Design for Products, Services and More After Transition

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Design for Products, Services and more after Transition.

Confined to the relatively small (or large) spaces of houses and apartments, maybe surrounded by crowded cities and large regions, we ask ourselves more and more questions about our models of life and development. The ability to resist and resilience to this situation and these life changes has given new meaning to ideas, concepts, or expectations that we believed to be clear, also creating new anxieties.

Of course, we will live in a new form of normality. However, I don’t think the impact of this pandemic will create a change, rather an acceleration to a change that was already underway.

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What are the areas where there are already signs of change but that have not been addressed and re-thought? What should we “plan for” in preparation for this new tomorrow? What will emerge as differentiating factors for brands, and areas of competition for many businesses and opportunities for new ventures?

Many of the considerations reported here may perhaps be incomplete, and some will require more detailed insights, but in many cases, we have sufficient information to frame a potential future.

Design for Physical Products & Services

I expect to see a growing interest in the design and development of product self-care solutions. In fact, there are already many ideas circulating about materials capable of self-removing/limiting or highlighting the presence of bacteria, mold and so on. But if before these materials were applied only in a medical context or in the manufacture of mattresses, then tomorrow they could be used in the manufacture of many other products including clothing. Imagine in the fashion sector a Turtleneck Sweater (a trivial but identifying example) where the neck can be used as a filtering mask if necessary. Or materials capable of highlighting the presence of bacteria through the emission of signals directly to our app. After all, technologies such as 5G allow the implementation and low consumption connection of PAN (personal area networks) interconnect any object.

UV Light Effect

But continuing on the preventive aspect, perhaps our homes will have to have a sort of “sanitization hub”. A space or an object where every time we go home we will place our phone, wallet, or whatever, where special UV light will identify the urgent need to disinfect.

In Ohio, a startup is experimenting with self-decontaminating boxes and containers, where, with each reuse, they can guarantee a specific sanitizing standard.

Another interesting area to observe could be the growing interest in specialization such as shared-product design. In a society where renting and sharing has become cheaper than buying, the problem of how to design products designed for group possession rather than single possession will be a further area of focus.

While from the point of view of service design, we have already perceived that the need to change behavioral habits is crucial. From maintaining a six-foot distance to contactless/touch-less policies in crowded spaces such as supermarkets, theaters and museums, they will become normal. Companies such as 7-Eleven, Amazon, FutureProof and Postmates have introduced contactless checkout options, helping themselves with existing mobile checkout systems. The demand for Service Design in all public and private sectors will see a strong interest in the next 18 months.

Particular attention will also be given to aspects of automation design. The need to guarantee an entire supply chain unrelated to contamination will increase the demand for the automation of processes and services, not only with robotic but also digital solutions. Increasingly, the need for integrated skills capable of delivering not pieces of technology, but solutions that add value to the audience experience by including multidisciplinary aspects, will bring a major facelift to companies in the technological, consultancy and strategic sector. While automation solutions must integrate by moving our society to a new cybernetic or augmented-technologies level, the human aspect cannot and must not be completely removed(Cybernetic as a symbiotic union of human and technological components as a single entity)

Design for Digital Products & Services

The sector of digital products and services will continue its rapid evolution, diversifying and implementing already known needs thanks to a general increase in attention and awareness from your audience.

Cashless will increasingly become more of a hot topic for many retailers, not limited only to mobile and/or digital checkout solutions. Cashless shopping experience solutions will open very delicate scenarios such as data management, data integration, digital loyalty programs and the development of micro-credit lines owned by the retailers themselves. Obviously, this incremental innovation effort will not be accessible to everyone, especially small businesses. For this reason I expect a flourishing of startups capable of building an ecosystem of solutions shared and accessible also to private individuals.

The FinTech sector, especially in Europe, will finally see maturity by creating an ecosystem that acts as a real alternative to the traditional banking sector, where traditional brands will increasingly become trustees of the digital ecosystem.

