Design for Emergency: An Open Platform to Design and Implement User-Centered Solutions in the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Sara Colombo Northeastern University
  • Paolo Ciuccarelli Northeastern University



As a consequence of the lockdown enforced to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, people found themselves in a state of social isolation, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Design for Emergency is a data and design open platform launched to ideate and develop user-centered solutions addressing people’s needs and emotions during and after the lockdown. The project is made of four stages: data collection, data analysis & visualization, design, and implementation. The initiative started in Italy, but it soon became global, extending to 11 countries in three continents. As a result, we collected and visualized data about people’s experiences during the pandemic at a global level. Our ideas platform, still growing, includes 36 seed ideas of solutions helping individuals and communities cope with the pandemic. Ideas are openly available for development by anyone, and some of them are currently being implemented. This initiative can be used as a reference and a pilot project to create a framework for designing in situations of uncertainty, emergency, or crisis, where design can quickly discover and address emerging feelings and needs.

Author Biographies

Sara Colombo, Northeastern University

Research Scientist, Center for Design, College of Art, Media and Design

Paolo Ciuccarelli, Northeastern University

Professor, Center for Design, College of Art, Media and Design






Reflections on the design processes