The role of design in the new normal

While designers are adaptable creatures, the current health situation is bringing to light problems, changes and opportunities for the design field that make us wonder what is truly important and what is needed to readjust to the new normal

When Metafora got its first client, the group was working from four different cities: Kyoto, Copenhagen, Milan, and Shanghai.

The current situation given by the COVID 19 emergency has created new and in some cases unusual scenarios and approaches to work. It has pushed many employees to adopt “remote working” solutions and organize their workflow by relying on tools such as video calls and organization and file-sharing software.

For Metafora this is not a new situation. In 2017 we were working with a promising Italian startup, from 4 different countries in 3 different time zones. We spent a lot of time to figure out our methodology that nowadays is still helping us in managing works remotely with a high-quality outcome. The result is a common way of working and aligning ourselves which is the key point for us to have a fluid workflow.

New Normal Metafora - Metafora offices
© Metafora

Unless you live on Alderaan or another planet, you are aware that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Don’t worry, in this article we ain’t going to talk about it, there are more than enough articles about it. What we’ll discuss in this article is an exploration of the future “new normal” as seen by our studio.

“What goes up must come down”, we like to think that it works also the other way around. And no! We are not talking about the contagion curve. We like to think “positive”, so we believe that the advantages that the “future new normal” can bring to design and society are innumerable.

Digital transformation is obviously one of them, companies will continually adopt new digital solutions to improve their productivity. Tools will be up to date, cloud storage will become a must and everyone that works remotely is already starting to learn how to use all those things because it’s not an option anymore.

New Normal - COVID curve
© Metafora

As we mentioned before, we can be considered the lucky ones, the early adopters that after all are working in the same way as before. We hardly work in the same space and our clients come from all over the globe.

Remote workshops and presentations have always been part of our methodology. Tools like Trello help us to collaborate without useless alignment calls, and shared drives are treated as a relic by the whole team. We have alignment calls once a week, where after-work always comes pleasure. We can say that jokes, beers, and funny anecdotes are the fuel of Metafora.

Back to the current situation, this global challenge we are facing is rapidly contacting aspects like anthropology. This can be worrying but in many cases, it’s a great opportunity. The relation with our clients, for example, is changing.

It’s becoming more “humanized” because we share lots more things than before. We are all worried about our relatives, priorities are changing, the situation is unstable and let’s finally face it: we all stopped wearing trousers weeks ago!

The attention on employee safety and their needs has never been this high. This doesn’t mean we have the right solutions yet, but it’s a big step forward in our opinion.

New Normal Metafora - meetings before and now
© Metafora

It seems to us that designers were born for this kind of thing. Like in the movie Zombieland, where Columbus has a list of survival rules, designers have a list of methods focused on the improvement of human life. Now it needs improvement!

Problem-solving is one of our pillars, we can easily adapt to new tools and methods, therefore, this situation is an opportunity for us to teach our clients on how to improve their behavior. The process of project development is changing, and for years won’t be the same as before. Shared files, quick and productive meetings need to be implemented in almost every field of innovation.

A post-COVID situation will have people more used to online tools, able to work in different time zones, and saving time for that boring face-to-face meeting that is only stealing time from your agenda. This process will bring more inclusion of clients, project managers, designers, engineers, etc in the making of a project.

Allowing everyone to see the current status of everyone, have faster access to all the files needed, and be able to reach everyone in a minute. But there are also other aspects worth to be considered.

New Normal - overtooling
© Metafora

Some aspects and rituals are not made to be used online or in a remote environment. Yes, you can conduct a workshop online, sometimes with great results, but there’s always a greater response and more advantages (like seeing the reactions of participants and their expressions) which cannot be replaced by an online environment. And the workshop is just one of the many examples that we can make. 

We understood and we had proof that a lot of practices can be conducted online, with great advantages for both clients and designers.

But what COVID teaches us the most is the importance of decluttering, in both environments. A more clear view of what is important and worthy to be done, and not just because process and trends are suggesting that, but because is necessary for reaching the goal of the team.

If you want to know more about Metafora Design, don’t miss Metafora Design: “This is how 3D printing is shaping our design process”.

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