COVID-19, and the Business of Design

Indian Design Society
3 min readMay 7, 2020

Let’s face it, the trio doesn’t likely make a good combo- the proofs have been consistent and rife- but not all is lost.

As the world suffers from a raging pandemic and medical equipment fall short, India grimly looks at yet another extension of its originally 21-day lockdown. We are at a point where we might have hit a milestone in human history, the consequences extending beyond the pandemic, slowly seeping into the economy, the lifestyles, the businesses, and design.

As company after company report backorders, cancellations, and demands for a refund, many businesses, especially design startups, stand on a verge of ruin. The Indian economy, already disgruntled by the economic recession of 2019, looks worse. While large businesses in fashion and design struggle to maintain the balance, the lower levels of the supply management chain take the worst hit. For designers working at every level of this supply chain, the situation means more than just the lack of a financial shell- it means putting on hold weeks, months, and (in some instances) years of hard work and design planning, indefinitely. For the interior designers, the loss is both loud and worrisome as they take the worst hit. The irony is clear and alarming. There are no consumers and the market is closed.

What are we looking at?

Is it a recession or a changed lifestyle preference? For the design community, there are two things to worry about. The market we are looking at now isn’t the same as the one we left behind. Who are we designing for?

For design strategists and researchers, the question brings forth an exciting opportunity to explore. Circumstances like the COVID19 pose a design challenge and all designers love an obsession. The uncertainty behind each new development could be a groundbreaking revelation for the designers, researchers, and innovators. Design businesses should debate how a consumer would consume their product or service if their immediate requirement is their safety and survival? Or, how should a business re-align its communication design or (if possible) product development to build trust among its community of loyal customers? And lastly, how to achieve so with offices closed and employees working from their couch?

The good bits

Fortunately for designers, especially freelancers, working remotely, the financial hit is substantially softer in terms of the work opportunities still available for them. For design businesses though, this period demands surge in marketing. Advertising and interactive platforms like social media can help maintain brand visibility and thus, a good recall value for the clients once they emerge out. Finding ways to provide excellent remote services, gaining customer loyalty and a tech up-gradation to create a digital co-working space can be yet another go-to point for the design businesses to work on amidst the crisis.

Sure, the year hasn’t been an ideal mood board for work motivation- it has been challenging, unpredictable, and bold- but it presents us with plenty of opportunities, inspirations, and material to research for months after.

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