28 October 2020 Case

Covid proof Dutch Design Week

If we could have organised a live Dutch Design Week (DDW) during this pandemic, what would it have looked like corona-proof? Designers have unique answers to this. As part of What if Lab: a Covid Proof Design Week designers Imke Sloos, Anna Dienemann and The incredible machine design studio came up with innovative solutions.

How can we re-design the waiting time in queues? How can we ask people to take the 1.5 meter distance into account in a friendly way? How can we create our own designs to keep distance and how can we elegantly protect ourselves against people who are not taking the 1.5 meter into account? These are some of the questions Dutch Design Week (DDW) asked the designers. Before it became clear that the live event could not take place, the design community was already asked to think about ways to safely organise a live festival. The ideas that designers came up with for this challenge were supposed to be put into practice during DDW.

Social Distance Thing (image: Bart at Work)

Social Distance Thing

One of the designs that was ready to be put into practice during DDW is by industrial designers Harm van Beek and Marcel Schouwenaar from The incredible machine studio. They asked themselves: what if people around you don’t keep the 1.5 meter rule into account? How can you react to that in a fun way? With the credo ‘Stay home when you can, keep distance when you can’t, the designers developed the Social Distance Thing earlier this year, a personal social distancing laser projector with which you project a perfect circle of one and a half meters around you. By clearly visualizing this distance, the designers aim to create awareness of its necessity. In addition to being an at-home project, this simple DIY, open source design, can be used in public events like DDW to visually remind visitors to keep a safe distance from others. 

Bounding Spaces (Anna Dienemann)

Bounding Spaces

Anna Dienemann, who graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven this year, came up with an entirely different solution for the phenomenon of social distancing in public space: a piece of clothing to keep distance. As she assumes that social distancing will stay the norm in public spaces for a while, she thought it would be nice to claim our space in an elegant and playful way. Anna accordingly designed Bounding Spaces, a collection of wearables that somewhat resemble pop-up tents and are indeed inspired by that same mechanism; as soon as someone gets too close to you, you can spread out the garment you wear around your waist as a distance keeper in different organic shapes and patterns. Bouding Spaces wearables could have helped DDW crew, mainly those in crowded places such as ticketing locations, to stylishly protect themselves from visitors in a unique way.

Queuerator (image: Pieter Leijten)

The Queuerator

Also recently graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven is designer Imke Sloos, who – already during the first lockdown – investigated how waiting in queues can become a fun and social activity despite having to keep 1,5 meter distance from others. Her Queuerator is closely connected to her earlier social projects, where she designs with, amongst and for people who otherwise would not (quickly) come into contact with one another. Imke redesigns our waiting time by inventing a new kind of intimacy and communication. Imagine waiting in line for an exhibition at Klokgebouw during DDW and everyone has to keep 1.5 meter distance from one another. A “queue-manager” keeps an eye on everyone to make sure people stick to this, but at the same time makes the waiting experience fun. With Queuegym, for instance, an athletic track that makes people understand how much 1.5 meter actually is. Another intervention is the introduction of The Waiting Times, the most local newspaper that exists. Visitors interview each other, write articles and columns, and gossip spreads like wildfire throughout the queue, which you will then be able to read about in The Waiting Times while you wait.

These projects remained experiments for DDW20, but other event organisers have shown their interest already. The designers are ready for it. Without any adaptations, all three designs are ready to be used in public spaces – now and in the near future.