Walking around my neighbourhood has been very strange for a while now, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. I live right in the heart of my city (Bristol in the UK), which is usually bustling with people in the bars, restaurants and cafés, especially at this time of year. But since lockdown it’s been eerie, signs in every window with some variation of ‘Closed Indefinitely’, the people usually milling around replaced by hungry seagulls. I even missed the drunken revellers as I try to sleep on a Saturday night.
However, things are changing, and life is returning to the ghostly streets. ‘Super Saturday’ on July 4th marked the beginning of pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses reopening, albeit with new regulations and social distancing measures in place. This is great news on some levels, but has also hammered home the fact that we were perhaps naïve about things ‘getting back to normal’. The truth is, things are different now.
Our cities are different, and will continue to adapt. I’m sure if you’re part of the print and design community, you’re wondering what that means for our industry. Print needs to consider the future of design in our cities, public spaces, hospitality and retail spaces, and the crucial role it will play. Want to take a walk with me?
First stop, let me treat you to lunch. Dubai-based interior design studio Roar has conducted a trends report that looked at ways COVID-19 is changing restaurant design, and has found that ‘escapist’ restaurant interiors could be the ‘lasting design legacy of the pandemic’. People want original, special, and even ‘slightly surreal’ design concepts, as well as clean lines and flat, easily cleanable materials replacing the ornamentation and intricate objects that can collect microbes – a great opportunity for print.
Unfortunately, they think physical menus are off the table, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Listen to Lily Harder, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy at Comperemedia, talk about clever blends of print and tech in restaurants for reduced contact (and many more great insights) in this Podcasts from the Printerverse episode.
It’s a lovely afternoon, let’s walk off that meal. Creative agency Ask Us for Ideas created a design challenge, ‘Where We Stand’, for designers and agencies to respond to the need for social distancing in our urban spaces. The results included clever uses of AR in public parks, colourful graphic ‘islands’ on the ground of a public square with phonetic greetings in different languages, and transforming car parking spaces into pedestrianised areas with ‘parklets’, for people to sit and enjoy being outside while maintaining a safe distance.
Pedestrianisation is a big issue – the cobbled streets of my local area are set to be car-free for six months and possibly beyond, and it’s not just happening here. How will this affect the design of our cities going forward? The ‘Where We Stand’ challenge demonstrates the importance of safety mixed with aesthetics and convenience as we rethink our spaces, and print is perfectly placed to play a key part.
Any outing with me isn’t complete without a ‘quick’ browse around the shops. I touched on a number of ways coronavirus is changing retail design in my PMC blog Shopping in the Time of Corona: How Print and Tech Give Retail a Lifeline, and Deborah Corn and I explored the issue further in the podcast Print, Tech and Retail during Corona, so I really recommend checking those out.
With an uncertain retail landscape, low risk and low investment pop-up stores seem like an ideal format, and are already gaining traction. It also means designing from scratch with social distancing and safety in mind will be easy, and can even blend contactless technology with physical operations, something that’s harder to do with legacy in-store design. It also allows you to be agile and adapt quickly if something isn’t quite right. What could be more perfect for print than lots of pop-ups popping up?
Thanks for a great day out! I’m looking forward to seeing incredible design innovation with print front and centre as I walk around my city of the future.
Karis Copp is a UK-based writer, journalist, and communications expert. With a background as an editor and public relations specialist in the print industry, she now works on a freelance basis covering events, writing on industry news and trends, and working with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppMedia.