Shaped by a pandemic

Harish Bhat | Updated on May 30, 2021

Post-Covid packaging for e-commerce, not store shelves   -  ISTOCK.COM

Harish Bhat

The Covid-altered look and feel of the world around us

The pandemic raging around us has deeply influenced many aspects of our lives. How we stay safe, work, travel, hug loved ones, remain optimistic and hopeful — all of this has changed dramatically. Another key area that has been impacted is aesthetics and design.

Colours of the year

At the start of 2021, the colour of the year was announced by the Pantone Institute. In a sharp departure from the norm, of announcing only one colour, Pantone put forward two defining colours for this year. There was illuminating yellow, a bright and cheerful colour, which can help dispel darkness, and represents the hope in all our hearts. Then, there was ultimate grey, a solid and resilient colour, but which also represents the many uncertain shades facing us during the pandemic.

Product design

Given the need for safety and social distancing, brands have focused on touch-free designs. For instance, hands-free water taps, hands-free latches in public toilets, or even the touch-free, pedal-operated sanitiser dispenser that is now a familiar fixture everywhere. Washroom accessories are being given durable microbial coatings, and some carpets and floor planks now feature the six-feet social distance markers.

Designers have also worked on bringing beauty to the must-have accessory of the pandemic. Face masks, which were earlier just plain coverings, now come in a wide range of attractive designs featuring bright floral patterns, calming colours or even slogans that convey your beliefs.

Packaging design

An interesting report published recently by McKinsey talks about how packaging will now have to take into account the heightened hygiene concerns of customers post pandemic. Hence, the need for appropriate packaging material substrates where viruses or germs cannot survive for long, and easy, low-touch opening and closing of food and beverage containers. In India, as many households grappling with lost jobs and lower incomes seek more affordable products, inexpensive packaging will become important. Also, as consumers increasingly buy digitally, marketers need to reimagine their packaging for e-commerce, instead of brick-and-mortar store shelves.

Home design

With work-from-home becoming widespread, we now look for homes that incorporate clear work-spaces in addition to living areas, even in smaller dwellings. Kitchen design has begun addressing the need for larger storage spaces, as we seek to make fewer trips to grocery stores. There is a trend towards creating private outdoor areas on balconies or roofs, where we can pursue activities such as home gardening to alleviate loneliness and stay in touch with the healing power of nature.

Office design

In the meanwhile, offices are preparing for a flexible workplace too, as some people come in, and others work from home. Instead of an array of individual workstations and a few meeting rooms thrown in, designers are now looking at offices as places primarily for collaboration, learning and culture-building.

Initial design trends also point towards smaller conference rooms that are Zoom-friendly, to seamlessly connect with colleagues at home. Spaces where colleagues can meet each other on the few days they come into office will also become integral to future office design.

Fonts and typefaces

Yet another area of aesthetics and design that is showing signs of pandemic-induced change is that of fonts and typefaces. Fonts visually convey to us various tones of written communication. For instance, bold Gothic typeface conveys a very different tone from an informal handwriting-led font.

There is evidence that softer, rounder fonts are now appearing in more places, as people caught in a warp of loneliness look for warmth and human connection at every interface. More material is read digitally today than ever before, particularly with the increase in e-commerce shopping as well. This is leading to the use of memorable fonts that can hold attention on a digital screen, yet connect in a human way.

In conclusion, it is clear that marketers and professionals will need to deeply reflect on how they are transforming their design approaches to best suit the needs of pandemic-impacted customers.

The writer is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views

Published on May 30, 2021

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