Many are betting on the demise of cash because contact with it can possibly transfer a virus. Despite this, not only do we not currently have scientific evidence in this regard but we well know how in certain economic and cultural models there is a strong reluctance to abandon cash, due to the generational or technological digital divide.

In India a few years ago there was an exponential spread of digital payments following a lack of cash in circulation. The US government during the pandemic of SARS-COV-2 considered providing economic aid to the population by issuing a digital currency. To date, this has not happened but the consideration speaks volumes.

This cashless migration will not be immediate and must be carefully mitigated, bringing skills such as Inclusion Design (or Design for Inclusion) to the front stage of each expertise. The management of personal and contextual handicaps such as technological access to older generations, or the hybrid management of a digital and analogical context will define the growth or stall of many B2C businesses.

But the experience of the quarantine has deeply marked us, and the maturation of the idea that this not only can happen again but become a practice for a longer period is opening the door to a new and more dangerous enemy in the growth of each business: fear.

We are afraid of what we touch, of those around us, of using digital services that we have never used, of doing things differently in a way we have never done before, and that natural human impulse leads each of us to be afraid of what we don’t know.

In response to this, two aspects I consider to be worthy of attention: Skills such as cognitive design, semantic analysis, and the removal of technological silos in data integration will be necessary to be present in every business & marketing decision table, as essential tools to discover, monitor and stem fear in the market. The “uberization” of many product sectors will be almost immediate. In large cities, it is almost normal but in sub-urban or peripheral areas it is not.

The request for deliveries or transfer of products such as food, drugs or laundry will become a necessity by continuing the transformation of the personal mobility and service system. Amazon could transform the delivery system as a third business unit alongside AWS in terms of revenue. Startups in the mobility sector and services for mobility will continue to flourish, creating in the short term an incredible market of acquisitions from major players.

Finally e-commerce services. Similar to the movement that created the B-Corp, model and certification, a new trend is spreading organically in the market, called radical transparency. More and more consumers buy by directing their purchases towards brands and products in which factors such as inclusion, ethics, and sustainability define their business models.

For example: I buy a certain product “A” because the company that produces it has a fair number of men and women within it (or ethnic groups); where every single individual who collaborates in the supply chain is correctly paid and guaranteed their physical and emotional security (e.g. Uber drivers); where every choice is made with a view to ecological sustainability (e.g. use of materials or production processes); where the company recognizes a % of its profit or product margin in compensation or in support of an improvement in the well-being of a specific community in some way significant for the business itself (Social Good).

Transparency not only in what happens in the supply chain of the production and purchase process of a product but also the social and ecological impact that this has will become the new driving factor of differentiation and growth for each e-commerce platform. We should also remember that distrust of the context of the origin of products is already estimated to impact global traffic and tradeespecially towards China. For this reason, once again the pandemic will act as an accelerating factor for aspects such as radical transparency, especially in the e-commerce sector.

Design for Spaces & Environments

Not only architects, interior designers or events managers are asking themselves many questions about how the pandemic experience will change the priorities of their work, but also companies, builders, operators of real estate or simply owners of meeting places. They are all wondering how this will cause changes to their strategic plans.

Physical Distance (commonly mistakenly called “social distance”) is definitely the term of the year, with which theaters, restaurants, bars, clubs, retails, etc.. will have to deal for a long time. Everyone will have to establish new policies in terms of safety-distance, constant sanitization, prevention, social interaction, service delivery and more.

Should we wear gloves and a mask every time we go to the cinema? Or for the first time will we see the long-awaited cinema premiere directly on our TV on demand? And yes, in order to survive, cinemas will have to offer a different, perhaps more immersive experience, transforming the entire industry once again. (Disney is considering anticipating the launch of some film titles on the Disney+ platform a few weeks after its theater debut, inversely to what Netflix has experimented with the Irishman and other titles)

Every time we go to a restaurant and look at a menu in the window, will we also see a list of what daily health checks each employee has undergone and the result of this check? (in China during the quarantine, restaurants began to accompany home orders with a certification showing the names and surnames of each employee, daily body temperature and prevention measures taken during food preparation)

And if delivery service will become a commodity for everyone, even for 5-star restaurants, how will this change the idea of ​​restaurant and food design?

