As I write this blog and come to the end of my first module of this MA Graphic Design degree, it is crazy to reflect on the year 2020.
I recently watched the recommended film ‘HyperNormalisation’ by Adam Curtis, where he talked about businesses wanting to predict the future. And while there have been some predictions of a global pandemic in the past, I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for the impact that Covid-19 has had on the world. Like Curtis states in the film, ‘nothing goes according to plan’!
In the last 9 months throughout the global pandemic, we have had to adapt to some very different and strange circumstances, home schooling, working from home, not being able to go out and having to stay away from our loved ones and friends.
We have yet to see the long-term effects of Covid-19 on businesses, the economy and people’s mental health and well-being. For now though, we have hope in a new vaccine and by spring 2021, we should be able to slowly return to all the things that we used to do and love.
Throughout this challenging year though, we have turned to technology to help us maintain our connection to people, to help our children with school work and to also do our own work. It has been amazing to see how quickly schools, businesses and organisations have adapted to this change and how tools such as ‘Teams’, ‘Zoom’ and ‘Whereby’ have become part of our everyday life.
For me personally, it has been great to have my family at home and especially during the first lockdown, we got to spend a lot of fun time together. The children were able to do their school work online and my husband and I could continue to work from home – once we got a better connection sorted!
We have been able to maintain a fairly normal life throughout the lockdowns and at this particular time of my life, it has suited me to be at home and not be too bothered by it. However, I do have some concerns going forward about what this will all mean for the future, especially with respect to my children.
As the pandemic continues, people are trying to carry on with their lives as much as possible but with some differences. Students are starting University life whilst having to remain in their ‘halls of residence’, graduates are starting a new job but doing so while working at home and professionals are having to maintain relationships with clients online.
Many businesses and organisations have adapted well to this way of working but have been hit hard by the pandemic and may not be able to continue. Any that do, may take a very long time to get back to what they were like pre-covid.
But because technology has given us the ability to shop online, steam live performances, work from home or be connected to anyone across the world at any time, will there still be a need for the high street, a need for office blocks, a university campus or even a need to physically interact with each other?
If, as a society we adapt to this new way of living, what becomes of all the things we have put in place for our old style of living and will our children be missing out on some of the exciting life experiences that we had growing up?
The reason I have talked about the pandemic is because, if in the future our society and the way we live changes considerably, would a business or organisation have a responsibility to maintain our health and well-being and if so, what could they do to help?
What would be the role of a designer be in this ‘new normal’ society?
For instance, if everyone has adapted to a more ‘online only’ environment and as consumers, we were only viewing goods and brands via social media, should companies find a different way of communicating to us that would get us away from our computers?
I have always loved branding as part of my design practice so when thinking about this week’s challenge, I thought about how designers could help brands adapt in a possible ‘new normal’ society. How they could communicate a brand in a different way, help contributing to the well-being of people and also support other businesses that may be struggling after the pandemic, all at the same time.
Simon Manchipp from design practice ‘Someone’ talks about how people enjoy experiences, which is true more than ever right now as we’ve missed out on some many over the year. We like to share experience with people, but we also love to talk about them to others especially if they haven’t had the same experience. There is an excitement in being the first to introduce people to new things – like it was all our own idea!!!
When we enjoy an experience, our senses are stimulated through touch, smell, taste, hearing and touch. We also like to learn about new things and as designer Ophelia Ford-Wellman mentioned as a guest on one of our recent webinars, ‘we learn best through storytelling.’
Putting all these elements together, my idea for branding in a ‘new normal’ society would be to provide an experience that helps a brand communicate a story which stimulates visitors senses – leaving them excited and happy. It would provide opportunities for other businesses and organisations to be involved but it would also benefit the brand. They would be able to get feedback and data from the visitors to help with future development.
The difference being that the experience would be ‘blind’ – the visitor wouldn’t know what brand they are learning about until the experience was over.
This could take place in venues that may be vacant due to the pandemic – empty offices or buildings. They could pop up all over the country at different times of the year and different brands could take turns – so that the overall idea wouldn’t become stagnant.
Designers could tell the story of the brand via different mediums including music, theatre, literature, food etc. Employing help from the local businesses and community organisations.
Ultimately, a visitor would learn the history and story of a brand, they would discover what the brand is trying to achieve, how it works in the world and how it goes about protecting the environment, all whilst experiencing something new and exciting. They would be beginning to build a new relationship with a brand or learn more about a brand they already knew.
By providing an experience like this, the customer is more likely to think of the brand affectionately in the future and choose to shop with them. Could the same be said about running an advert on social media?
In summary, it will always be hard to predict the future especially given that no-one knew what 2020 was going to be like, but I believe that whatever the future holds, we are very good at adapting to it.
Technology can help us to adapt but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we need time away from technology. Our senses can’t solely be stimulated from a computer, there is a wonderful world out there to be experienced and in doing so, our lives will be enriched by gaining knowledge and learning more. We need to work in collaboration with others to share these experiences which will stimulate ideas that we can use to change and protect the world we live in – whatever might be happening at any given time.
Case Studies – What are potential future definitions of design practice? What are the sectors that might change or need to change? 2020 GDE710 for MA Graphic Design. Falmouth University.
Image – HyperNormalisation – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04b183c/adam-curtis-hypernormalisation. Last accessed 10th December 2020