#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - EUK 03
Updated: Aug 24
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Gurvinder Khurana - Co-owner and Design Director at align
William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy
Michael Lambrianos - Managing Director at Wiesner Hager UK
Christine Losecaat MBE FRSA- Founder and CEO at Little Dipper, Chair and Trustee at ADVANCE charity
Pippa Nissen - Director Nissen Richards Studio
Phil Nutley - Head of Experience Design at CCD Design & Ergonomics
Paul Priestman - Chairman at PriestmanGoode
Advance Charity - chaired by Christine Losecaat
Workplace by Gary Hustwit (the construction of the New York headquarters of digital agency R/GA (in collaboration with architects Foster + Partners)
I think embracing cycling and walking properly in the way that people travel around in towns and cities is the way forward, as well as the health benefits, of course - Paul Priestman
People are still trying to digest what's happened, so they haven't come back on stream yet - Gurvinder Khurana
People won't want to travel in every day, but they'll want human connection and a sense of belonging, which I think is what so many people have struggled with - Gurvinder Khurana
We are pack animals at the end of the day, we build relationships on a one-to-one basis, and we really like to do it face-to-face and I don't think that will change - Christine Loscaat
How do you deal with digital poverty? It's one thing to say we'll all go on zoom but not everybody has access to this - Christine Loscaat
One thing that we're struggling with now is thinking about how we're going to reinvent ourselves and go back to our office and have that kind of studio culture - Pippa Nissen
It's been quite interesting because it's almost brought a lot of different individuals and different businesses onto an even playing field - Michael Lambrianos
So what [MovePlan] were able to find is that varying degrees of [office] underutilisation is in all global regions across all industry sectors. And so, for traditional workstations, you had about 55% average utilisation, which was still better than conference rooms at about 43%. And alternative work settings...less than 30% - Michael Lambrianos
We need to take the best knowledge that we have, the best insights that we have about the future of work and workplace because office buildings are empty - Michael Lambrianos
In the age of COVID-19, open plan is the antithesis of social distancing - Michael Lambrianos
The new normal will see the workforce expecting a much, much greater, more flexible approach to the way we work and a huge reduction in real estate needs - Michael Lambrianos
In a world of workplace interiors, we've been hearing about flexible working for many, many years, but very few companies seem to practice it in reality, despite suggesting that they do in their marketing - Michael Lambrianos
I read a New York Times article which had a lovely quote from Dov Seidman, the American author and columnist, who said, "when you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. But when you press the pause button on a human being, they start. That's when they begin to rethink and reimagine." - Phil Nutley
Get back to trust, you know, people have lost trust in governments, in the medical system, in themselves and their neighbours - Christine Loscaat
Mark Bergin 00:01
Hello everyone, and welcome to the third of the Beyond COVID Europe and UK Town Halls that the Design Executive Club is doing. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN Award Programs and I'm joined by an incredible array of people that we will get through and introduce to you as we go through the Town Hall. What we've tried to focus on in this session is the Rebound and also the reimagining that's going to take place in this COVID cycle. We've seen that, you know, for a lot of people that they jumped out of the box and they wanted to go socialise and then we have people that say, oh, you've got to fall back. We've got some people on the call here from different parts of the UK, and they're finding that the tourism is being pushed back, saying don't come to a regional low, it may actually help with the economics. And we've got some very interesting things that are occurring. But what I want to focus on is how we can solve things. Generally, when you see something which happens as a dynamic circumstance, that you'll find that there's actually a 'how do we hack something together?' How do we solve this thing in the minutiae at this moment? Generally, it's quite acute, and then down the track, you'll try to patch that. And at some stage, you get to saying, well, let's design and solve it so it's actually going to meet all needs and all purposes and just be done gracefully. That's why the panel of experts is here, that's what they do for a living. So, we should be able to get some good advice out of that. I'm going to first fly across the Paul Priestman because Paul, your world, which is around transport systems, we know that transport is something that we need to have in society to keep us moving around. But when it comes to airlines, the passenger loads have basically disappeared, when it comes to mass transit systems in cities passenger loads have changed. The programs that you work on have run for many, many years. Have you had your clients actually trying to accelerate to get to the future faster, or have they turned around and said, 'don't call us for a couple of years.’?
