COVIDesign: As Little As Possible. ASAP.
Some observers say we are in an unprecedented situation where health and economic crisis meet. Others say that we are at the state of war. Those others might be right. If so, then humankind has faced various battles many times. Science, business, and design have reflected public needs under challenging times again and again.
The question is: how much design do we need in the face of survival? The answer is: as little as possible to serve the purpose. ASAP.
During the month after COVID-19 hit Europe and the USA, MIT figured out how to build an open-source ventilator with about $100 worth of common parts. Fashion houses are repurposing their production facilities to the creation of respirators and protective clothes. Meanwhile, producers of cosmetics and spirits have turned their plants into hand sanitizer production lines.
Let’s consider the parallel between war and pandemic design. Take a closer look at the examples below to compare usual combat packaging and the packaging in the age of Coronavirus.
Luxury giant LVMH has started to produce and deliver hand sanitizer to the health authorities in France. From the government’s request to the first batch in just 72 hours. Moreover, it happened over a weekend, from Friday to Monday. Plenty of other leading cosmetics brands have supported their national health systems at top gear speed.
Colgate-Palmolive is supporting the World Health Organization’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 by producing a soap bar with instructions on proper handwashing. A lack of knowledge of how to properly wash hands is a challenge, especially in vulnerable communities. So these guidelines must be easily understandable. Just as a combat medical packaging or portable defibrillator instructions.
One after the other spirits and beer brewing companies have chosen to convert their facilities to help in the battle. Bacardi, Ramazzotti, AB InBev, and Brewdog – you name it.
So what do military design and pandemic design have in common? Firstly, it presents a functional, even utilitarian text-based design without almost any attention for decoration. It’s curious to see how LVMH’s hand sanitizer looks in the Christian Dior’s soap bottle with the label that makes you wonder if it has been printed right at the factory. What’s the purpose of this product? Safety. ASAP. Does this label design help to inform about the function? Yes. Like MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) military rations primary purpose is to neutralize hunger while its packaging design just tells what you are gonna get once you open it.
Secondly, it is expected that these actions are a mix of brand values and public communications, so breaking news style images that create the feeling of a live stream from the battlefront is a part of this game.
What’s next? As every disruption of our everyday lives, COVID-19 will reflect in every form of design – from fashion to packaging. At least this and the following year. So we will probably see more utilitarian, text-based, military-inspired packaging.
Cover image: Domantas Umbrasas / LRT
MRE images: Henry Hargreaves, Jimmy Pham, Chuck George