People Profile | David Sutton - From the London College of Art to the Heart of Australian Medtech

IDE Connect talks to Senior Product Developer, David Sutton about his journey through industrial design and some of the twists and turns that led him to working on world class product design and development projects with ide Group.

IDE Connect: How did you get to where you are today, working for IDE?

David Sutton: After high school I decided I wanted to be a fine artist and went to UniSA to study painting, photography, sculpture, etc. However I realised pretty quickly that I was missing something; there wasn’t enough rigor in it for me. Soon after, I discovered industrial design by chance. I stumbled across a fellow student in one of the shared computer labs retouching a photo of a product model that he had made. I thought it was amazing. Before this, I'd never been exposed to, or really thought about how products were created. It was a big change in understanding for me. At the end of the year, I switched degrees to study industrial design and I’ve never looked back.

After several years working on B2B electronics in Melbourne and furniture design in London, I pursued a masters degree at the Royal College of Art in London. During this time my understanding of manufactured product further evolved to where I began to more clearly understand design as a medium for communication. Following my masters degree, I worked on consumer electronics and IoT projects for several years in both London and New York before eventually moving back to Australia and pursing a role with ide Group. 

IC: What attracted you to the role at ide Group?

DS: A strange thing happened to me when I moved to New York. I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. I wasn’t starting my own company but I was working with a startup, and that was really exciting. Thinking back, a lot of the excitement was driven by being aware of the distinct direction for the company. There was a clear ambition and that made going to work very easy. It also made working with others in the team easy because there was a clear message guiding what we were there for and how we were going to go about doing it. 

I got similar energy from Richard and George and that made me really excited to come and see what was happening at IDE. After finding out more, I really connected with the philosophy for the company. There’s a clear vision for a way of doing things at IDE, and that really appealed to me.

IC: What’s the biggest challenge facing designers working in the medtech industry?

DS: There appears to be a shift toward the consumerisation of health. People are taking a much more active role in their own health and care. People are more aware of what’s available to them and I think that will only continue to increase. 

I think the biggest challenge for designers is understanding this new, evolving landscape and finding ways to create meaningful and valuable products within that. It’s not necessarily about the technology anymore, it’s about the difference that it can make. 

IC: What excites you most about the future of medical device design and development?

DS: The ‘designer’s biggest challenge’ is what excites me most. Making discoveries and connections, having the opportunity to create something truly valuable is really exciting.

The project that I am currently working on (Atomo Diagnostics Rapid Test) is a product that has to clearly offer and communicate its value. Not just for the people using it, but for all stakeholders. This includes medical practices, NGOs, manufacturers, distributors, etc. I think out there, in the greater world, that’s not always thought about as often as it should be. The people interested in the positive outcome of a product is a lot wider than what’s often discussed.

I think one of the great things about the way ide operates is the awareness and commitment to creating value for a product’s entire stakeholder landscape. At ide, it’s always front of mind that a product needs to satisfy not just one stakeholder (the user), but every stakeholder along a product’s life cycle.  

 Join the discussion over at IDE Connect.

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