Advertising Design Creativity

Can we design our way out of a pandemic?

By Christopher Onderstall | Head of Ensemble Studio



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March 9, 2021 | 5 min read

Covid-19 has focused our minds on the reasons for new design. In normal times, the catalysts pushing forward innovative creativity are that people’s behavior has changed, or that we’re trying to influence that change.

Can we design our way out of a pandemic?

In this respect, the pandemic hasn’t just upturned the apple cart, it has flipped the whole supermarket (and the adjoining car park) on its head.


Can we design our way out of a pandemic?

In response to this cataclysmic turn of events, the creative community has a responsibility to rebuild people’s confidence and help to shape the way that they act in this ‘new normal’ environment.

And this responsibility extends far beyond expunging ads where two people are within coughing distance of one another or rejecting stock images of smiling, tactile nurses caring for their patients.

All change on the creative front

Effective creative briefs usually start with a strong audience insight (although admittedly, one good insight usually gets copied and pasted across multiple briefs). However, now is the time to delete that old template. The environment in which your audience now find themselves – from the virtual boardroom to the hatch door restaurant window – has radically changed.

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The world is full of new instructional signage, messages and iconography. With no common design framework and rushed applications across the board, the office reopening may have as much visual clutter in wayfinding around the printer room as your local mall possibly now feels.

Great design has the responsibility to guide people carefully, give supportive and positive messages, and nudge the behaviors that will keep us all safe. With people fatigued by the constant barrage of messages, smart creative can drive actions, from encouraging people to stop touching objects but still feel comfortable enough to browse, all the way through to walking on the correct side of the corridor.

Understanding the states of mind of this new audience, from restriction-deniers to anxious home-leavers, is proving to be trickier than ever before.

Your image library is defunct

There’s still something that feels a little strange about photography with people wearing masks, but that’s the reality of things right now. A stock library full of people embracing, nurses giving reassuring arm touches to a patient and just about every shot of the office has been rendered obsolete in the midst of the pandemic.

Imagery that captures the new normal has the best shot of creating a splash. Forget it being a 2020 trend, our foreseeable future will be a mix of video calls, online deliveries and appropriately distanced small crowds.

Consumption behaviors change

As restrictions are lifted, our audiences will become splintered. Creative has a complex job to balance this new dynamic. Future events will mix in-person and virtual attendees, which has implications for everything from font size and how we’ll present to background beats.

Building back confidence to kickstart the recovery

Show-stopping creative enhances the perception of a successful event or business. This can include everything from great menu design through to a conference prospectus that makes you want to leap through the screen to attend a virtual event in person. And so we’re set to rely even more on design to give us that shot in the arm to get the show metaphorically back on the road.

With an abundance of unused ad space, the lowest talent and production costs ever seen and a responsibility to drive consumer confidence, surely now is the perfect opportunity to fire out an updated creative brief?

Advertising Design Creativity

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