Adaptation in consumer behavior in the face of adversity is nothing new. Wars, famine, plagues, and, yes, even pandemics have proven to be breakers of social norms, consumer trends, and business models always. It's not a coincidence; it's science. And it's happening right now.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. "
When faced with major stress events in our environment, humans go through distinct stages in response: reaction, coping, and adaptation. Despite countless extinction-level events, the final has allowed us to survive and even thrive throughout our evolution. Fast-forward to 2020: Our species has ostensibly come a long way out of the cave, but our unique knack for adaptation still lingers.
What does the truth of these observations mean for product design? Quite a bit, actually.
Consumer Habits Die Hard but the Pandemic Likely Killed Some
For one, it tells us long-term changes in behavior are all but inevitable. Meaning we would do well as product designers to start designing for them. We cannot predict with any absolute certainty which consumer changes will stick and which ones will simply become a side-note in Covid history. However, when systematic change, rife with interdependencies, unfurls uncertainty worldwide, this is when human-centered product designers rise to the occasion--right? Our job, presumably, has always been to adapt our designs for a changing world--it's just happening a whole lot faster right now. It is a given that we can't control the future with our designs, but we can influence it, or at the very least rush to meet people's changing needs: short and long term.
Post-Pandemic Design Will Use Rolling Data to Predict Consumer Behavioral Shifts
Secondly, under the assumption that things will change, product designers, systems-thinkers, industrial designers, and the like should retreat to the data, seeking out as much consumer data as possible. Both pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic, and (fingers-crossed) post-pandemic behaviors will become critical to helping us understand the new world we will be designing for. Only by evaluating what changed, what's changed back, and what is still changing will we be able to extract clues to what the new norms may be. Below are some of our own insights into the type of world product designers will be designing for post-pandemic. Are these scenarios certain? Heck, no. But even if our assumptions prove to be failable, good data, the correct data, is not. And getting back into a rose-tinted "beginners mindset" of optimistically imagining a new, better world designed by us--is best by far.
What's to Come: Pandemic Driven Human-Centered Design
In our upcoming segments, we will explore the potential shifts in consumer behaviors in three areas: healthcare, sustainability, and retail. We will do this by looking at the compensating behaviors displayed over the last two years and the data around them. Under the pretense that people like the new ways better than the old, or at least parts of them, we'll start making educated guesses. We'll ideate some on new products and services but more so on improving emerging ones. Most of all, we will seek to spark design provocations for those eager to make an impact: Transitional times like these, after all, are when good industrial designers become great. Why? Because they're the ones that will rise to the challenge and develop the human-centered solutions that define this brave, new world and inspire an entire generation.
We hope you will join us for the next installment of the series: Post Pandemic: A World Where Home and Health Will Continue to Intersect