By Renee Moore, staff writer
Everyone talks about the dignity of dying, but what about the dignity of living?
Aluminum walkers with tennis ball bottoms, hideous reading devices and difficult medication packaging should not be things that our loved ones are forced to accept as they age. Everything about these products is a continuous reminder that their bodies are not as young as their hearts. For many seniors, their sense of dignity wears down as they contend with poorly designed merchandise. As an industrial designer of medical, mobile and consumer products, Dr. Bryce G. Rutter, founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group Inc., is keenly aware that just because someone grows old, it doesn’t mean their need for good design erodes. “All the technology in the world cannot save a product that is hard to use, confusing, tiring and that grinds away one’s independence,” says Rutter. “The lack of empathetic design solutions for an aging population is nothing short of appalling.”
There is a tsunami of need, like never before, says Rutter, who says one fifth of our population is 45 to 65 years old and 10,000 people a day will turn 65 years old for the next two decades. People entering retirement are doing so with the highest levels of disposable income in history and greatest awareness of what constitutes good design. Rutter is passionate about designing a better way of life for this senior population. “In far too many cases, the state-of-the-art healthcare that is delivered to aging consumers overshadows the fundamental principle that drives good humanistic design. The importance the human factor is completely ignored. Today’s seniors have a bar that is set significantly higher than previous generations and they have a low tolerance for lousy products,” he says.
Metaphase Design Group Inc. has set out to innovate world class ergonomic designs that meet real human needs, not hyped up faux needs conceived by suits in a boardroom.
When asked about Metaphase’s process for innovative, ergonomically designed products, Rutter poses a question. “What is the best designed product that you own? Think about how this product makes you feel every time you use it. Everything about it seems to be specifically designed for you and you alone. It feels perfect – its weight, balance, materials and textures.” Rutter says great product design can have a profound impact on quality of life. “The best designed product you own also creates an emotional connection that makes you feel good about yourself, makes you happy when you use it, and in many cases becomes a seamless extension of your body.”
Metaphase Design Group specifically focuses on products designed to fit a consumer’s hand. Rutter offers this bit of insight, “Ninety-five percent of the products we use every day, in everything we do, involves our hands. The most seemingly insignificant details can be the difference between an excellent product interaction and a bad experience. Metaphase has over 20 years of research and design dedicated to understanding when and why people change grip architectures and how dexterity drives design.”
Rutter says, “We know that a 65-year-old female hand possesses approximately ¼ of the strength of a 25-year-old male hand.” The intelligent application of this knowledge results in Rutter’s ability to successfully design products that extends the consumer’s hand capabilities and provides a sense of quality and comfort when used.
Metaphase has re-defined industry standards, invigorated sleepy brands, and created entirely new product categories. Over the last two decades, Rutter created award-winning innovation for numerous influential global brands including Medtronic, Bayer, Kellogg’s, Sony, P&G, Nokia, LG, Motorola, Steelcase, Hayworth, Gillette, J&J, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, Campbell’s, Microsoft, Dell, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Newell Rubbermaid, Pfizer, Tyco Healthcare, and Bausch & Lomb, to mention a few.
Metaphase is located in the heart of the St. Louis Cortex Innovation Community in the CIC@CET building. Rutter is a big part of the innovation revolution emerging out of St. Louis and he has a message for everyone, regardless of age, across the metropolitan area. “Brands drive innovation by demand. Demand better,” encourages Rutter. “Refuse to buy bad designs. Or when you have to choose a poorly designed product because no other options exist, don’t just accept it. Reach out to the manufacturer and start a viral campaign demanding that human needs be placed ahead of business as usual. All brands, new or established, need to be aware of how consumers think, feel and behave. When consumer product manufacturers pay attention to each and every human factor, they create products that deliver financial success. But more than that, they create an everlasting bond with their customer by allowing users to age with dignity, vitality and happiness.”