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Renderings of a microscope courtesy of Samuel Conlogue, visualization director, Czarnowski
Renderings of a microscope courtesy of Samuel Conlogue, visualization director, Czarnowski

Product Renderings: Why You Shouldn't Overlook Them

Consider turning product renderings into key commercial assets.

Medical device companies face many challenges throughout the product lifecycle—from the complexities of design engineering to the hard work involved in luring investors and marketing the product. As a result, it’s easy for some companies to not give product renderings the attention they deserve. However, companies that deprioritize renderings miss a significant opportunity to showcase their products in a compelling way and enhance competitiveness.

A rendering is more than a rough engineering sketch or a technical image in a brochure. Instead, it can serve as a centerpiece of investor presentations or the featured item during a sales rep’s visit with a physician. Therefore, a poorly executed rendering—as opposed to one that utilizes modern computer-generated (CG) rendering techniques or exciting new technologies like augmented reality—reflects poorly on a company and could limit investment and sales.

Medical device companies work hard to perfect product prototypes. They should apply the same care and focus to their product renderings.

Today, with high-quality CG and digital representations of advanced technology ubiquitous in the popular culture, a medtech company’s target audiences have high expectations for renderings and know bad CG when they see it. The good news is that the software tools available today (many of which may already be used at a medical device company) allow teams to create attention-grabbing renderings easier than ever before. With the barriers that used to stand in the way of creating high-quality renderings virtually non-existent today, there’s no excuse for medtech companies to produce low-quality renderings.

But it takes more than the right software and design skills. Medical device company leadership needs to make renderings a strategic priority. Those that do will produce valuable commercial assets that enhance all facets of the product lifecycle.

Seek Realism and Longevity

Medical device companies should have two goals when creating a product rendering: realism and longevity.

Realism means the rendering should display the product as it actually exists. So, if the handle of an infusion pump is rubber, the rendering shouldn’t show a plastic handle from an earlier iteration. Accuracy in renderings builds credibility for the company and the product and facilitates education. An emphasis on realism will also impact the visualization format a company chooses. For example, a medtech company shouldn’t use a still render on the web to explain the workings of a complex product. Instead, a CG animation that allows audiences to see the device from various angles, with functions called out and animated, would be more powerful.

Longevity means a company should develop renderings that can be used across the product lifecycle and for an extended period of time. Even with the best renderings, ongoing updates and tweaks are unavoidable, so a company should also develop a design and rendering workflow to ensure efficiency and consistent quality.

To achieve these goals, align the marketing and product development teams early in the design process. While strict separation often exists between these teams, it’s important for both to agree on how the product renderings will be used and to work together to develop high-quality renderings early. By aligning these teams and ensuring visual materials have a consistent quality, look, and feel, the company will minimize the risk that physicians or investors ever see a low-quality portrayal of a product.

Go Cinematic

More renderings of a microscope courtesy of Conlogue of Czarnowski

To create realistic renderings that last, take advantage of proven methods from the film industry to engage, entertain and inform. Using a cinematic approach can turn still renders and animations into compelling showcases of a product and its functionality.

Designers need to focus on lighting, shot composition and lensing to produce impactful renderings. Use camera angles to show all facets of a product. Consider animation to deconstruct the product and illustrate its inner workings. And, for a particularly small product, think about using a close-in vantage point and shallow depth of field to produce an out-of-focus background that conveys the scale of the device. Lighting can also make the product stand out without obscuring its features.

We put these methods to work in a rendering we produced for a bioengineering company that showed a chemical reaction. Instead of simply filming the process in a staid lab setting, we decided to animate the full reaction. So, we used CG to dive into the liquid that housed the reaction and used multiple vantage points to create a dynamic animation. By showing the reaction in a realistic, film-like way, we produced an entertaining and educational animation. A cinematic approach gives life to processes and functionality that can’t always be observed in a still render or photograph but are integral to product operation.

To adopt a cinematic approach to renderings and animations, a medical device company may have to stretch its limits and do away with entrenched, outdated processes. At the same time, it’s important not to get carried away and emphasize entertainment at the expense of product detail and technical information.

Choose the New- or Old-School Format that Fits

Product visuals can be everything from still photos to live-action video to 3-D imaging to animation to augmented reality. It’s important that medtech companies carefully assess available options and choose the visualization format that best aligns with their goals. For some companies, still photographs may be sufficient to illustrate a product. For others, an augmented reality engagement can most effectively grab an audience’s attention and illustrate the real-life workings of a product.

Deciding which formats to use for product visuals will dictate the software tools and techniques a company uses. Companies should start by conducting an audit of the graphics tools they already have in-house. Some marketing teams may currently use design software like Rhino and Solidworks but don’t tap their full capabilities. Firms that want to explore high-quality animations or augmented reality may need to work with an external visualization team or adopt more advanced tools originally designed for animators and game developers such as 3D Studio Max, Unity and Unreal Engine.

No matter the format or the tools used, it’s easier to produce high-quality CG renderings today than it’s ever been as software becomes increasingly robust.

Don’t Settle

Product renderings are much more than vanity items. They can be the difference between a product sale or no product sale and valuable investment dollars or a polite “pass” from a prospective investor. A company that produces conventional, bland renderings will stick out among competitors’ more polished renderings and miss an important marketing opportunity.

After pouring significant resources into product development, a company can’t afford to sell itself short with low-grade renderings. The medtech companies that make rendering a strategic objective and prioritize it throughout the product lifecycle will end up with valuable commercial assets that pay dividends for years to come.

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