CATCH Product : Beazley Designs of the Year

Q&A with Hans Ramzan

The Design Museum speaks to designer Hans Ramzan, about his simple and affordable HIV detection kit, CATCH. Potentially saving millions of lives, find out how this device, featured in Beazley Designs of the Year, is making a global impact.


Q: Congratulations on being nominated for this year’s Beazley Designs of the Year. What does it mean to you to be put up for this award?

A: It is a privilege to be associated with this prestigious award. Beazley and The Design Museum does a fantastic job of showcasing a multitude of non-discriminate talent. To be considered alongside previous nominees such as Apple, Google, and Elon Musk's SpaceX is an honour - not bad company to be in!

As a young, career-orientated designer who has been inspired by many nominees from this award over the years, I am very humbled to realise the dedication to CATCH has been worthwhile

Q: What inspired you to create CATCH – the HIV testing kit?

A: HIV boasts the greatest death toll of majority world countries. 2.5 million individuals contract HIV every year, with 2 million dying from AIDS. This begs the question; why is HIV not detected before it reaches the AIDS stage? If caught early, HIV is treatable. As a result, the death toll in developing countries will be considerably lower. This is where CATCH will succour. The western world does not treat the AIDS epidemic with enough reverence. In a similar vein to the Ebola outbreak, action is often undertaken when it reaches a minority world country such as the United Kingdom or the United States. People are now coaxed into becoming self-sufficient. Although this is positive progression, products must be designed to account for this new ideology. This is why CATCH is a huge leap for the progression of humanity.

The name CATCH stemmed from diagnosing or "catching" the virus early before it is exacerbated.

Q: What is the guiding principle behind your design?

A: There is a surplus of unnecessary products on the market primarily focusing on human comfort rather than human survival. CATCH was created as an object which would enhance an entire generation. It is a product which is simple and easy to use. It is difficult to step into a world in which one is not accustomed to but this is the struggle that all designers face - designing for people with needs distant from the society they belong.

Q: Your design is meant to do “all the thinking for the user” – can you tell us a little bit about how the device works? What makes CATCH so different from other HIV testing kits?

A: Unfortunately, due to a plenitude of factors in majority world countries, (including gender inequality, lack of infrastructure, and poverty), a prolific number of people lack basic education. CATCH is intuitive thus, can be utilised by anyone. It is designed to do the thinking for the user and is operated in three simple steps. A recurring compliment it receives is "why has self testing not always been this easy?". HIV detectors exist, but CATCH ensures a more user-friendly process.

Q: Can you take us through the design process behind the device?

A: Assessing information supplied by medical professionals about their experience with blood extraction was fundamental. In particular, a young medical scientist called Farah (Doctor Doola), proved a fruitful contribution factor to the success of CATCH. Following on from the research was initial concept ideation where the functionality of the product was considered. Furthermore, the initial designs were developed into a user friendly product, thus following the 'form follows function' ideology.

Rigorous testing included producing numerous prototypes and receiving feedback about the design. This was the half way point, as it's not until feedback was received that the design began to augment. As new opinions formed from external testers, the design process restarted until the product was refined to what we see today.

Q: How accurate is the kit? Did you experience any challenges whilst testing and designing the device?

A: CATCH is as accurate as other self testing kits, only more intuitive. The negative result is 99.9% accurate, whereas the positive result ranges between 91-96%. The 'brains' of the device lies inside the indicator strip. As a consequence, the strip determines the integrity of the results. The school of thought on minimalist design is that every possibility is thought about, and then stripped back of anything unnecessary. Minimalism is underrated since the final product is often misunderstood - the design journey of reaching the end product is often underappreciated to the average user. Designing for a mass market implies the manufacturing process was an important consideration. Moreover, the process/materials have been carefully selected to ensure they are medical grade. Contrastingly, with much deliberation, a material with minimal negative impact on the environment was also significant.

Q: This is a locally designed product with potential global impact, how do you plan to get it manufactured and distributed on a large scale?

A: CATCH has received an overwhelming public response. Worldwide enquiries for thousands of units have been requested and the media attention has been phenomenal. However, it is crucial to find the appropriate investor to proceed further with CATCH. As aforementioned, it has specifically been designed for injection moulding which elicits the idea of mass production due to the opportunity for global impact. Finding a suitable distribution network is currently being managed..

Q: How is CATCH suited to the specific needs of developing countries and rural regions?

A: Various HIV testing products exist on the market but are geared towards users who have the privilege of a first class education. CATCH is aimed at those who did not receive this luxury, hence the focus on user intuition. The genius part of using an indicator strip is that; if the strip which detects HIV antibodies is replaced with a strip which detects the antibodies of a different virus, its functionality is correlative to that of the HIV indicator strip. It has the possibility to help decrease the death toll of many viruses present in majority world/rural regions. The possibilities are endless for CATCH.

Q: How have you ensured that the gadget is affordable for everyone?

A: This simple device has the potential to save millions of lives at a tiny production price of less than £4 due to mass production quantities. Majority world nations should not be reliant on minority world donations - products designed specifically for the needs of the people is more beneficial. CATCH is partly made from recycled plastic bottles. This is to help combat the ever-rising issue of environmental deterioration - a contributing factor to what establishes a country as 'underdeveloped'.

Q: What’s the one thing you’d like people to remember about your design when they leave Beazley Designs of the Year?

A: Not only does CATCH serve as a practical product with the potential to eradicate AIDS, it is also a social commentary on the majority vs minority world argument. It is important for people to remember that design has the ability to highlight social and economical issues. Beazley Designs of the Year has created a platform in which designers can communicate social issues through their work. My ethos in regards to product design is the three I's - Intuitive, Intelligent, Innovative. All three aim to be demonstrated with CATCH

Q: Do you have any final words of advice for someone who wants to get into product design?

A: Upon introducing myself as a product designer, I was frequently met with a look of bemusement. As my career progressed, I reflected on what my societal role is. I'm an inventor. Da Vinci, Al-Jazari, Einstein - they are all product designers too.

Any success has its pitfalls - I believe every designer must master the art of transforming a negative into a positive. Criticism is an exceptional development tool when implemented and I would advocate that all designers should develop a thick skin for this. I have had innumerable ideas purloined throughout my career but perceived it as a compliment - being aware that my ideas are valuable. Upon developing as a designer, I learnt how to avoid those issues in the future. It is conventional for older/experienced (and not necessarily more adroit) designers to consider you a threat if you are skilled and proud of your work.

Design disguises itself as a membrane between your ideas, and the outside world. Changing the world is a marvellous motivational factor for perseverance within the field. Of course, product design is not only invention, but that is the great thing about the design industry - it is a multifaceted trade which results in an exciting and unknown realm! Remember to be nice, have inspirations, but create your own legacy.

Related exhibition

Beazley Designs of the Year 2019

Discover the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the past 12 months, as nominated by design experts from around the world.