Sean Hägen, IDSA


Sean Hägen, IDSA
Principal, Director of Research & Synthesis, BlackHägen Design

Sean earned a Bachelor of Science in Product Design from The Ohio State University’s Industrial Design program, minoring in human factors. Sean has over 30 years of R&D experience in a variety of industries, ranging from luxury yachts to ruggedized electronics and medical devices. His current focus at BH is in the management of the user research and insight translation phases of product development. That focus includes contextual inquiry, usability testing, user-centric innovation, establishing user requirements, device definition and user interface design.

Since founding BlackHägen Design in 1995, he has led research and usability design projects in both institutional and home environments and across 20 countries. Sean has contributed to usability standards as an author for AAMI TIR 50, 59 and in the revisions of HE75 and IEC 32366. He was the IDSA Medical Section Chair from 2010-2013 and served two terms on the Board of Directors. He is currently the Chair of the Patient Safety Initiative.

Medical Design Deep Dive 2020 Session Description

Product Semantics in the Healthcare Space

The presentation is an adaptation of a white paper on the subject of the science that links aesthetics and usability. The design process based on product semantics will be explained, integrated with human factors engineering, to meet the unique challenges of designing medical devices and UX. The process of a user understanding the operation of a device is a complex series of biases, interactions, reasoning and expectations that starts with an initial assessment. This is especially critical when there is no product training or a significant lapse between use and training.

In healthcare, the initial interaction with a device is often critical to the well-being of a person. The approach of product semantics, which includes affordances, enables utilizing the visceral impact of a device’s aesthetic to communicate interaction cues.  The following are summary points for the presentation:

  • The key role of aesthetics in meeting requirements relative to “intuitive” and “easy to use”
  • Introduction of the Product Semantics methodology, linking aesthetics and usability
  • Harmonizing use-safety and ease-of-use through product semantics and affordances
  • Relationship of perception attributes to aesthetics and development of robust requirements


Fireside Chat

Join a fireside chat with three leading design experts discussing the current state of medical and commercial healthcare design. The conversation will be casual and collaborative in seeking the true impact of COVID-19 and its reach and impact on medical design consulting.


Tor Alden, FIDSA, Principal, HS Design
Sean Hägen, IDSA, Founding Principal, BlackHägen Design
Dan Harden, Founder & Principal Designer, Whipsaw