Designing for a Safe Post-COVID-19 World

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It’s certainly difficult to predict when the COVID-19 pandemic will be completely “under control” worldwide, but many everyday problems still require solutions until it is until it is. No matter the longevity of the COVID-19 virus, engineers and designers continue to search for applicable innovations to traverse the future safely, from improved ventilator designs to more comfortable, reusable masks. A post-COVID-19 world may not look exactly like the pre-COVID-19 world did. For example, workplace collaboration has already evolved, and so has social interaction. So, how can innovators create a safer environment moving forward? Designers must consider what is technologically feasible and economically viable to solve complex problems following the pandemic.

Designing for a post-COVID-19 world requires a look back at the fundamentals of design.

Design Thinking

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Design thinking is a non-linear approach that aims to deliver a targeted outcome. The most important step of this equation is empathizing with and understanding the user. Designing for safety post-COVID-19 means amplifying user experience and accessibility to ensure the product meets human and environmental needs.

There are six stages of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement.

  • Empathize/Understand
    One of the first rules of design is knowing and understanding the end-user. How will they use the product? Is the product sustainable? What does the end-user need? Product reliability cannot be overlooked when designing for safety. For example, perhaps an engineer designs an innovative new breathing apparatus. The product must address certain parameters of user experience to ensure proper usage and functionality.
  • Define
    Define the problem. This stage is all about what the problem is that needs to be addressed. It’s helpful to understand why there is a problem in the first place.
  • Ideate
    How can the problem be solved? Foster ideas to formulate design elements. Remember, this isn’t a linear process. Take a design and check if it fills the gaps defined in the last two steps.
  • Prototype
    Prototyping can be accomplished by using additive manufacturing (3D printing) to create a functional scale model. Granted, this might not work for every project, but it is a great way to save materials, time, and money.
  • Test
    Conduct usability and functionality tests to ensure the prototype is ready for consumers. Does the product solve the initially defined problem?
  • Implement
    Now it’s time to implement revisions and manufacture the product.

Design thinking is a straightforward approach to implementing innovative product design. The pandemic has shown that humans can prevail against any obstacle, and all it takes is a bit of innovation and time.

Post-COVID Design Applications

It’s safe to say that many of the hygiene routines adopted during the pandemic will remain for at least a few years, but what about larger industries? How about personal protective equipment (PPE)? Designers may envision anything from new hand sanitizer stations to washable gloves that users can wear all day.

Post-COVID-19 designs will also have to address the push for green, eco-friendly alternatives. Currently, some designers are looking to manufacture biodegradable face masks. This would help improve one of the worst byproducts of the pandemic: disposable face masks.