Will we see new skills such as safety or prevention design, where we will evaluate solutions to prevent unsafe environments and situations in the spread of potential future viruses? Just think of air conditioning systems.

In order to mitigate these needs, many companies are introducing — depending on their audience — “seniors hours” to serve elderly people with a higher level of prevention and a more inclusive service. Still, others, as mentioned before, are implementing protocols of no-contact work & no-contact delivery, requesting the introduction of new forms of protection, changing spaces for different uses, managing distances, anxiety, confusion and indiscipline of many individuals.

But all this reduces the human aspect, that deep connection that normally binds the consumer with the business itself, a problem that every designer will have to face more and more.

Design for Data & Privacy

The pandemic has confronted us with a paradigm, well known, but which will now have to be addressed: data and personal privacy. Despite its questionable model due to its strong government presence in the access and use of personal data, China has proved to be more efficient in dealing with situations like the one we are experiencing today. The monitoring of positive patients, the distribution and movement of people, communication, but above all the opportunity to produce useful collective information in terms of reaction and safety, is making us reconsider the position of many on the subject of data and privacy.

Hong Kong has introduced the obligation of GPS bracelets for every foreigner visiting or in transit; Korea invites citizens to opt for apps for the constant and continuous tracking of people’s movements so as to offer communities contextual and useful information.

Google from its position, requalifies the data that it was already using on Google Maps for traffic evaluation, in monitoring the behavior of citizens during the quarantine to predict areas at risk or possible outbreaks of viruses.

It is clear that there is a need to define a new data and privacy management model that distinguishes security & privacy, personal and collective, in particular:

Design for Digital Identity

To date, digital identity is still too often limited in terms of use, but in an integrated context, it will be crucial not only for recognition but also for authorizing our freedom. Our medical records, the fact that we are positive or not to a certain pandemic virus or that we have already developed antibodies to it, could define access to work or entertainment environments. Despite this, it seems to violate principles of privacy and discrimination. On the other hand, it supports the idea of ​​collective security, which many people in uncertain conditions might prefer.

For years we have been discussing “Data-Pods”, or a system (digital container) for which each individual is the owner and manager of their data, deciding what and to whom to give their information and for what purpose (personal ownership & benefit). The benefit that I consider here is not only in terms of commercial benefits or incentives, but also in a perspective of shared value and community: your network of friends, your company, your neighborhood, your city. All the data produced by these groups to date are neither safeguarded nor often used or monetised (for the benefit of the group).

In many American cities, there is a conversation about data produced by LiDar on autonomous vehicle systems and the data produced by Google on the movement of devices. Those data are produced by private entities, but the context that allows the production of such data remains the citizens and the cities themselves, therefore the public community remains co-participant and owner of the information produced (collective ownership & benefits).

The pandemic has highlighted how it is necessary to create an infrastructure and design an operational model so that each of us can make our data available at different collective levels for a common purpose.

However, the real problem remains the responsibility of security and of those who can operate as a trustee. Apple was the first to take the road again after the embarrassing case of Facebook. While in China the government plays a central role, and in the West we rely on cloud infrastructures of individual brands such as Amazon. Considering that data is increasingly considered a purchase currency, perhaps banks should move in this context and become our trustees in the management of money and information. What is certain is that the market is potentially huge and increasingly relevant.

Design for Social Good

Born in the context of the movement of counterculture in the 1960s, the feeling of community, of belonging to a system in which all women and men are interconnected is increasingly strong. The Internet then connected and brought us all together, paving the way for aspects such as “Collectivism” and “System Consciousness,” embraced by the new generations, bringing our society from the concept of “Age of I” to “Age of We.”

