All for one and one for all — how can design fight a virus?

All for one and one for all — how can design fight a virus?

The time has come for all to be united in this unbalanced fight against a common enemy, where every weapon counts.

Health staff everywhere are in need of equipment to protect themselves from the virus while attending to the needs of their patients. Although supply may still exist from established manufacturers, demand has grown so exponentially and spread so globally that caretakers everywhere have had to resort to all kinds of do-it-yourself gimmicks to try and solve their needs.

Quite quickly though, designers, schools and companies everywhere with know-how and a 3D-printer (also known as rapid prototyping machine) saw a chance to deploy their knowledge, equipment and in some cases facilities, for the greater good, and started producing face masks, protective visors, and even spare valves for the quintessential life-saving ventilators.

Help throughout the planet has come in all shapes and forms, asserting the power of design to provide for the care of humanity: designers everywhere have created prototypes for protective equipment — mainly visors, which are easier to produce due to their low technical specifications — testing them on their local health facilities and adjusting their design overnight according to the health professionals feedback, and then releasing their designs online so that anyone with a 3D printer can use them to manufacture protective gear.

Some designers have used their observation skills and design thinking to go a step further and find other needs, for instance by creating special door handles to allow hospital staff to open doors with their elbows instead of their hands, because upon observation and conversation with doctors and nurses they found out that a lot of protective gloves were being wasted because of the need to touch door handles with their hands so much.

There have been places where this has been the sole resource for the supply of protective gear, at least temporarily, and elsewhere it has always been a very welcome complement to the regular supply from traditional manufacturers. Reportedly most of these popular supplies are offered without any compensation by the health services, police or fire departments, which goes a long way to show how humanity has the ability to be brought together in a moment of struggle: all for one and one for all.

Armando VILAS-BOAS
Course Leader of the BA & MA in Design

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