Think back to last March for a moment. How many of us had campaigns that had to be changed for one reason or another? Maybe the imagery needed to be tweaked to add mask-wearing figures, or perhaps the visual of a crowded bar felt a little tone deaf all of a sudden?

The fact is, COVID-19 has changed the world over the past year — and design is no exception. From visually communicating pandemic best practices to our audiences, to adopting new ways to interact with customers, design has adapted and overcome. Here are three ways our industry has helped drive behavior change during the pandemic:


Visual Reinforcement of New Social Norms

Social distancing, mask wearing, outdoor dining — there are so many new behaviors in this new normal. And organizations have been forced to quickly pivot away from marketing that doesn’t responsibly represent these current social norms.

Modeling preferred behaviors, like wearing masks in stores, is now being reinforced by commercial brands in print, digital, and broadcast campaigns. Companies whose employees now work from home are making an effort to illustrate that culture in recruitment ads. And healthcare organizations are celebrating their role in the pandemic and the ongoing heroism of their staff in campaigns that show the everyday sacrifices, struggles, and triumphs of their team’s day-to-day work. 

As designers, our own work has also been impacted in the practical sense. We’re digging to find stock images featuring people in masks. We’re searching for new ways to talk about “these unprecedented times” in our copy. And we’re trying to combat pandemic fatigue, while still keeping these priorities top of mind in our creative efforts. 

This is a tall order, but it’s just one small way the creative industry is doing its part during the pandemic. 


Communicating Procedural Change

Because of COVID-19, businesses have had to find new workarounds to comply with health and safety guidelines, protect their employees and customers, and stay profitable. And the burden of communicating those changes has fallen to designers.

Signage to remind people to stay six feet apart can be found everywhere from parks to grocery stores. And it’s creative teams who have come up with those clear and concise ways to illustrate new guidelines in limited space, with limited copy. 

If you’ve dined out in the past 12 months, you may have noticed that physical menus have gone the way of the dinosaur. On-table placards directing patrons to scan to view menus are now the norm. By extension, that means integrating QR codes into design is a practice that, though once abandoned, has now been resurrected.

Contactless ordering and payment is also being embraced by fast food chains and many other industries. And all these new procedures have required design to communicate how individuals are expected to carry out their interactions. Designers have had to create in-store and online graphics to share directions with guests in an easy-to-understand manner — and in many cases, in a tone and manner appropriate for their brand’s voice and identity — from whimsical and humorous, to serious and trustworthy.


Showing Support and Creating Connection

The pandemic has been isolating for everyone — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stress and uncertainty, grief over the loss of normalcy, and economic hardship have created an escalating mental health crisis. 

Now more than ever, organizations are looking for ways to forge connections with others. In response, designers have been tasked with creating campaigns that tap into our shared struggles, create an emotional response, and celebrate the joys our altered world still has to offer. 

Feel-good campaigns create affinity for brands, and remind us that we’re all in this together. But design that provides a little bit of levity is also being embraced. 

From funny social media badges that use humor to unify, to light-hearted ads that remind us to celebrate the little things, design is also being used to bring a bit of sunshine to these sometimes darker days. 

And if our creative is making others feel better — even for a minute — that’s a win for our industry. 

How have you used design differently during the pandemic? Share your favorite examples in the comments! Or, if you need help creating a connection with your audiences during this pandemic, contact us today!

Erin Witt Headshot

Written by Erin Witt

"She believed she could, so she did."