In this interview, you’ll find out:
- What projects is the successful design studio Werkemotion working on
- How their cooperation with the producer of high-end dental units Diplomat Dental works
- What makes the design of a dental unit specific compared to other products
- Why is ergonomics important for both the patient and the dentist
- How comfort is tested and what are the trends in modern industrial design
What is Werkemotion’s primary focus?
Werkemotion is a research and development design studio that primarily deals with industrial and product design, specifically in the field of transport but also with so-called design styling and product development for various industries such as logistics, automotive, healthcare, agriculture or consumer electronics. Our company is part of the product development from initial sketches and ideas to the preparation of production documents for serial production.
WERKEMOTION | R&D design studio founded in 2013. It specializes in the development, research and creation in the field of cutting-edge industrial and transportation product design. At the core of the team are five experienced designers. The products they have designed for Diplomat Dental and others have won several of the world’s most prestigious design awards, such as the Red Dot Design Award, iF Design Award, German Innovation Award or Big See Design Award.
How did the cooperation with Diplomat Dental start?
The cooperation with Diplomat Dental started in 2018 when we were approached directly by their CEO Tomáš Nerád whether we would be interested in participating in the design of their products. Then, after several initial tests, sketching and mutual tuning, we found a very smooth and natural collaboration on both sides that helps us today to create premium products with this global brand from Slovakia.
What was your philosophy going into this joint project?
We wanted to try to create a long-term and quality relationship that can deliver valuable products through the interplay of both our teams. The main goal was to create a completely new design language and identity for Diplomat Dental products through as minimalistic design as possible. Of course, this required a huge amount of time and testing on prototypes to make sure everything was tuned proportionally, functionally but also economically and ergonomically.
Along the process, we created a certain design matrix that we now use very successfully in the creation of other products by Diplomat Dental.
“At its core, a dental unit is an extremely complex product.“
Is there a huge difference between the design of car seats or cockpits and dental units?
The design of dental units in general has many specifics and differences compared to other seating-related products. The main parameter here is hygiene and also very complex kinetics linked to the ergonomics not only of the patient but also of the workplace of the doctor and their team.
Certain design principles are fundamentally related but the focus is on completely different modes of use such as fixation of the body, back or head. Hygiene features are also a specific part of the design and an abnormally wide range of chair positioning that is typical for this product segment.
In what ways was the work on the design of the dental chair for Diplomat Dental specific?
Initially, we needed to coordinate with a very experienced team of experts from Diplomat Dental and find the ideal form of cooperation. When it comes to the product, the most complex and probably the most distinctive specificity was to create a product that would be aesthetically fine-tuned despite the many combinations of different components and their configurations.
Diplomat Dental’s Model Pro dental units through the eyes of Werkemotion designers
Minimalism with an emphasis on visual timelessness is the hallmark of our design. However, functional variability and intuitive configurability are also integral. Finding a clear and unified visual language and identity that is evident across the entire product portfolio was particularly important for us. At the same time, the design complies with all medical and hygienic standards in the field of dentistry.
The entire concept is based on excellent kinematics, fine-tuned ergonomics and individualization through selectable colours and materials of the chair parts designed for patient comfort. A special added value is the possibility to operate the product via a user-friendly and design-oriented app called Diplomat Connect on a tablet. Diplomat Dental’s Model Pro Series dental units are designed for those who are looking for both beautiful and ergonomic state-of-the-art pieces of dental technology for their dental offices or clinics.
What did you base your initial designs on?
In the beginning, we focused mainly on market and competition analysis and research. We wanted to know what products were out there and what their parameters were. Subsequently, we carried out an analysis of the Diplomat Dental products from previous product generations so that we had a clear idea of where to take it all design-wise. After a series of drawings, we created a new design strategy for Diplomat Dental products.
During the digital development phase, we regularly went back to the sketches, the research and the design we were working on. It’s a never-ending cycle but it is still firmly based on the design strategy established at the beginning of the development. Of course, the design strategy itself is also sensitively adjusted throughout the whole process.
Which ergonomic criteria did you consider for the Model Pro dental unit?
