Design research is a fundamentally different way of approaching the innovation process.
Design research means Bridge's designers get immersed in the problem by direct and personal contact and observation of the intended user group. Because we are designers we see issues in a fundamentally different way than market researchers. We are much more interested in "What could be" rather than "What has been". We are not looking to have our users design the product for us by listing out the shortcomings of existing products or suggesting incremental improvements. Instead we are experts at finding out what users really want by understanding the context of how they want the product to fit into their lives. This is how Bridge's designers worked with the engineers at Smiths Medical to create this groundbreaking product.
» Learn more
It is important to note that this early discovery phase must be done carefully, with an eye to the fact that it is gathering qualitative data. Those people interpreting the findings must not become slaves to the numbers. A major challenge facing any medical company aiming for a better or even revolutionary product is how to listen for what customers really want in a next-generation solution. Rhall Pope, VP of R&D at Smiths Medical, was faced with this dilemma when they began the Cozmo project. He says, “Because customers of existing products are referenced to the way those products work, it is very hard for them to tell you what they want unless you change the whole framework of how you ask the question. In most cases they have a hard time thinking the product can even be different. So I think what early design research does is to get the team thinking outside of an existing product model or market perception of what the product should do. Instead it uncovers the value of the product to the user and where this value could be enhanced.”
Through years of experience we have observed that better briefed teams are much more innovative, contrary to popular belief that the best ideas will come from people who are unclouded by existing practice. Bridge hosted a briefing session based on our user research, helping Smiths understand and rank customer requirements until the whole team had a deep feel for what users really wanted and needed. The project team (which included people representing an assortment of ranks and roles from both Bridge and Smiths) brainstormed in a series of short "mini-brainstorm" sessions over 2 days. Each mini-brainstorm was structured around a particular question centered on an essential customer desire; ie "How can we reduce & speed steps in the insertion process?"
Hundreds of brainstorm ideas, from silly to sublime, were documented, ranked for potential, and sorted by Bridge. With more interpretation, thought, and sketching, Bridge designers generated a set of about a half-dozen possible product concepts synthesizing the best of3ws the brainstorm ideas. After a presentation of each concept and discussions about its particular goals, strong points and failings, inherent issues and possible solutions, the team selected the top ideas for further development. The all-in-one set was a clear winner, and happily dovetailed well with an integral inserter tool already underway in Smiths' engineering department.
As Smiths engineered Cleo's mechanism and detailed parts for production, Bridge provided design guidance to be sure "softer" user needs were represented in every detail of the design. We helped refine the fastener that locks the infusion set onto the cannula, keeping in mind that people with diabetes may well have impaired manual dexterity. We suggested and detailed the knurled texture of the product's triple-duty sterile packaging/inserter tool/needle-safe container so that it provided a good grippy surface and conveyed a soft drink level of disposability -"twist me open and throw me away". And we guided the overall look of the product, which had to a walk a line between trust-inspiring solidity and guilt-free disposability - with flair and consumer appeal that never announces its user has a medical condition.