A world where collective value is on an equal footing with individual value, Social Good becomes one of the new metrics alongside eco-sustainability for every business. The pandemic is once again highlighting brands/businesses that have already adopted this approach, transforming it into a competitive advantage and, therefore, a reason for market growth.

During the pandemic, were seen to fabric retailers transformed into protective mask manufacturing centers and provide online classes on how to manufacture independently. Uber and Lyft have transformed advertising budgets into Free-rides in the most affected areas. Walmart turned its parking lots in a drive-thru covid19 test service.

Brands or Marketing push creative ideas that they talk about themselves, but following a socially produced value. An example above all, the first brand campaign of Whatsapp, where neither functionality nor technology, nor the benefit to an individual, is highlighted, but the value that the tool gives to the collective community.

Google evaluates AI solutions in terms of Social Good rather than efficiency. Mars includes well-Being and Social Good as evaluation factors of each GNP.

On the contrary, a new and lower enemy appears on the horizon: the spread of fear and distrust of the future, a real new brake on the growth of every post-pandemic business. For this reason, if not, we can create or communicate solutions capable of producing Social Good, there will be no room for growth.

Design for Information

2020 will remember not only the first pandemic of the millennium but also the first Infodemia in history. For the first time, information has circulated faster and more widely than understanding the situation itself. And although this may sound like a decisive factor, it wasn’t in this case.

From the case of Cambridge Analytica a few years ago to the falsification of reality through Fake News up to the “bubble” effect of social media, they still create a controversial perception of reality personally, of which we even pay the costs.

The democratization of the dissemination of information, especially considering the explosion of influencers of all kinds capable of producing genuine and immersive content, has created a failure on the trust of official information channels, often not competitive in terms of transparency and immediacy.

We have had evidence of how, since the beginning of Wuhan’s case. Public opinion has been divided between those who were alarmed and those who were reassured, both with due cause, both supported by the stories, facts & news. Still, none of whom with access or education to evaluate and verify what is in hand. The behavior of every single government, no one excluded, summarized its phenomenon.

Facebook, on its side — as well as Google later followed by Apple — they have experimented with new hybrid forms of news democratization. An attempt is thus made to create a guide to the evaluation of information, contextualizing official sources while reading the news generated by the private entities.

Whatsapp and Telegram, instead, after testing the creation of channels dedicated to the request for news verification during the political elections in India, today, they use the same approach for the pandemic. The road is still long, but the need to design a better information system capable of balancing and comparing different perspectives remains of primary importance to face future emergencies.

Design for Education

Thousands of private and public schools have closed in the middle of the current school year, and probably not to reopen until the next. Parents, teachers, and school districts found themselves having to reinvent an operating model to continue the educational program through “online classes” in which parents, students are an active part of all this.

Companies like Google immediately adapted and made available many of their tools for this purpose. Still, many other companies already operating in this space have seen exponential growth and market penetration due to the SAR-COV2 Pandemic. Newsela, multi-grade tests & content classes catalog, is growing faster and faster in the US, preparing thus for an internationalization of the platform. In China, Yuanfudao, an online education platform, has just raised $ 1B (Series G funding), reaching a market valuation of $ 7.8B. Zoom, an online conference platform, since the beginning of the pandemic, its market value at $ 42b has gone from about 10mil users to 200mil skyrocketing in a few weeks, where the use at the end of the school represents one of the primary growth factors.

The market is proliferating driven by the coronavirus situation, but let’s be clear, the trend of home-learning like many others was already underway. In 2019, home-schooling cases in the US were estimated at + 2.5mil. More and more parents in recent years have started to prefer an education within the home or partially remote for many reasons, some of which:

  • Management and family problems (such as travel and work).
  • Preventive and protective actions from phenomena such as bullying or social violence (shootings)
  • Safety for environmental causes such as hurricanes and floods
  • Gentrification and lack of nearby schools deemed suitable
  • Lifestyle or different beliefs (religions, political, etc.)

In the next 18 months post-pandemic, the Homeschooling model will enter the normality of more and more people, changing priorities, needs but also opening up new and unexplored scenarios.