The ergonomics of the unit were established based on a lot of inputs, not only ours but also those coming from Diplomat Dental and their consultants. Specific to ergonomics was the fixation of the body. However, the movements of the unit and its parts were a challenge as well. These have to be as comfortable as possible, which is why we also addressed details such as, for example, ensuring that the patient’s upper garment is not pulled when the backrest is being reclined.
Head fixation and pelvic fixation also required extreme fine-tuning to the point of perfectionism. In the design, we also had to take hygiene and medical standards fully into account, which were often very difficult to incorporate with other visual, technical or ergonomic requirements. Another interesting detail is the armrest which also had to be tuned from both design and technical perspectives, so that it’s not only comfortable when sitting, but also doesn’t get in the way of getting in or out of the chair.
For more information on the latest Model Pro range of high-end smart dental units, click here.
What was important to you regarding the ergonomics of the dentist and patient comfort?
For the dentist, it’s surely the access to the patient, positioning the patient so that there are no unexpected movements, and that they have enough access to all their instruments – the table, the light, but also peripheral devices such as the foot control or various additional tables, the X-ray, the microscope etc. For patient ergonomics, the main goal is maximum comfort throughout the procedure – from the ease of sitting down in the chair to the overall feeling of fixation and the smallest details of the handles for an ideal and secure grip.
“It was important to match the design centre of gravity with the real physical one, as well as with the weight distribution along the entire dental unit where the colleagues at Diplomat Dental did a fantastic job.“
What was the relationship between the balance of mass and proportion or geometry?
The proportion and overall visual layout of all parts of the dental unit were one of the most important points that we were constantly trying to control and improve. For a simple grip, the product must be visually balanced so that the main heavier mass is always in the middle of the whole unit and becomes slenderer towards the bottom and top.
Multiple peripheral components, such as the table, other peripheral devices or the chair leg help us balance the mass balance, both visually and literally in terms of weight. The main goal is to make the product look minimalistic, light and slim but also stable during any movement. It was important to match the design centre of gravity with the real physical one, as well as with the weight distribution along the entire dental unit where the colleagues at Diplomat Dental did a fantastic job.
“Quite frankly, we consider it one of our best projects where we together with the people from Diplomat Dental have been able to reach peak quality in both design and function. Together, we managed to combine design and function to a level that has essentially become the new standard for the industry as evidenced by the many international awards these products have received since their launch.“
How do you view the interplay between design and function in the Model Pro?
Quite frankly, we consider it one of our best projects where we together with the people from Diplomat Dental have been able to reach peak quality in both design and function. Despite the many compromises that always have to be made, together, we managed to combine design and function at a level that has essentially become the new standard for this industry as evidenced by the many international awards these products have received since their launch. The interplay between design and functionality has to be absolute. This has been achieved and has been a priority for both parties from the start.
What design challenges does the concept of minimalism, typical to Diplomat Dental, present?
Minimalism was the goal, not only to give the product a distinctive design identity with a successful sales performance for many years, but especially because already during the initial analyses and research in this segment, we quickly identified minimalism as the necessary counterpart to the complicated and often intimidatingly overdesigned dental units that we saw in competitors. The big challenge was certainly to achieve minimalism in such a complex product that has many components and settings. It was necessary to go down to the level of the smallest possible details, such as screws, fasteners and so on.
“80% of the designers’ time was spent with 3D models, 20% of the time was spent drawing, inspecting and analysing the 1:1 scale physical models, which took place directly in the Diplomat Dental production facility.“
What was the level of designer work with the 3D and physical models of the Model Pro?
80% of the designers’ time was spent with the 3D models, and 20% of the time was spent on drawing, inspecting and analysing the 1:1 scale physical models, which took place directly at Diplomat Dental’s production facility. Of course, in many cases, the verification of the design’s functioning was done through materials and illumination simulations, visualisations, but also virtual reality or 3D printing. The cooperation of people from Diplomat Dental was exemplary in this respect, as the functional, technical and ergonomic aspects of the product were verified at the same time.
How did the testing take place?
It was done in different stages and with different members of our teams – designers, constructors but also with salespeople or directly with the users, i.e., dentists and their teams. All this input was then evaluated and incorporated into further developments.
“The comfort testing reflects the use of the product, the anatomy of the human body and the already existing relevant surveys and analyses from other markets that have already been collected and scientifically examined for decades.“
How is comfort measured in such projects?
There are several methods. One is, of course, a subjective assessment in the sense of ‘the more opinions, the better the average result’. The other is an expert-objective method that reflects the use of the product, the anatomy of the human body and existing relevant surveys and analyses from other markets that have been collected and scientifically examined for decades.
How is the collaboration with Diplomat Dental’s manufacturing and technology team?
Fantastic! We communicate together every week at a very efficient pace and a very professional level. Over the years, we have managed to get in sync which leads to mutual respect and a shared perception of design and functionality with the same values.
“The design of a dental unit can also be beautiful. If both design and function are well matched, it adds incredible value to the product.“
What type of feedback was key for you on this project?
The 1:1 scale prototypes and real-world testing. Also, the feedback from dentists and their teams.
In hindsight, what surprised you the most about the design of a dental unit?
That it can also be beautiful. If both design and function are well matched, it adds incredible value to the product. And also that design is about the limits that we are given to get the best out of them.
Did you use any non-standard practices on this project that you don’t usually use?
No, basically no. The only unusual thing was how the constructors respect us and listen to our opinions and requests, which we appreciate very much because then it’s a pleasure to work together (laughter).
“When designing a dentist’s unit, the key is to look for simplicity and to have a very good professional overview of the subject.“
After your experience, what do you consider to be key in dentist unit design today?
The search for simplicity and having a very good professional overview of the subject. It’s such a complex product that if you don’t have a total grasp of it, you start on one side of it and don’t make it to the other side because you get lost in the different configurations in the meantime.
Are there any universal principles of comfort and ergonomics that you apply?
There is no such thing as ‘universal’. In general, however, it is necessary to ensure excellent fixation of the body and body parts during the procedure that causes physical comfort. Minimalist and not ‘sharp’ or aggressive designs stimulate psychological comfort. All other specific comforts and ergonomic solutions are individualized according to the product, its technical architecture and design styling.
“The topic of psychological comfort, i.e. how the product visually impacts the patient when entering the outpatient clinic is overall extremely important. The simpler and more rounded design we can create, the less fear it will induce in the patient.“
How do you work with the psychology or behavioural aspects of design in your designs?
Within the design of medical products, this is one of the main parameters we work with. Overall, the theme of psychological comfort, meaning how the product visually impacts the patient upon entering the clinic, is extremely important. The simpler and more rounded design we can create, the less fear it will induce in the patient. This is key with this type of product. Behavioural aspects, i.e. how the patient will behave and use the product during the procedure, sit in it, but also, for example, spit out into the cuspidor during the procedure and other very practical behavioural aspects are an inseparable part of both the design and the technical product development.
At the same time, it’s also necessary to incorporate the behaviour of the dentist and their team as the other part of the user experience into this design equation. Our effort is therefore to simplify the process for both parties, not to create physical barriers and to control the accessibility of all parts of the dental unit for both the patient and the dentist and their team at all times.
The WERKEMOTION design team
Bystrík Míček, Šimon Kožička, Miloslav Melichárek, Adam Danko & Filip Maukš
All designers from the team studied industrial or transport design. Each of them worked
on several collaborations already during their studies, especially with car companies such
as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Škoda, Audi and Renault, but also the Slovak company Aeromobil. Besides smart dentist units, they have also produced designs of off-road buses, river vessels, a tanker, innovative computers or lasers.
What are the most important current trends in industrial design?
Creating products that are more sustainable and can be used long-term. At the same time, they are expected to be easy to repair instead of requiring new purchases. The materials used and the overall reduction of waste are also very important today as well as the amount of energy consumed in the production of the product.
“The designers’ recommendation for dentists? To think of how the overall environment of their dental offices psychologically affects their patients.“
Is the Slovak design market specific in anything compared to the global one?
In our country, we still need to explain to people the basic values of why design is important, not only visually, but also in terms of business or marketing. It is a value that has a major impact on the success of the product and also on the success of the whole brand.
From a designer’s point of view, what advice would you give to dentists?
To think of how the overall environment of their dental offices psychologically affects their patients.