Four months into the pandemic, I stopped watching the news. The everyday tracking of numbers, vaccine trials and stages of lockdown did not help with anxiety. Now into the 8th month, I am back to tracking numbers. As we enter what is being popularly called the third wave of COVID, it isn’t hard to notice that people have lost patience. It is ludicrous to expect people to be ok. They aren’t. Yet, despite it all, it is time to move from managing the situation to imagining a better life within these constraints. Today I want to address two aspects we need to explore in order to emerge stronger and ready to live through what seems like an endless ordeal.
- Acknowledge: We did a great job of acknowledgement when the pandemic first hit. We were surrounded by advertisements, changing logos, emails and more that said, ‘we are all in this together’. The pain was widely acknowledged and it was ok to not be ok. However, that message began fading a while ago. As we enter the holiday season around the world, lockdowns are getting harder to survive. Resilience is being tested. So, if there was ever a time to acknowledge, it is now. What we need is a second wave of acknowledgement to hit the world and give it some much needed strength.
- Design: Beethoven’s music rings with optimism even though he wrote it through pain and tears at a time when the world was not a great place to live in. As we design our way into this new world, I wanted to talk about how we design. Design is a method of envisioning the future, of which optimism is a foundational part. We need to imagine a better, optimistic future vs designing for a bleak one. Design, now more than ever, needs to evoke joy vs being purely functional (enter warm minimalism). We need to design to make one smile vs remove pain. For far too long we’ve been held back by dismissive opinions, pessimistic questions and the need to survive. Optimistic design needs to flow into both the process and the outcome. Consider conditional design, a method in which constraints spark unexpected outcomes through group exercises. Consider spending time on what truly matters and not be bogged down by everyday life.
The world is fast changing; it is accelerating things that could be and I do believe that design plays a fundamental role in it all. We are after all designers of the future. So go ahead – acknowledge that things aren’t the best and then muster all the optimism you can and let’s design our way out of it.
P.S: If you want to read more about optimistic design, I highly recommend this article. It says it better than I ever could.