The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the significance of communication design as an enabler to informing and educating the global population about the novel coronavirus, inculcating a behavioural change, fostering a sense of community and saving lives. The impact of COVID-19 on communication design can be summarised as an inflection point for the discipline that will redefine some trends as the world steps gears for the new normal.
During the initial months of the outbreak of COVID-19, an infographic with a call to ‘Flatten the Curve’ by Dew A. Harris, a population health analyst at Thomas Jefferson University in the USA, took over the social media by storm.
The massive user engagement with the infographic is the testimony to the bright future that lies ahead in this discipline. The analysis of the evolution of new trends, described below, will enhance our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on communication design.
Open, crisp and outward communication: The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered panic and anxiety among the global population. However, as the disease progressed, it brought forth the significance of open communication and acknowledging the magnitude of crisis with the ‘say less, say better’ approach in a simple language to avert the chances of an information overload and misinformation. Communication design played a key role in educating people on the new terminology such as ‘social distancing’, ‘quarantine’, ‘isolation’ by decoding them in simplest terms. We foresee open, crisp and outward communication to be the hallmarks of communication design in an endeavour to cater to each layperson in the post-COVID world.
Empathy, accuracy and transparency to be core values: With the entire world sailing in the same boat of uncertainty, empathy has gained new currency during this time. Empathic communication will be the key for the businesses and the public sector to engage with its target audience. The COVID-19 pandemic has already made a beginning in this regard. For instance, the term ‘Corona Warriors’ came into vogue amid the pandemic as a means of honouring the efforts of the healthcare fraternity. This new term evokes empathy and imagery of their relentless efforts of braving the transmission risk and everyday challenges while treating coronavirus positive patients.
The pandemic has also triggered a wave of infodemic on social media such as Facebook, Whatsapp groups owing to irresponsible reporting by certain factions. However, the pervasive impact of fact-checking communication such as infographics, especially of Dos and Don’ts, informative Tweets and press releases have curbed misinformation to a great extent.
Hence, we expect empathy accuracy, transparency and honesty to be the core values and guiding light for the communication design professionals to earn the goodwill and trust of consumers in the post-COVID world.
Significance of new age-skills: The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the indispensability of new-age skills such as design strategy, critical analysis, problem-solving and decision-making for a successful career in communication designing. These futuristic skills will help the workforce to tackle the economic exigencies and stay relevant amid the competition. We expect the revamping of communication designing courses with stress on practical components to enable the holistic development of the workforce amid the dynamic economic scenario.
Emphasis on vernacularisation and transcreation: COVID-19 necessitated the heightened awareness of the disease to curb its rapid transmission. This phenomenon accelerated vernacularisation in communication designing strategies in an endeavour to widen their reach. We foresee the continuity of this trend due to the penetration of the Internet connectivity and affordability of smartphones that have encouraged the vernacular audience to go digital. According to an estimate, out of 1.3 billion people, only 125 million speak in English. Moreover, a KPMG report predicts the Indian language internet users to grow Indian language internet users to increase at a CAGR of ~ 18% to 536 million in 2021. Entities need to also embrace the process of transcreation, that is, to adapt to the mindset and cultural context of their target audience. The vernacularisation and transcreation will allow communication design professionals to cater to global audiences across geographies, languages and cultures.
Technology to be an enabler to creativity and enhanced experience: Technology will be an enabler in communication design to drive creativity, maximize efficiency and offer curated experiences to the audience. From luxury brands like Lamborghini and IWC leveraging Augmented Reality (AR) during product launches to retail brands using Virtual Reality to sustain sales, COVID-19 has unlocked the maximum potential of technology in the discipline of communication design. The proliferation of technology will become the mainstay of this discipline in the post-COVID world. The use of creative design automation tools such as Invision (for drawing mock-ups), Filestage (for soliciting feedback) and Adobe Experience Manager, among others, will gain currency.
Innovation to be the soul of communication design: COVID-19 has underscored the need for agility and innovation to survive in this unprecedented time. This time has witnessed several innovations such as 3-D face shields, PPE kits, UV sterilization systems, among others. Similarly, service design has also evolved to cater to the new normal. For instance: Zomato has introduced a rider temperature display on the app to keep customers updated on the health status of delivery executives. Mona Chalabi, a renowned British data journalist, has published a series of Instagram posts advising people to practise social distancing and self-isolation and refrain from hoarding supplies.
In India, a Bengaluru-based artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy has designed eye-catching murals amid COVID-19. One of his artworks depicts the scene from the film Titanic where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) stand on the ship’s deck. These characters have been painted adhering to necessary precautions such as face masks and social distancing. All these innovations demonstrate the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking of design professionals to reinforce the significance of adhering to precautions and social distancing norms during COVID-19. Innovation is expected to become the cornerstone of communication designing in the post-COVID scenario.
Personalized end-user experiences as the goal of communication designing: Customized communication strategies will come into play in an endeavour to enhance end-user experience and maximize engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed the proliferation of this trend wherein the communication designing strategies to tackle COVID-19 were tailored and customized for global audiences taking their languages, cultures and contexts into consideration.
The COVID-19 has, moreover, reaffirmed the significance of communication and collaboration as key to navigating through unprecedented time with optimism. Hence, the pandemic has open vistas of opportunities for communication design graduates to pursue a career as graphic designers, web designers, interaction designers, UI/UX designers, product designers, among others. COVID-19 is indeed an opportunity in disguise that has reinvented the communication design landscape for a promising future.