Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that progresses from the most basic physiological needs up to the needs of self-actualization. A similar thing is going on with respect to products. That is, users have different needs relating to the products they use.
The lowest level is function: the user just wants the product to perform its intended use. In this case, the product should be designed to be as transparent as possible – it should get out of the user’s way. The user shouldn’t have to think about it.
This most basic need is rarely the only need a user has. Even for the most functional of products – medical devices, for instance – users will still prefer using a product that has some amount of aesthetic designed into it. Given a choice, we would simply rather interact with a beautiful object than with an ugly one, or even just a mundane one.
For some products, the personality it projects is the main reason it’s chosen over competitors. The user wants the product to reflect their own values and personality. They want it to match the image they have of themselves (and thereby enhance that image) and reflect their personality. This holds true even in medical product design.
Keeping this hierarchy of needs in mind will help you design usable and appealing medical products. Don’t ignore the power at the top of the pyramid.