Paul Priestman 02:01
Well, I mean it's interesting, in certain parts of the world and there is an acceleration in investment, infrastructure and public transport and I think it's interesting the way that some governments are actually offering support to airlines and transportation systems on condition that perhaps they meet some environmental standards at a later date. So that some funding for airlines or support for airlines is on the condition that they reduce internal flights within the country, so that it then diverts passengers into existing infrastructure - trains and things like that. So that's an interesting area. But one of the things that I think is forcing the change in looking at public transport is how we use the existing infrastructure that we have, and something that I've been looking at and prefigured is how we can actually start to look at metro systems in cities, and utilise not just for passengers with people, but actually transporting goods. There was an amazing statistic that in New York, there are 1.5 million plus deliveries a day to individuals and businesses within the city. You can imagine the pressure on the road transport system. So if we were able to utilise the metro systems and subways to actually take goods into cities, and then to pop up utilising existing metro stations, and then to distribute locally using local resource rather than a multinational dumping it into an area, it becomes a little bit more democratic, but we're also we're using that system. And then do those areas become almost like the hubs? The new city centres where the goods are collected and distributed and handed back and transferred and utilising local resources, local people to deliver the goods and help build up communities. And I think these sorts of things were the trends that were happening already because of the pressure. And given the current situation, I think it is sort of capitalist to look at these things in more detail.
Mark Bergin 04:17
For the rest of people on the call, I also run a forum around the future of transport. And one of the one of the most astounding conversations I had was, how will you ticket robots to actually travel on the trains? And initially, the chief architects of the rail systems like oh, we can't do that we have machines on machines. And by about half an hour later, they were saying it'll be fantastic because they'll be more orderly than humans and we can tell them to wait in a corner because there's too much of a load on this particular train but in 20 minutes, so it's not going to be a load. And all of a sudden they begin to see that moving parcels round, at the moment we've got people carrying these parcels. Imagine if we actually started go use them as transit systems to be the transport of goods and people, not just people. So I think that that's going to accelerate. I think, Paul, you did an exploration on a bit of design fiction for Hong Kong Harbour using drones buzzing around with ferries that were autonomous. Now they would have been a cacophony of rotor blades there, but it gives you an idea that we can rethink the way that we're going to approach things. And I've got a feeling that's in that reimagine phase, you know, where you've got some people who know that will be ringing up. I suppose the rebound phase is really ran personal mobility. Gurvinder, I know that you're doing a lot of work for people, particularly in the City of London. Are your clients like Macquarie Bank all of a sudden ringing up and saying, can you work at an end-of-journey facility to go put into the building because now we've got 1000 people coming in on bicycles?
Paul Priestman 05:49
You know, I think certainly the projects that we're working on is the crossover between personal and public transport and it's not a large vehicle for one person. It's actually how we utilise things that are coming on - like New York has just licensed electric scooters for cities to do that - that did it quickly because of the current situation. It's building more cycle lanes, it's encouraging people to walk. And I think once we actually consciously use walking, cycling, scootering, whatever personal transport as part of the transportation infrastructure network within cities, then that frees up the other parts of the network for other things. And I think embracing cycling and walking properly in the way that people travel around in towns and cities is the way forward, as well as the health benefits, of course, which I think again, is something which was a trend, but this is actually being pushed into that in some way.
Mark Bergin 06:55
And Gurvinder I’ll go back to you there about your clients, have they started to ask you for a rapid intervention to go and actually modify the workplaces so that as they rebounding, they can return? Are they still working out how that works?
Paul Priestman 07:12
I think yes, there's both at the same time. I mean, obviously, people are thinking about how we can sort of halve the offices up and people sort of working part time or part time at a location. I mean, there are lots of talks about what is the, you know, office sharing, where's the future of that? And we're also looking at concepts of how can you reuse? You know, if the draw of the big centre city office, the flash office, is that going to be a thing of the past? Because, you know, do you need to be in a central city when your clients aren't traveling or visiting as often? And that the appeal of working in the city or the restaurants and the bars and the cafes and the buzz and if that doesn't-
Gurvinder Khurana 08:00
Paul, I think that will have its place. And I think it will become very, very important. I think there's a period of reflection. And going back to your question Mark I think that people are still trying to digest what's happened. So they haven't come back on stream yet. People are still in the reaction, sort of part of what they're dealing with. But I think in six to 12 months’ time, I think there's going to be a bit of a shift. And I think that satellite offices, you know, like bubbleHub that we did, will really come into their own because people won't want to travel in every day, but they'll want human connection and a sense of belonging, which I think is what so many people have struggled with in this stock time. You know, we've kind of all had to press the pause button. But I think those central offices, once we get the transport sorted, I think that is the biggest stumbling block, I think those offices will really come into their own and they will change. So I think that function will change and I know with Macquarie, certainly they've said, we're investing in technology, we're investing in infrastructure, but we are doing nothing else because we don't know where this is going to fall. And so, I think where it will fall is to central offices, like London, will become community hubs, where the brand and the business culture will be reinforced. And I think that's what their purpose will become. And you'll have collab spaces and you'll have community spaces, but I think, you know, we've tested over 10 to 12 weeks now that we can all work wherever, and there's a built trust so employers know that it can work. So I think the way that we work will change but I don't think clients have quite got there yet. I think there's still too scared.
