November 24, 2023

How to keep the human factor in product design

Ekio, a start-up born from CSEM, emphasizes prioritizing the human factor in product design. Founders Mathilde Crettaz and Bastien De Marco advocate for integrating user-centric principles from the outset. They aim to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing, assisting companies in creating intuitive, user-friendly products. Ekio's expertise, particularly in medical products, sets it apart, catering to SMEs and start-ups.

Ekio founders Mathilde and Bastien
Ekio founders Mathilde Crettaz and Bastien De Marco

“Good” products fulfil their purpose. “Great” products, on the other hand, are also intuitive to use. Ekio, a spin-off from CSEM, helps companies design products with the user in mind.

An appealing look, a sturdy build, featuring the necessary functionality. Yet, the product is difficult to handle. “This dissonance is common in many everyday devices and products - from smartwatches to kitchen appliances to walking aids,” explains Mathilde Crettaz. The researcher and engineer is co-founder of Ekio Sàrl, a start-up that emerged from CSEM and is based in Lausanne. She believes this problem stems from the disconnect between the product's design and its manufacturing process: “When creating something from scratch, most engineers prioritize efficiency, materials, and product durability” says Crettaz. These factors are important for mass production, but they are not enough for a great product.

Where is the human in the design?

The complexity of the industrial manufacturing process often makes designers overlook the “human centered design” principle. They focus on everything except how the end user will interact with the product. Mathilde Crettaz wants to change that. She is joined by her co-founder Bastien De Marco, who has years of experience as Chief Developer at the CSEM spin-off Aktiia, a company that develops wearable blood pressure monitors. “Our mission at Ekio is to help companies design products from the outset that put the human factor first,” De Marco says. “This helps companies achieve a balance between usability and industrialization. “The result is products that not only meet technical specifications, but also create a positive, intuitive, and economically viable experience for the end user,” he adds.

The earlier, the better

To connect research, development, and the end customer, Crettaz and De Marco apply their design and development expertise to their clients’ projects from the start: “From ideas to market launch, Ekio supports its clients every step of the way,” they enthuse. The founders explain that they not only help their clients design and develop their products from scratch, but they also handle and assist with industrialization, keeping in mind the final goal of establishing the production-line set-up. This additional factor is especially important in highly regulated markets such as medical products.

Expertise makes the difference

What distinguishes Ekio from other consultancy firms is its high level of expertise in medical products. It knows how to develop, certify, and comply with legal regulations for these products. This expertise is not only valuable for the healthcare sector, but also the automotive, aerospace, and watchmaking industries. Moreover, with its customer-oriented approach, Ekio will primarily serve small to medium-sized businesses (SME) and start-ups, creating solutions that are adapted to their individual needs and goals. This way, Ekio boosts innovation in the Swiss SME landscape - which is also consistent with the mission and objectives of CSEM.