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Coloplast: Dignity, by design

What a difference a revolutionary business design strategy and seven years can make. In 2010, Coloplast felt like three different companies delivering compromised experiences. By 2017, its share price had soared by over 400%, it was outselling its competitors by 4-to-1 and was ranked as one of the world’s most innovative companies.

For millions of people with long-term illness, having to use products that aren’t quite right, are hard to use and erode their self-esteem has become part of daily life. Together with Coloplast, we worked to revolutionise an industry and the lives of those who depend upon its products.

Coloplast, now the world’s leading intimate healthcare brand, makes ostomy, continence and wound-care products for patients with anything from spinal cord injuries to serious bowel complications. In 2010, however, the business felt like three different companies; lacking a single identity and delivering compromised experiences in many of its products.

So we began as we always do, by listening. We listened to clinicians, to nurses and most importantly, to patients. Through witnessing the pain points, the frictions and inadequacies of all currently available processes and products, we were able to fully understand and align the needs of the business and the users.

Solutions were sought with an emotional dignity that would leave people free to live their normal lives. But beyond this, it was critical to reset the very mentality of Coloplast. This was achieved though the creation of a common foundation and a consistent approach to creation, unique to Coloplast; the Design DNA. A transformative set of holistic principles by which patients were positioned at the very heart of the Coloplast experience.

The seven year collaboration with the Coloplast team has led to a revolutionary new ecosystem of cost-sensitive innovations designed not only to restore dignity and alleviate the daily hardships of long-term illness, but to truly address the business and user needs as a symbiotic relationship: these new healthcare products are not only as cost-effective as the original sub-optimal versions, they are also more profitable, are supremely easy to use and lead the industry in world-class aesthetics.

Once ugly, embarrassing skin-toned colostomy bags became discrete. Truly portable all-in-one catheter sets were designed to be triangular so they are easier to open and won’t roll away if dropped. And clumsy instructions manuals and DVDs were replaced with any-device augmented reality guidance, allowing users to coach and inspire each other.

These new standards of personalised customer engagement nurture and extend ever more meaningful one-to-one relationships between Coloplast and their users.

This approach has proved to be transformative for the business: Coloplast is now the world’s leading intimate healthcare provider, outselling the competition 4-to-1 in most categories and is now regularly ranked as one of the most innovative brands in the world, alongside the likes of Apple and Tesla. Since the introduction of the Design DNA portfolio, Coloplast’s share price has climbed dramatically.

Unifying the huge Coloplast range around a clear set of well-understood principles has taken time, but the results speak for themselves. Not only has a new industry benchmark for product design in healthcare been set, but more importantly we’ve given people a thoughtful, life-affirming choice that will help them lead a dignified life, even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Together, we have transformed a company, an industry, and the lives of millions.