Design in Times of COVID-19

March 2021 | News

Sustainability, design, technology, craftsmanship, economy, people, communication, flexibility, change, uncertainty... have all been some of the most frequently used terms over the past year. Twelve months of profound ecological, demographic and social transformations that have led us to a world full of challenges and difficulties, although not without its opportunities. A blank canvas to redesign the world from a multidisciplinary approach, to reinvent new ways of living, working and forging relationships. 

The pandemic has brought the capacity of design to solve new problems to the forefront, not only as a link between society and its environment, but also as a factor of change in an industry that combines traditional functions with increasingly ecological and sustainable technology. As a key instrument in the reconstruction of the current economic system, design must cease to be differentiating, unique and exclusive and become part of people´s lives, through easily accessible and functional furniture that provide value and well-being. Honest and timeless solutions that, by combining creativity, technology and engineering, put users at the heart of them.
By combining different disciplines, this new way of redesigning the world chooses to act locally to solve global problems, from an ethical and sustainable ideal where aesthetics and functionality come together. If, in the past, the major challenge was the digital world, now it is ecology and the circular economy in the design and manufacturing process, as well as at the user level. The industry´s companies and professionals are responsible for raising environmental awareness in the consumer through designs that, at the end of their useful life, can be broken down and reintroduced into the system.
New, more collaborative, creative and environmentally friendly work models, changes in production methods and more sustainable forms of mobility are at the heart of the ´new normal´. A reality to which contemporary homes have had to adapt, as versatile spaces that are also used as offices, schools, recreational spaces, spaces where relationships are forged, as well as leisure spaces. Makeshift solutions, with dining tables that transform into shared desks for working and studying, or living rooms transformed into gyms, have underlined the role of design as a fundamental tool when it comes to providing innovative solutions.

Everywhere from homes to cities, COVID-19 has brought about a paradigm shift in the models that had been accepted until now. A new form of relationship between the public, the semi-public, the semi-private and the private, which, on an urban scale, leads to new and healthier forms of mobility and use of free space. Integrating society into the design process and putting people at the heart of the project is of the utmost importance if we wish to build sustainable cities, with flexible and reversible spaces that greatly increase the spaces set aside to be used by the public, and that foster relationships while improving their quality of life.

As a key player in the creation of flexible structures that provide short- and long-term solutions to cross-cutting challenges such as climate, technological progress and social welfare, design is an essential tool for moving towards new future scenarios that improve people´s lives while boosting economic growth. In addition to producing things, transmitting messages, and providing value and well-being, design is already playing an extremely important role in companies´ processes and organisational charts, where culture and strategy go hand in hand. As a lever for innovation and growth, the goal is to foster the transformative nature of design in society and industry, as a strategy for bringing together technology, economy and creativity. Enhancing the culture of design and making it a benchmark, which adds value while also generating profitability, is a challenge currently being undertaken by many companies.
This Madrid Design Festival reflects on all this for another yet, in an atypical edition with Valencia as a guest city. The city that will be the World Design Capital 2022 is taking part with ´Valencia Pavilion. The Future is Design´, an exhibition that presents five differentiated areas looking at the circular economy, contemporary industry and craftsmanship, design and art, technology and the transformative economy. Actiu is taking part with Karbon, the ultra-lightweight carbon fibre chair designed by ITEM DesignWorks, which innovates and researches new materials, shapes and processes that respect the environment and the creation of spaces that take care of those who use them.
Materials science thus emerges as a ´new technology´ that leads to a new aesthetic and functional dimension, where the obsession with shape gives way to more sensorial and tactile aspects such as gravity or materiality that appeal directly to the imagination and emotions. Innovation, engineering, processes and materials are of the utmost importance if we wish to move towards a circular economy and eco-design that is sustainable for the planet and society alike. 

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