One of which could be school virtualizationSchools-as-a-service, where teachers, increasingly similar to influencers or celebrities, could be included in exclusively online multi-grades educational programs.

Parents or the children themselves will be able thus to choose which imprinting to give (or have) by opening scenarios that are unthinkable today. Let us also remember for those who see these distant or unreal dynamics, that the university world for decades has taught that at the same time they are businessmen and influencers (ex: Scott Galloway, professors at NYU)

Investments in EduTech will become the new space in which to look for the next unicorn startups in how many new local-to-global marketplace models.

Design for education will increasingly be a necessary skill. Aspects such as inclusion, ethics, social education & interaction will have to be present in a hybrid physical-virtual context and where parents, together with teachers, will be increasingly involved in education. Decentralization and security of control of the educational model will also be a further necessity to avoid forms of manipulation of the education of young minds

Design for Working Environment

During the days of quarantine or shelter-in-place, millions of people discovered the meaning, the problems, and the dynamics of working from home. Today we have thousands of tools, and ways-operands, developed by those who have worked remotely in the world of digital technology in the past 20 years. This experience has helped many to manage and continue their work but has also questioned the need to go to the office every day.

Quarantines, or the need to maintain a physical distance, will still be more and more present in our daily lives, or at least they will be present for a while. This requires rethinking not only spaces but also how to manage a hybrid model from work-in-office and work-from-remote.

The offices will continue the trend of removing desks and fixed places, preferring mobile, and shared workstations. People will go to the office on different days, work differently, in functions of those who will share the same space, and based on what they will do. The office space will be reduced as the utilization rate will drop dramatically, while new forms of control and security policies will change access for all of us.

New technological tools will be needed. More and more startups are collecting investments with frictionless work-tracking products, such as monitoring presence, activities but also attention to the terminal, creating an ambiguous space between ethics and work privacy. People contest that in a context of work from home, the privacy of the area they use (in certain proximity, it is no longer personal but shared.

Design for a better working environment, in the office or at home, requires a new design effort increasingly to spaces, objects, and digital tools, redefining privacy models, establishing ethical rules, but also safeguarding the well-being of the individual.

Design for Living Environment & Real Estate

But our homes will also change. The possibility of remaining stuck in our other occasions homes will make us reconsider what our needs are. We will look much more carefully at the choice and distribution of spaces and their use. Many doctors and architects already mention how the house should also be designed to be the first hospitalization rather than a hospital. Even create new rules of hygiene and change our behaviors every time we enter a home.

Some may say that it all boils down to common sense and perhaps too often lost manners, but we will all take off our shoes before entering. For years, new buildings in cities have increasingly turned into independent micro villages inclusive of every need from micro supermarkets, gyms, shared working and recreational spaces, and perhaps shortly also in medical and gardening areas. In this regard, it is curious how the trend of home-gardening solutions to grow their vegetables and vegetables has also been growing for several years.

Real estate in urban areas will have to reconsider the factors with which people will choose the next home or housing area. For years, factors such as proximity to work and school quality have always played a key role. Today, however, in a scenario where you work and study from home for a large part of the time, the decision parameters change. The wellbeing value produces a specific area, plus being the new choice factor. The problem that measuring wellbeing is not straightforward.

Design for a living environment will bring many new and exciting considerations that will change our needs.

Design for Wellbeing

WellTech will increasingly become a growing market. The pandemic not only spread fear and mistrust among people, two feelings that took time to fade but also made thousands of jobs disappear, closed small businesses, cut wages, and killed dreams. We have lived experiences of isolation, we have discovered and re-evaluated the value of our friendships and often with bitter surprises. The risk of outbreaks and consequently, strict control strategies in many areas will cause much more social than economic harm.

If we then superimpose the constant increase in health costs, access to quality food, access to education, etc., it becomes increasingly clear how the maintenance of the well-being of all of us must become preventive as the cure could become no longer economically viable.

