Bryce G. Rutter, PhD, Founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group Inc., shares his daily work practices, inspiration from nature, and what makes medical device design work meaningful in this Q&A.
MD+DI: What made you decide to become an industrial designer in the medical field?
Rutter: Of all the different types of products I’ve designed, medical products are what I love the most. It is very rewarding to know that you are helping to improve the quality of healthcare. From helping people live longer independently and with dignity, to taming cutting-edge technologies so they’re intuitive, easy-to-use, and seamless extensions of our bodies… this is fun!
MD+DI: How long have you been in the industry and when did you become interested?
Rutter: For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by how things are made. I love taking products apart and seeing how they are made and how they work. These were the foundations of my career specializing in the design of ergonomic medical devices and systems that function the way people think, feel and behave. I started my design career in 1980 after graduating with a Masters of Industrial Design from a Toronto based industrial design consultancy designing medical products, then returned to university to do a PhD in Kinesiology in Motor Learning with a specialization in hand function and then started Metaphase in 1991 specializing in high-touch, ergonomically designed medical and consumer products.
MD+DI: How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Rutter: As the owner of a design and human factors consulting agency, that’s a challenge. What works for me is to leave work in the office and when I get home to put my mobile devices away because if my smartphone is within range I’ll be down the rabbit hole in no time.
MD+DI: What time do you start your day and why at this time?
Rutter: I start my day at 7am when I wake up naturally, have a cup of coffee, spend some time with my wife, check the newsfeed, and be in the office by 9am.
MD+DI: Do you have any work mantras or approaches that guide or ground you through the day?
Rutter: At Metaphase, we all share a common work mantra, or what we call our core values, that guide how our team works together and with our customers: honesty, respect, responsiveness and no shortcuts.
MD+DI: What did you learn about design that you didn’t know before going into space?
Rutter: I’ve learned that the same basic creativity and design skills that we use when designing medical products are pretty handy when we apply them to everyday life. Design Thinking further broadens my perspective and provides me with an excellent toolbox of techniques to analyze complex problems that are very common in the medical-surgical field.
MD+DI: What motivates you every day or what helps to motivate your teams every day?
Rutter: The vast majority of all the products we work on contribute to providing good design to all people. Seeing surgeons, nurses, caregivers and patients use products that we have developed that do not undermine their dignity day after day and that are easy and intuitive to use gives me great joy and satisfaction in relation to my purpose in life.
MD+DI: Are you inspired by any source of innovation? If so, what and how does it inspire you?
Rutter: My biggest source of inspiration comes from nature. Some of the brightest innovations originated in a plant, a beetle, or an animal. With any project, we usually look at how the problem we are addressing was tackled by Mother Nature herself. These serve as metaphors leading to man-made adaptations of the same things found in nature.
MD+DI: What are you most looking forward to in the future of design?
Rutter: I’m really excited to see what’s happening in robotic surgery and augmented reality. Together these form one of the new frontiers in surgical systems and surgical performance. I’m also excited about the push to bring self-diagnostics into our homes so we can proactively take care of ourselves.
MD+DI: What is one of the biggest challenges you see in design?
Rutter: As healthcare products and systems become more sophisticated, they also become more complicated and require highly specialized skills throughout the development process to get it right. One of the biggest challenges at NPD is staffing and leading these complex, high-fidelity teams… but that also makes my job the coolest on the planet!