Insights - Design & Product

Design in a Post-Covid World

We spoke to some very smart people and asked them what a post-Covid world would demand of design

Sujata Keshavan, Co-founder & Creative Director, Varana

The time for low-cost innovation is now

Design does not occur in a vacuum. It responds to the conditions and problems in the world we live in. If the post-Covid world changes significantly, then design will adapt and change accordingly. Here are three areas that could potentially be impacted:

  1. The way we work: Loose consortiums of independent designers, working from home, will come together to work on individual projects. Designers will move away from full time work for one design studio or company.
  2. Everything is digital – faster: Lock-down behavior patterns encouraging online transactions and discouraging physical ones will linger, and be a boost in the arm for everything digital, from ecommerce to finance.
  3. Low-cost innovation for emerging economies: This is the time for Indian designers to embark on self-initiated projects for low-cost innovation, which could be used across emerging economies. India is good at this. Don’t wait for someone to commission a project. This may not happen in the short term. There are problems everywhere that need urgent solutions. Start working on them now.

Sairee Chahal, Founder, Sheroes

The biggest learning of the pandemic is that your local communities matter

Every time humanity makes material progress, it seems to ignore the core values of its societal foundation. The COVID pandemic is history repeating itself – a sign to reflect on our core values. The fundamental pillars of human existence – community, family, health, sustainability will get due consideration and so will core values of empathy and humanity.

  1. How we live and work: How we live and work, spend, save and play is getting a rethink. The world that has tasted remote work at scale, is not going back to cubicles easily. A world where we know we need much less to live and a lot more care, will start investing in health, immunity, family time and learning. Core minimalism may also see a rise as we realise how little we need and how much we waste our resources in times of peace.
  2. Communities at centre:  The biggest learning of the pandemic is that your local communities matter. Connected together has never been spelt out bigger and valuing communities, investing in them and first principals of interconnectedness will play out more prominently.

For design to respond appropriately, it will have to take all of this into consideration

Avnish Sabharwal, Managing Director, Accenture Ventures

Business design will allow for more singularly consumed services

The current environment, marked by lockdowns, has been particularly good if your product is consumed remotely like video conferencing, online education, or e-commerce. In the future, you may see interesting design innovations happening in this space such as gamification and leaderboards for online education, or bigger social commerce components in e-commerce. 

The situation has been particularly hard for firms whose product falls in the ‘phygital’ space where a digital solution needs a physical environment, like ride hailing or home stays (AirBnB, Uber). In many cases, business design may need to evolve to make the service look more singular. For example, we could see live performances, both presently consumed in group settings, getting singularised. Another example is gyms using Facebook Live or Zoom to livestream classes – fitness services, previously consumed physically in a group setting could become a solo activity, pursued through connected devices.

Thoughtful and meaningful design will help in anticipating and making sense of these shifts, connecting the dots, and helping businesses respond with agility to new business models

Comments are personal and not those of my employer

Pramath Sinha, Founder, Harappa Education & Founding Dean, ISB

Instructional and curriculum design could very well move from academia into the realm of traditional design.

We are seeing a massive shift to online learning in the current lockdown. Suddenly, from school and college education to corporate learning and development, the shift to online learning has taken off. How much of this will stick post-Covid is anybody’s guess but just video calling is going to impact airline travel forever – learning and education is headed for a new normal. 

Online learning is going to need instructional designers, interaction designers, communication designers and graphic designers. In fact, instructional and curriculum design could very well move from academia into the realm of traditional design. Moreover, online learning content which is still largely un-engaging will rely on design to raise its quality and experience to that of original Netflix or Amazon Prime shows.

Design education itself will be transformed, as more and more aspiring and existing designers seek to upgrade their skills online. Studios were being conducted online during the current crisis and while it remains to be seen how maker spaces can be made virtual, it is clear that design will be at the core of the transformation in the delivery of education.

Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder & CEO, PaytmInsider

Like all chaos, this is equal dosage of opportunity and destruction

Artists and events will make a long term directional change to digital events. Live  digital content (outside of sports) has traditionally been thought of as distribution – free content which is monetised through brands or on-ground events. With consumption reducing (hence impacting brand marketing budgets) and events grinding to a stand still, I think we will have to all put our heads together to get people to pay for live digital content. This will give birth to new models of digital monetisation for events and communities

You will now have setups specifically made for live digital content, optimised for vertical mobile video. The current Instagram and Facebook lives, for example, will be used with features specific to various types of performances. (For example, when we at Insider hosted live digital games on our mobile app, we built a studio with a custom setup optimised for that). 

Design and engineering will work together to create new features – interactivity, micro-transactions for monetisation, sponsor integrations, etc. It’s not just about taking what would be real-life and putting a camera to it. It will need a whole new design, completely rethought.

Param  Venkataraman, Chief Design Officer,

Creative practitioners are best equipped to embrace high levels of ambiguity

My advice for the creative community:

  1. Develop remote empathy: User research (Design ethnography or similar) will move online or remote. Usage of apps like DScout will significantly increase. Not being able to ‘meet’ your users in the real world is a bummer, but building empathy stays critical.
  2. Understand business imperatives: Businesses will look for ideas that are quick wins and can be implemented in the near-term, even more so than ‘normal’. Be patient and understanding, do not get frustrated or disillusioned.
  3. Extreme constraints will lead to unique opportunities Governments are working extensively with private partners and competitive organisations are collaborating in the fight against Covid. We would not have thought this possible before. There will be equally unique opportunities for designers that may have seemed unlikely earlier. Stay tuned and respond quickly to these.
  4. Get your hands dirty in the non-design world
    Every organisation is going to be razor focused on survival in the post-Covid world. Help or contribute, in whatever way possible. Even if that means not wearing the design hat for some time.
  5. Use the ‘down time’ for reflection and re-skilling: Sign-up with a ‘mentor’ or ‘coach’ and go through a structured process of reflection into your self and your work

Creative practitioners are best equipped to embrace high levels of ambiguity. In a world of gloom and doom, let’s shine the light of empathy and creativity.

Jeyandran Venugopal, Chief Product & Technology Officer, Flipkart

We will see truly personalised experiences emerge, as new users come online

The current lockdowns have seen a big shift to online transactions, by people who were not early adopters.  Even if there is drop, once life is back to normal, the numbers will not go back to baseline. We’ve been doing a lot of work at Flipkart to bring the next 200 million online, but now that will happen much faster than anyone anticipated.   70-80% of our new users are from Tier 2 and 3 towns. 

To serve these new cohorts, design is critical. This approach needs a new way of thinking, not incremental efforts.  For instance, we are working on truly personalising journeys, not just content, based on the user’s maturity as an ecommerce buyer. 

The second shift will happen in service delivery.  Forced behavior during the lockdown will open possibilities for long-term innovations like batching deliveries, better last-mile planning and more predictable delivery times.

My advice for designers and product folk would be to use this time to introspect and prepare for the shifts that are imminent in a post-Covid world.

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