The sector self-care grows exponentially. Online fitness training (Peloton currently has a market capitalization of $ 8b), functional-foodsleep-supportmeditation apps, are just some of the solutions increasingly requested by the market, not only from a prospect for private use but also for business.

The well Being at work is growing, reaching about $ 48 billion market value, becoming a strategic asset in terms of growth and competitiveness.

But what does Design for wellbeing mean? It means designing solutions to help people to deal with adversity, preserving the soul and the body, improve our lives, and trigger behavior change for better balance, harmony, and social good. The main areas of demand to date are:

  • Emotional Enhancement
  • Purpose and Meaning
  • Emotional Skills and Support
  • Sleep
  • Purpose and Meaning
  • Homecare
  • Consciousness Enhancement
  • Cognitive Enhancement
  • Social Wellness and Connecting
  • Mental Support
  • Happiness
  • Stress and Anxiety

Design for Distributed Manufacturing

Fear of contagion, exponential demand production, and distribution of equipment and other products have created many management problems both for those who produce them and for those who need them.

For years there has been talking of decentralization of the industry, that is the ability not to concentrate the almost total manufacture of a specific product in a single production plant but to distribute the production chain in such a way that certain processes can be finalized in the vicinity of the consumer. Tesla is exploring how to get their cars assembled directly into different markets rather than shipping them out. Amazon for years has been acting as a publisher and printer for books, printing on demand every single book directly on the reference markets. Nike is transforming the shops in a last-mile personalization service, allowing customers to finalize the aesthetics of many shoe types.

During the pandemic, we saw sporting goods companies such as diving masks, providing instructions to modify them, printing additional components with a 3D printer, and transforming it into a respirator mask.

Decathlon snorkel mask modified for in-hospital use.

The University of Florida has designed an open-source medical fan, using components that can be purchased at any Home Depot or Lowe’s, allowing anyone to assemble their instrument on demand.

The decentralization of production will acquire an acceleration of demand today, where new products will and will have to be increasingly designed for finalization to the last mile. New startups will be born to facilitate this process, and a technological ecosystem will have to arise, acting as an immediate distribution system, reducing costs, times but above all, responding resiliently to the territory.

Design for a distributed industry requires particular attention. In essence, accessibility of resources, the sustainability of the product (in terms of use, maintenance and experience) need to match with an assessment of contextual handicaps, which are crucial for the finalization of the product.

Design for All for Transition

How do we design for trust: How to design to build trust, remove or mitigate fears?

How do we design for transparency: If fear is related to what we don’t know, how can we plan to increase transparency? And I don’t mean only on the origin of the products, but also on the context in which they have been managed, transited, in the choices or actions each business pursues.

How do we design for inclusion: personal handicaps such as age and immune system, or contextual handicaps such as access to technologies must be mitigated and managed equally in order not to exclude.

How do we design for ethics: Designing with ethics does not only mean ensuring physical and emotional security — factors are necessary to ensure inclusion — but also creating the conditions for ethical behavior to manifest. In the complexity of the hybrid digital-physical solutions in which we will increasingly see ourselves involved, they will require a great effort in this direction.

How do we design to empower people: In this way of uncertainties, differences, distributed handicaps, we must design products, solutions, and services that not only facilitate specific operations or works. We must create the conditions for everyone to understand rather than use, to open opportunities rather than solve a problem, to transform their experience rather than live a pre-packaged one. Only in this way will we create value for our audience.

Last but perhaps most important aspect that we should remember is that what the pandemic requires us, first of all, is not only to design a lot of aspects of our life and our work differently but above all to plan a transition.

The transition to a change (or mitigation) has the same importance and value (if not more) than the destination.

It is, in fact, in the transition that fear, distrust, urgency, necessity, confusion, and request for support are concentrated. It is in the development that the conditions necessary for the final solution are established. We must not underestimate.

Design for transition is not a forecast, far from it. It is more a memo for all of us who should rethink a better world, where every project requires a double interpretation.