I am interested in working with prostethics and orthortics but am struggling to find my first step in that direction. Does anyone have any experience working with prosthetics or orthotics? Or any type of work relating? So far the only link I have found between ID and prosthetics is Deka.


I know there are some specialty schools that teach Prosthetics/orthotics here in Minnesota. (Century College I think). It’s actually much more than just design work, but it’s going to be big business for sure, soon.

Prosthetics and orthotics are like any other medical device, the process to make them is very regimented. Although it is similar to consumer goods, the quality system is well regulated by the FDA. It boils down to 1 thing; if you make a claim, you have to prove it. For example, let’s say a prosthetics company claims the device socket can accommodate muscle growth. They then need to show exactly how the design can accommodate that muscle growth AND they need to prove that every product they make is exactly the specification that allows the muscle growth. That is the quality system. If you have no claims, no clinician in the country will be reimbursed for using a product that may or may not work. If they don’t get paid, you don’t get paid.

Because of the quality system, if you want to work in the medical field, you must be able to quantify any claim. I have found for an industrial designer to fit into such a system (as opposed to an engineer), they need to be experts in human factors and observational research. Obviously the human factors can quantify the human to product interface. And although observational research is traditionally qualitative, it can lead to quantitative results. This is only a guess, but if you observe something that leads to better compliance (more use) of a prosthetic device, it could lead to proving the user is more healthy because of the increased activity. That could then lead to an overall healthcare savings if they use your device and justify an ROI. Your salespeople will love you. (BTW, for another thread, with medical devices, the designer needs to market the new product to the sales staff otherwise a great product can go right in the toilet without their support).

If you are in school, or starting school, find one that has an ID department along with a prosthetics lab in either the engineering school or medical school. The university I attended was near 2 medical schools. I just showed up at them, told them who I was and started asking questions (my professors at that time had zero contacts at those schools). Since they were teaching hospitals, they were very helpful and gave a lot of time answering questions and allowing me to observe pretty much anything I wanted.

If you are out of school, I got a job with a consultancy that does medical devices by dumbass luck. Other than that, there will be professional societies specializing in prosthetics and orthotics. Go to all of their conferences. Manufacturers and conferences will sponsor continuing education credits. Do as many as you can. Get immersed in the field by reading posters and papers. Good luck.

The University of Pittsburgh has a new MS degree in O&P. It is within the School of Rehabilitation Science and Technology under the department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology. It would be a great place to learn more and get a master’s degree or possibly help you get a project funded. They have a brand new building and new equipment, too.

Here’s the link:

I am aware of schools with ortho/prosthetic degrees, theres one here near me in MI, just not sure if thats going to be the type of work I want to be doing. I graduated from CCS two years ago and have been trying to figure out where I want to go. I work for GM at the moment doing CAD design work, and at nights I have been working towards a degree in biomedical engineering, but again I am not sure that will get me into the right kind of prosthetic development either. I have been leaning towards targeting medically focused consultancies, like Deka, Tekna, frog, bresslergroup, henry dryfus, icon health, tanaka kapec, etc. I guess what it comes down to is I am a minimalist and I live to help others, and am looking for a more fulfilling focus than cars, or whatever. Do you know what I mean?


Working for any given consultancy is absolutely no guarantee you will be working on a prosthetics and orthotics project. Even if the consultancy has worked on one in the past, it does not mean they will get any future work.

If you really want to work in prosthetics and orthotics, you need to work directly for a manufacturer. And again, go to a conference/trade show, determine who are the market players, thought leaders and what is the leading research. Then stick your foot into the door.

Edit: Spending 0.29 seconds with the Googles on the internet machine got me this, O&P Resource Links - The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education

Find those people.

Stumbled upon this blogg last week, maybe its helpful, maybe not.

Had to post it though… Really inspirational.

i agree if a company has done prosthetics doesnt mean it will necessarily ever do them again. my focus for consultancies has been once with a strong focus in medical, not necessarily prosthetics. As far as approaching manufacturers, it doesnt seem to have any room for ID, as it is engineering driven, which I have gotten from talking to a local manufacturer and why I am pursuing an engineering degree.

I have come across that site and all the others it leads to, but it doesn’t really help me understand if I will be able to do the creative development work I am looking to do. Which maybe there isn’t a spot for this, like you said, above all else it has to perform and have data to support that it is better to be a viable solution. All this has got me thinking and trying to understand exactly what it is I am looking to do. Ultimately I am looking to get into developing products which positively affect someone. I would eventually like to be a part of erasing the negative stigma associated with handicap/disabilities. I was looking to start through prosthetics, but that link bngi kind of helps put it in a different light. For some one who has lost a limb, they don’t necessarily need a more aesthically pleasing apparatus to go back to a normal life or to fit in, i suppose it could be something else?

I will continue looking into manufacturing companies. The point I am at is trying to decide which road to follow, industrial design for design, biomedical engineering for bionic limb development, or an prosthetist for actually working with the people fitting and creating

thanks again for the advice

Check out this link. Prosthetic Technology | Century College There’s a phone number and name listed there, maybe give that guy a call and chat for a bit about the industry and how your talents might be useful. Might open a door or two, or help you decide it’s not the right path for you.

In general, medical manufacturers are not looking for IDers. But that is definately not 100% true. There are some out there who do see an advantage of having someone to do the qualitative research, human factors, problem solving and other traditional ID skills. But in no way will they hire just a sketch monkey, there is not enough work.

I do think adding the engineering on top of the ID will make a candidate very appealing to a manufacturer. Again, knowledge of the quality system is the highest barrier to entry. I would like to think that would be a part of a biomedical engineering degree. If it is not, I would harass your professors to provide that information/experience.

As for medical devices being squeeky clean, that is somewhat true. But there are plenty of FDA work-arounds for companies to hype the latest and greatest yet it is no better than the 10-year-old model, only it costs more and increases sales. The ugly side of planned obsolescence is apart of the industry and you will see it real quick with a consultancy and with unscrupulous manufacturers.

I posted this in another thread, awhile back. But something like this may be what your looking to do

Hi Nick,

I am a CCS ID grad and I work for a prosthetic foot manufacturer. Truth be told, my daily role here has little to do with ID, but I do see a large view of the industry from all aspects. There are few opportunities for industrial designers - the designers we hire are typically mechanical engineers, but we are getting into bionics and have brought on some electrical engineers and programmers. Prior experience in medical devices hasn’t been a barrier for our candidates (so far).

If you want to find out who the leading prosthetics manufacturers are out there, I suggest you go to or and dig around.

Here are some of the top manufacturers out there:

Otto Bock
Ohio Willow Wood
College Park Industries
Freedom Prosthetics

Good Luck!


I wonder what is the size of their market. I hope they make it.

Thanks for all the input, this all has been a help, I think I just need to figure out which side of the development I want to be on.

Sain, that is almost exactly what I had envisioned, very cool!

stijlsketcher, did you by any chance come into CCS to review a few final projects two years ago?

iab, youve been a great help. I am in no means tied to one media for design and development, I am a thinker/problem solver, I like to sketch but am more interested in the project, its impact and the final result to the consumer.

As far as medical I do completely like the planned obsolescence and “reinventing” a 10 year old device side of things.

For biomedical, I like the idea of being apart of developing prosthesis so they are seamlessly integrated like Luke Skywalker’s arm in star wars. I was an automotive electronics technician throughout college so I too am interested in the bionics of it. But honestly do not enjoy the classes I am taking, like calc, i get it but there are other things i would rather be doing.

And lastly a prosthesists, I think I just need to make sure this is going to give me the freedom to explore concepts while still helping people. I have been looking into this and found Northwestern University has a pretty good program, I am planning on contacting them. And just reading the courses seems more up my interest with things like biomechanics and such.

Northwestern has the perfect course for you. It is incredibly difficult to get in.

We declined to sit on the advisory board but we have close ties with faculty.

But it seems like the program is only for their students in :
McCormick(engineering): Graduate students
Kellogg(business): 1st or 2nd year students
Law: 2nd and 3rd year students, LLM and JD/MBA students
Feinberg(Medicine): 4th year MD students

Would they have a place for me? Or do you mean down the line of where I’m headed?

Even if you in one of their graduate schools, the likelyhood of getting into that particular class is thin, the competition is fierce. For the 64(?) slots, several hundred students apply. Being an IDer would definately give one an advantage though.

I mention it because you mentioned looking into Northwestern. I was assuming for a graduate degree. My apologies if I thought wrong.

But that is a course that can easily lead you to a long-term career in prosthetics and orthotics.