Our Starting Point: Introducing the COVID-19 Design Directory

If design is anything, it’s responsive. So when the coronavirus upended all of our lives, we looked around and tried to take stock.

How is design responding to this moment?

What do we–as a field and network of practitioners–have to offer the world in a time of such deep, uncharted need?

What light is being let in that we, as designers, can magnify?

These questions are what birthed the COVID-19 Design Directory.

We felt the need then–and we anticipate a need in the future–to have a record of this moment. We also hope it can provide a means to track and ultimately to assess (to the extent possible), design’s response to the pandemic, in service of progress.

Most importantly, we hope the directory can do more than just inspire; we hope it can spur even more people, companies, and organizations to mobilize their resources and take action.

Early on we saw renderings and mockups of ventilators, masks and face shields, as well as social distancing tools flood the Internet from companies big and small–covered by websites like Co.Design, Dezeen, and designboom. Design schools and firms alike, most notably a collective called Operation PPE, took to 3D printing around the clock, iterating as they’ve learned.

Meanwhile, communications campaigns, like this one created by IDEO.org and Alight, helped spread the word about COVID-19, while studios like Fuseproject deployed its brand team to produce lighter-hearted imagery on very serious needs like social distancing and hand washing.

Some organizations have even effectively open-sourced their expertise. MASS Design Group drew on its decade of experience around contagion and infectious disease by publishing briefs on the redesign of hospitals of on the fly, makeshift tent clinics, restaurants, and most recently prisons in this new era of COVID-19.

All of these efforts are documented in The Directory.

With just over 100 entries, we KNOW the directory is only scratching the surface. So we will keep connecting the dots, keep expanding and deepening our and your understanding of what designers are doing to rise to this unprecedented occasion.

While hoping to expand our search and sort functionality in the future, for now we have grouped our findings to date in three big buckets:

1. Personal Protection Equipment
Masks, shields, and other physical tools for frontline workers.

2. Safety Guidelines & Campaigns
Research, PSAs, and service design that can support critical behavioral change.

3. Physical & Social Distancing
Ways of retaining and rebuilding our vital human instinct to gather.

Again, this is just a starting point. We anticipate many more solutions and even higher-quality submissions as the pandemic evolves.

We especially hope that The Designer’s Pledge can guide designers to ask questions and truly listen to those they are trying to serve.

We also hope as overlapping interests and projects become clear, coordination and collaboration will arise across entities that might normally compete.

And we hope you will build this with us, by submitting or suggesting projects as well as ways we might improve and expand this work.


John Cary is the author of Design for Good. Jocelyn Wyatt is the CEO of IDEO.org. Together, they co-chair and lead The Design Vanguard.



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