An MD&DI October 1998 Column
Upon his return from a recent business trip, John Daynes handed his business card to the airport parking attendant and asked for his keys. The attendant read the card. "Oh, Physio-Control. You guys make those defibrillators, right?" Handing him his keys, the attendant remarked, "My sister was saved by one of your products last night."
Occasional revelations such as this reaffirm for Daynes why he has spent 18 years as a principal industrial designer for Physio-Control (Redmond, WA). Before reaching this point in his career, however, Daynes' choices were marked by a sense of exploration. "I feel like I've stumbled around a lot," he says.
Daynes began his studies at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City) as an art major with a designer/craftsman emphasis. His interest in designing functional, three-dimensional objects became apparent when he started taking classes in welding and metalwork. "One of the reasons I moved away from the designer/craftsman emphasis was that I didn't want to be a fine artist. I'm fairly analytical, and I have a good engineering sense, but at that time, I didn't even know that industrial design existed as a course of study."
Daynes' doubts about what direction to take were further compounded by his interest in Chinese culture and his desire to become a teacher in that field. For several years he lived in Taiwan and studied Chinese language at the University of Taiwan. It was only four years later, while studying for his PhD in Chinese language and literature at the University of Washington (Seattle), that his interest in design resurfaced, and he began studying industrial design as a second major. It was at this time that Daynes felt he had found what he was looking for all along.
While Daynes was still in graduate school, he started designing microwave cookware for AMG Industries, Inc. (Seattle). "Working with microwave cookware gave me a great appreciation for the injection molding process," Daynes relates. "We used some high-performance plastics that needed to withstand a lot of heat and all kinds of cleaning products. This was a tremendous transfer of knowledge when I started working at Physio-Control because all of our products here use injection-molded plastics."
One of Daynes' professors was at that time the senior vice president of Physio-Control, and offered him a position with the company when he graduated. Daynes continued to pursue other industrial design options as a freelancer while working at Physio-Control. A long-time runner and triathlete, he welcomed the opportunity to design a line of mountain bikes for KeDO Cycles, Inc. (Redmond, WA).
Daynes' most ambitious project to date is the design of the LifePak 12 defibrillator/monitor series, which recently won a technical achievement award from the Northwest Chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America. As sole industrial designer on the project, Daynes was responsible for all aspects of the design from conceptualization through final production. "The greatest difficulty in regards to this project has been juggling the two hats of industrial designer and user interface designer," Daynes relates. "I think in an ideal world, these two parts of the product would be designed concurrently. To an extent, I had to design one after the other. First, we worked on the mechanical part of the defibrillator because it took a long time to make the injection-molded parts of the tooling. The software was quicker to develop, so that came second."
As with any industrial design, the challenge for Daynes was taking something complex and making it simple. "I wanted to create a defibrillator that's not going to frighten people when it's brought into their homes and used on a loved one. Also, in an emergency situation, a person who is in a state of panic has to be able to use it. It has to be simple and foolproof." For Daynes, simplicity is the key word. He urges industrial designers not to get wrapped up in style as opposed to substance. "Some of the best industrial design products have a simplicity that is driven by the function." To illustrate his point, he describes the design process he used for the LifePak 12. "I took the components and some circuit board sizes that were estimates from the electrical engineers. Then, I started arranging these in a logical way, and the form started to take shape." As Daynes explains, "This type of approach is more efficient than drawing a picture of the outside and hoping that the engineers can stuff all the components inside."
From time to time, Daynes still considers pursuing nonmedical projects, such as designing outdoor sporting equipment. But, in the end, he always comes to the same conclusion: "You can design mountain bikes and microwave cookware," he muses, "but they don't save lives."
Kassandra Kania is assistant editor of MD&DI.