Design prototyping as a translational tool for medical device commercialization

Rowan Page, Kieran John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Translational design is an increasingly important objective for universities as research institutions are seeking to play a more active role in the commercialization of fundamental medical research. Practice-based designers working within these academic contexts have a skill set that positions them to make a contribution to translating fundamental research into real-world applications. Real world applications of research that are informed by the needs of end-users and actioned through the creation of medical device prototypes. The translational designer’s toolkit includes a range of methodologies, frameworks, procedures and processes to identify problems, conceptualize ideas and create functional prototypes. Progressing research towards commercialization through prototyping is one of the most important skills leveraged by translational design researchers. This article details two case studies of practice-based design research within a large Australian university. It discusses the role of design prototyping as a key part of a lean and integrated development process that relies on accumulative rounds of iteration and interdisciplinary collaboration mediated through artefacts. Design prototyping is used within these projects to bring ideas to life and enable more effective communication between diverse stakeholder groups spanning across academia and industry, and across the boundaries of research and application. This article unpacks the key role of prototyping as a translational tool to iteratively test, refine and conceptually verify ideas, while additionally providing boundary objects for effective communication. This discussion addresses the benefits and limitations of prototyping as a translational tool, including the ability of prototyping to save time and development costs, explore constraints and trade-offs, and communicate with industry partners and end-users through tactile objects and/or real experiences. Design prototyping is an efficient and effective process that embraces failure in early stages of development, where the consequences are limited and the benefit substantial. The article explores how prototyping can provide the backbone to industrial design researchers working in translational contexts to drive development to real-world application and to effectively engage with research end-users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-232
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Design, Business and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • translational design
  • medical device development
  • industrial design
  • prototypes
  • artefacts
  • commercialization

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