COVID-19 and design.
What lessons has it given to those of us who work in the world of design?

How COVID-19 has put value on the culture of creativity, design and innovation.

In the face of a health emergency such as the one we are experiencing, we have seen a myriad of solutions that seek to cover new needs in order to alleviate the devastating effects that this pandemic is having on the health system, on the economic situation and on the daily life of people.

A context of great uncertainty that has valued the creative, innovative and collaborative capacity of our societies and that we have decided to analyze in depth, so that what we are experiencing will act as a learning for us in the near future. What lessons has COVID-19 given to those of us who work in the world of design?

3D printing, immediacy to respond to crisis contexts.

There are many solutions that have come to light in recent weeks that have been developed thanks to 3D printing. An alternative that has established itself as an option for the design and mass production of products with great immediacy and at a very low economic cost. An ideal alternative to respond to a situation of crisis and collapse characterized by requiring quick and effective solutions.

An example is the protective screens designed for sanitary equipment or the production of valves for the design of ventilators. Alternatives that aim to go where the usual resources are not enough and offer viable, scalable at the production level, economic and fast solutions.

protective screens covid-19

Another example is the field respirator designed by the Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona (CZFB), Leitat, the Consorci Sanitari de Terrassa and the Parc Taulí hospital in Sabadell, in collaboration with several companies. Together they have developed the first industrialized field 3D printed emergency respiration device to support hospitals and ICUs, medically validated and with scalable production capacity.

covid-19 and field respirator design by leitat, cst

The reuse of products to meet new needs.

If the human capacity for innovation is unlimited, in front of a crisis situation the solutions can be surprisingly creative, and they do not have to start from scratch, sometimes it is enough to reinvent the use of a product.

For instance, the work carried out by SEAT, which, based on the windscreen wiper motor, have used gears printed in the same factory, gearbox shafts and have designed a new model of emergency respirator that is beginning to be used in hospitals.

emergency respirator SEAT

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The value of DIY

In crisis situations in which resources are scarce, it is important to join efforts to find solutions almost immediately. It is at this point where the “Do It Yourself” concept makes the most sense. There are many health workers and people at higher risk who need equipment for their daily lives, hence everything that can be done from an individual point of view is a contribution to palliate the crisis situation.

In recent days there has been numerous tutorials on how to make masks that protect from COVID-19, instructions on the internet you can download to print protective masks with a 3D printer, and a lot of other alternatives thanks to which it is possible to increase the volume of solutions in a time of great need.

DIY masks

Designs more sustainable than ever

As we mentioned in our last post on circular economy, a sustainable design meets 3 principles: it must be made with recyclable products, have a remarkable durability and an easiness to be repaired or reused. One of the effects of this crisis is that it has put us in a situation of scarcity of resources that has forced us to resort to this type of design.

This is what has happened with Decatlhon’s well-known diving masks, initially designed for snorkeling and reused now for the production of high-flow oxygen masks.

Collaboration without limits

If there is something that the COVID situation has taught us, it is the collaborative capacity of society. Furthermore, many of the solutions that have appeared in the last few days would not have come to light without the selfless teamwork of the different agents involved. There are many online platforms that have emerged to connect all the people taking part in the design process.

The Coronavirus Makers Project is a great example, created with the intention of developing opensource plans and instructions so that anyone with a 3D printer can get down to work. According to reports, there are currently more than 10.000 makers coordinated through Telegram to create masks, respirators and cabins in record time.

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