Fighting a pandemic with Design – designers’ contribution in 2020

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After having faced immense challenges, the final month of 2020 is here. This year has truly been a testing time for us all. Yet, having said that, the handling of the Covid 19 pandemic has strengthened our resilience and once again proved that human creativity knows no bounds. Apart from doctors, front line health care workers and essential services persons – designers have played a very important role in helping to prevent the spread of the novel Corona virus. Let’s salute their contribution by acknowledging their work.

Emergency care centers / testing centers

The most important and the quickest design intervention needed when the pandemic began is introducing more hospital spaces, quarantine spaces and testing centers. Increased testing helped many countries tackle the pandemic effectively and restart their economies faster. Mobile testing centers were erected almost overnight in toll booths, at roadsides, parking garages, stadiums, hospitals etc. In some places, new care facilities were built in weeks to accommodate increasing patients. Schools, hotels, stadiums and even trains were converted to care centers for Covid 19 patients.

Work from home

As soon as news of the Pandemic started, many parts of the World adopted the work from home model to protect their employees. Designers wasted no time in coming up with strategies on how homes could be comfortably re-adapted to create a work environment. Home offices, reading spaces, activity areas, creative learning and playing spaces were widely discussed. As shops and interior design offices were also shut, ideas were floated upon the internet on how to use existing elements in each house to achieve the Work from Home environment. Professional backdrops for Zoom calls, writing tables and storage solutions were discussed. Spending too much time indoors or home caused mood swings and depression. Designers also came up with solutions to prevent that. Content creation, painting, DIY activities, upcycling, plant therapy etc. were some of the measures to keep people occupied and positive.

Escaping Lockdown

After being in quarantine for long, it was time to open up the World again. Interaction with one another is one of the key factors which makes us human. This exchange had to be made safer during the pandemic. We all saw how quickly changes were made to public spaces to slow down Covid transmission. Installation of glass panels and screens were the first noticeable measures in malls, hospitals, cash counters, service desks, offices, sports complexes, airports and basically everywhere. Designers also stepped in to evaluate restaurants, pubs, retail outlets to paste guide stickers, entry-exit strategies and social distancing markers in supermarkets/pharmacies etc.

Masks

Wearing masks is now a proven measure to reduce the risk of infection. Once lockdown was called off, wearing a face mask became mandatory (and still is). Fashion and product designers helped everyone adapt to this new accessory. As we are still figuring this out as we go, new changes are being made to masks everyday. We soon realized that kids need different smaller masks, anti fog masks for people who wear spectacles, transparent masks for better communication and so on. They are now available in infinite variations and designs. Printed fabric masks, pull string masks, plastic coverings, full face shields and no stitch fabric masks are some you may have seen. We should all spare a minute to thank designers for their quick response to what has now become a basic necessity for us all.

Sanitizer Stands

Every opened public space, office, supermarket etc. now has a hand sanitizer installed at the entry or exit. The stand alone sanitizer dispenser is imperative if we are to see this pandemic end. We need to thank product and space designers for this innovation. A lot of companies have begun manufacturing disinfectant stands for public spaces. As the vaccine is still being discussed, its going to be a while till we all receive it. With rising germaphobia, maybe these new inventions might stay with us longer.

Infographics

Before all the spatial changes were made, the first contribution to tackling the Corona virus pandemic was done by graphic designers around the World. Spreading awareness about the novel disease was task one and graphic artists jumped into action to do so. Infographics explaining the disease, measures to be taken, posters stating guidelines of social distancing, emergency information for public were plastered around the globe. These easy to understand infographics were essential for communicating the ever changing measures prescribed by WHO and governments. We are forever grateful to graphic designers, artists, cartoonists and content creators for their contribution.

Website / App designers

Countries which saw a major surge in the number of Covid cases came up with websites and apps to inform people of the risks as well as start contact tracing among patients. App developers and website designers have contributed endlessly to keep this information easily accessible and to help doctors easily trace infections and sources. Let’s take a minute to acknowledge the continuous hard work of the designers behind the Covid 19 tracking website Worldometer or the WHO website for keeping us informed, updated and safe/sane during these times.

What’s Next?

All said and done, the work is far from over. We are staring at another 1-3 years where we are going to be affected directly or indirectly from this pandemic. Designers are now strategizing long term measures to tackle growing infections and how public spaces can be made safer for all. Lockdown or partial lockdown is still ongoing in many parts of the World. In order to get the economies restarted, it is important to rely on the expertise of Doctors, governments and designers to be able to go back to normal (or whatever the new normal will be).

Design permeates society in more ways than one can imagine. It is evident that designers; interior, product, furniture, graphic, fashion, User experience, App, website or animation; have helped humanity cope with the ongoing pandemic. Their contribution in 2020 will never be forgotten.

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