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Medical Design: “Aesthetics Is Not Everything“
Florian Krug; © Schön-Klinik
Coco Chanel, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld – they all cause a big stir in the fashion world. Design is also a topic in medical science. Here, it’s not just the visual appearance that counts. In medical design, it’s primarily about ergonomics of equipment and more safety for the patient.
Florian Krug is Chief Physician of emergency surgery at the Schön-Clinic Hamburg-Eilbek und teaches “Medical Design“ at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel. MEDICA.de talked with him about cars, urine bags and the industry.
MEDICA.de: Mr. Krug, you are a trauma surgeon and at the same time you also teach at an Art Academy. How does a physician get to this unusual moonlighting job?
Florian Krug: This is not a moonlighting job, it’s my calling! (laughs) I have always been interested in design and even did an apprenticeship as an autobody builder, because I actually wanted to study Industrial Design. Then I got –you might even say foolishly- a spot to study medicine at the University. The interest in design however always remained, especially in the area of medical technology.
MEDICA.de: Thus far the study course Medical Design is the only one of its kind in the German speaking area – with you as the professor and three students! Is that even worth the trouble?
Krug: Indeed, three students are very few when compared with big Universities. You cannot really compare an Art Academy with those big Universities though, because of its structures. In our Bachelor Degree program Industrial Design we also only have 20 students per semester. And with Medical Design we have a Masters Degree program, which was designed for only five students anyway.
MEDICA.de: And financially speaking? Presumably, you are getting paid for your teaching.
Krug: No, because I am a honorary professor which means that I am not getting monetary reimbursement for my teaching.
MEDICA.de: Medical equipment needs to perform its function as best as possible and should be as inexpensive as possible. Why does medical science require a special design?
Krug: In no other area do cold technology and human emotions coincide with each other that strongly as it is in medical science. Many medical instruments and devices are scaring the patient. With an appealing design you can convey this equipment in a more emotionally acceptable way.
MEDICA.de: Are there studies which support this?
Krug: There are no studies pertaining to the emotional aspect, but to other aspects of design, because aesthetics is not everything. Primarily it is about the standardized design of equipment or instruments, because studies show that a standardized operation reduces mistakes. And it is all about the practical use. Other industries like aviation or the automotive industry are a step ahead of us here.
Standardized design of equipment or instruments can reduce mistakes - one intention of Medical Design; © SXC
MEDICA.de: Can you explain this in more detail?
Krug: When you get into a car, you turn the ignition key and start driving. It doesn’t matter whether you drive a car from a German, Spanish or Japanese manufacturer. Other operational controls are the same as well, despite different makers. This reduces mistakes and increases safety. Unfortunately, in medical science this is different, because we only have little standardization. When you enter an operating room there are many instruments from various manufacturers – and often all have to be operated differently. It is therefore not surprising when the staff presses a wrong button. That is why the main objective of the study course is to design equipment more ergonomically and thereby improve operational procedures.
MEDICA.de: It’s not just about equipment though, but also about more appealingly designed products for the patient. However: If you have to wear a prosthetic limb or urine bag, you typically want to attract as little attention as possible. How does this intention fit in with the objective of the designer to be as creative as possible?
Krug: It fits together brilliantly! (laughs) Take glasses for example. In essense, they are the same as a type of prosthetic. The designs for glasses are very diverse. For many people today they have become a fashion accessory.
MEDICA.de: You cannot compare glasses to urine bags though!
Krug: Urine bags are an extreme example of course. However, you can see very clearly that it’s not just about outer appearance in design, but also about practical use. It is wonderful, if you can fasten the urine bag in a way so it’s not hindering you while doing sports and the wearer can lead a fairly normal sexual life despite this handicap. The chic style, which is always associated with design, will then come naturally.
MEDICA.de: And what are the career prospects for your extremely specialized graduates?
Krug: Our study course has only been around for a few semesters, but I think that the job prospects for the students are very good. They learn very specifically to optimize products for medical technology, and the medical technology sector is booming. Many companies already employ their own product designers or work with a design agency, but those employees studied general design and cannot simultaneously offer a focus on Medical Design.
The interview was conducted by Simone Heimann and translated by Elena O’Meara.