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Design of medical products Focusing on the essentials

Issue 01/2020

Graduate designer Hermann Rokitta, specialist in product and brand aesthetics, designs Bauerfeind AG products. This also includes the latest Train generation. In his opinion, design is the language that mediates between the functionality of a product and the intentions of the manufacturer as well as user demands. “Express the essence” is the designer’s motto.

Bauerfeind life: Mr. Rokitta, how long have you been working for Bauerfeind AG?

Hermann Rokitta: It all started in 1997, with the design of the SofTec Genu knee orthosis. The design received the German Federal Design Award and was showcased in the permanent exhibition of Hamburg’s Museum for Arts and Crafts. After that, we started to design Bauerfeind’s key products – such as GenuTrain – and the cross-product color strategy that includes all the brand’s products.

What does good product design have to achieve?

Hermann Rokitta: We see design as a language, as an interactive experience of the senses, that connects the products and services of a company with its values and goals and brings them in line with the users’ needs. On a rational level, the symbols used in Bauerfeind product design provide the physician or therapist with important information about the use of the product. On an emotional level, they also convey the value and effectiveness of the product to the patient, they create trust and motivation to become healthy. In short: design charges a brand, locates it in the spirit of the time and unites expectation and awareness of people and products, of brand and benefit as well as of the market and company.

You are also the creative mind behind the eighth GenuTrain generation. What was particularly important to you there?

Hermann Rokitta: Simple, useful, self-explanatory – the new Train generation resolutely focuses on medical functionality and effect. The characteristics of the product – based on Bauerfeind’s know-how – are generated from the special features and technologies of the knitted fabric, its elasticity, breathability, flexibility, light weight and its interaction with components such as the pad, the lateral stays or the donning and doffing aid.
The motto of the latest GenuTrain generation is: reduce to the max. In order to survive in the market, GenuTrain must show off its core competencies. The product combines design and performance, resulting in a superior experience of the senses conveyed by Bauerfeind medical products.

What are particular challenges when designing medical products?

Hermann Rokitta: The idea in general is to create a highly functional product that looks simple from the outside, that the patient emotionally associates with activity, health and healing – definitely not with illness or a process of suffering. At the same time, the clear visualization should showcase rational information about indications, active zones, positioning and effectiveness that can be easily recognized by the physician without the need for a lot of explanations. A coherent design needs to be created that embodies this in its properties and that is convincing as an overall product. With regard to the current GenuTrain, the task was therefore – using the new lightweight, breathable high-low knitted fabric as well as the anatomically suitable shape – to ensure wearing comfort as well as proprioception and to support the controlling feeling during movements. For this, all functional elements, such as the pad, the Omega+ Pad with massage nubs, the lateral plastic stays and the soft comfort zone at the back of the knee, had to be perfectly integrated into the support.
Fully in accordance with Bauhaus Director Mies Van der Rohe and his motto “less is more”, a high-quality support that focuses on essential aspects was created: it combines compelling medical effectiveness and treatment on various levels with the desire to support activity in a beneficial and healing way.

Is it complicated to translate design ideas in knitted fabrics? Have you had to compromise?

Hermann Rokitta: Even while we’re designing, we’re thinking in terms of repeat patterns and knitted fabric compositions. Those are simulated in the computer and transferred to the product design. The developers often surprise us positively with excellent results. If the compression properties do not yet meet the absolutely required standards, however, we will create the repeat pattern again and adjust the design landscape – until accentuation and contrasting of the knitted fabric correspond to its perceived and associated effect. Fine adjustment is very important because even small changes can affect wearing comfort in sensitive joint areas.

 

Since 2000, the GenuTrain has carried the signature of graduate designer Hermann Rokitta.

What current design trends are there?

Hermann Rokitta: In our virtual worlds of constant industrial relativization, we can see a counter-movement. I recognize a trend for manufacturing by small, authentic producers that truly believe in their products and use materials and energy in a sustainable and considerate way.

Which design trends have particularly shaped the last century?

Hermann Rokitta: Modernism and Bauhaus freed us from the prevailing beliefs and allowed us to freely access and directly experience art and design. Important artists and designers were Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and Kandinsky. The latter believed that it is not important what we perceive, but how we feel in the process.
“Anything goes”, that’s what post-modernism, Fluxus or the New German Design taught us. Groups such as Memphis, Pentagon or Stiletto opposed the rational orientation of modernism. We mustn’t forget punk either, Westwood Studios, with its huge effect on art, fashion and sociocultural development. Ultimately, we need to remember that – in terms of arts and culture – we dispensed with the rule of belief, but nothing assumed its planning responsibility.

Which design trends won’t you shed tears over?

Hermann Rokitta: Clichés, copies, and ‘me-toos’ in designing that get caught up in superfluity regarding their repetitions, appearance and presentation. Always bigger, faster and further – but missing our realities and actual needs. In automobile manufacture and mobility, for example, we should finally start to consider our creations with responsibility for our planet. Good design is always a useful interpretation of effect and reality. It conveys and opens up a direct experience and awareness.

What would you like to design?

Hermann Rokitta: There’s too much of everything and too little of a lot of things. I therefore think it’s a pleasure that I don’t just have to satisfy superficial requirements for things already found in excess, but that I’m allowed to design sustainable and useful products to preserve health and life.

 

Images: Stefan Durstewitz, Bauerfeind AG


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