Design Research-in-the-Moment: Eliciting Evolutive Traces during the Covid-19 Crisis




This paper presents a chronological account of design’s response to the Covid-19 crisis as it unfolded globally. From January to May 2020, we documented over 500 design interventions that have been created by individuals, networks, amateurs, professionals, and public and private organizations and institutions. This international response witnessed the rapid design and development of products, networks and systems such as facemasks, hospitals, infographics, respirators, sanitizers, and virtual communities all created in an effort to save us. In response to the Covid-19 virus the problems that the world faced were highly complex, interdependent, and could not be addressed by conventional means. As such, this paper presents over 500 design-led responses that illustrate comprehensively that when pressed we can find new ways of designing. In short, this work outlines what we might think of as a new model for designing. This new model does not describe a new condition to come after what we currently call design. Rather, what we witness here is the revival of the practice of design – from handmaiden of Capital to one of Care – which is expressed in a new critical attitude for looking at the design world, probing its practice, its theoretical position and its product.

Author Biographies

Paul Anthony Rodgers, University of Strathclyde

Paul Rodgers is Professor of Design at the University of Strathclyde, Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management (DMEM). He also holds the post of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Design Leadership Fellow. His research explores the discipline of design and how disruptive design interventions can enact positive change in health and social care and elsewhere. He holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Design from Middlesex University, London, and a PhD in Product Design Assessment from the University of Westminster, London. Prior to joining Strathclyde, he was Professor of Design at Imagination, Lancaster University, Professor of Design Issues at Northumbria University School of Design, Reader in Design at Edinburgh Napier University and a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, Engineering Design Centre. He has over 25 years of experience in product design research and has led several research projects in the UK. He is the author of more than 180 papers and 9 books on design and is the Series Editor for Routledge's Design Research for Change book series.

Fernando Galdon, Royal College of Art

Fernando Galdon is currently completing his PhD in Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art, London where he is investigating trust design at the intersection of AI, ethics, futures, and society. His research has been published and presented internationally at conferences at MIT, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, the University of Cote d'Azur, the Design Museum, London and the Royal College of Art. He holds an undergraduate degree in structural engineering and product design, and a masters degree in cognitive computing and design research from Goldsmiths, University of London. 

Craig Bremner, Charles Sturt University

Craig Bremner is Professor of Design at Charles Sturt University, Australia. Prior to this, he was Professor in Design Pedagogy at Northumbria University, UK, and before that Professor of Design at the University of Canberra, where he was also Dean of the Faculty of Design and Architecture. He holds a BA in Literature (UWA), a Masters in Design (Domus Academy, Milan) and a PhD (RMIT). His research deals with developing methods to discover how and why we don’t know much about the experience of design, as well as finding ways to clarify the reason why ‘not-knowing’ is an essential and valuable beginning point of practice. Some applications of his research methods have traced the experience of living in Glasgow, using banks and driving motorcars. In his private practice, he has curated design exhibitions in Australia, the USA, and Japan, and he has worked as a designer in Italy, Scotland and Australia.






Reviews and maps design responses and citizens' needs