Mark Bergin 09:47
Christine, I'm going to pass across to you because you know, a lot of the work that you've done, whether it's been about being an advocate and a promoter for designing creative services, or whether it's actually been the strategy side, it's been outside the country, it's been going in to meet people where they are rather than necessarily just meeting them on a the call. And there's something about that moment where you've had a meal with somebody, or you've had some hang time with them that we can't replace with a zoom call. What do you see coming up as far as just getting out from the core strategy moment into the relationship building? Are you starting to see any solutions there? Or is that starting to still be something that needs to be discovered?
Christine Loscaat 10:32
Oh, no, I think there's still so much more that needs to be done on that. I think that what Gurvinder was saying about having a sense of community and that face to face interaction that, I mean, we're pack animals at the end of the day, we build relationships on a one-to-one basis, and we really like to do it face to face. And I don't think that will change. I think it's clearly going to be immensely challenging over the next year, if not longer, this is, you know, I think very much a wakeup call for all of us and many of us have become incredibly innovative in how we've dealt with this. But the international work will still, particularly in countries where, you know, it's important that you have a relationship, not just with the individual, but with their wider family. You know, it's very difficult to do that over zoom to me. It's not impossible, but it's difficult. And if you add in language difficulties as well, and I daresay technology will help us solve that soon, too, with kind of automatic simultaneous translation as we talk on zoom, I think that'll be quite interesting, but the human element will always be there. I mean, the biggest thing that I've been grappling with over the last couple of weeks in my work and also in my charity that I chair, which is a domestic abuse charity is how do you cope with isolation? Now on the one hand with this fantastic call for community activism, particularly in the UK where volunteering is so in people's DNA -look at how successful the NHS were when they call for volunteers. I think they wanted 250,000 people and they got to nearly a million in about four days and couldn't cope with the amount of people that wanted to help. How do you square that with the fact that isolation is still rife, and it has been rife for the elderly for quite a long time? And now we're all experiencing it to a greater or lesser extent. And then how do you deal with that? And how do you deal with digital poverty because it's one thing to say we'll all go on zoom. But not everybody has access to this and I'm talking about children as much as I'm talking about, you know, both bookends of our populations are suffering because they can't do what we're doing right now. They don't have the wherewithal. They either don't have the equipment, or they don't have the data, or the infrastructure is just not there. And that is, is a really big problem.
Mark Bergin 13:08
Pippa I’m going to throw it across the to you here, because I know that with your practice, what you're about 20 people and it's a mixture between built space projects for housing architecture and also displays and exhibition, now I’d imagine with your displays and exhibitions that there's a hiatus on how that's rolling out, but how are you forming your team because 20s and interesting number - it's not a massive studio, it's not a small studio, it's in this mid-size, which becomes reasonably complicated to work out how to bring culture in.
Pippa Nissen 13:41
I mean, there have been lots of unexpected, I guess, joys about everybody working at home that we've been able to... people have been able to have flexible time, but it's not for everybody. So people who've got children... it's a kind of mixture of how it's been basically. But, one thing that we're struggling with now is thinking about how we're going to sort of reinvent ourselves and go back to our office and have that kind of studio culture. So, in fact, lots of projects have continued through the lockdown. Particularly, we've worked internationally, and actually it's been okay that we've had our kind of slow zoom calls, that perhaps they take longer than usual, but we get there in the end and actually the advantage is about sharing a document that you're kind of really focusing on. I think the difficult stages of us as a studio to work together are the initial stages. And we, we feel as a studio, what we give is that ability to sift through lots of ideas and work through workshops, and we hear lots of voices and that is quite difficult to do on the zoom call, and, you know, there's lots of kinds of interrupting. If you have got the stage then you're trying to share something, it's much less fluid. So we're trying to find ways through that. So, I mean, it's interesting, we've got our lease coming up for renewal next year and we've got, you know, a big studio, and we've got a big workshop studio as part of that. And we're thinking, is there a slightly different way in which we can bring ourselves together? Is it just for workshops, and how we use digital as part of that? So, you know, it's interesting.
Mark Bergin 15:31
In the last US Town Hall that we did, we had Brian Collins, a principal of Collins out of New York, on the call. His lease is up, and he was trying to work out what to do, and I think- I'll put a link into the session about the R/GA office, they got Foster + Partners to help them go re-plan a 1,000-person office. I don't think we're going to see anything like that for a long time. And I think Gurvinder, the type of project that you went and did with bubbleHub and then the idea of a co-working space, we're going to see that change quite a lot. You know, there's a bit of a financial disaster for the people who were looking at WeWork before COVID. I think now it's changed a lot because people are now looking at decentralising. The likely thing is that people are going to have a lot of fellow office space that maybe practices can go share, you know, Monday, Tuesday is one design firm, then say Thursday, Friday is the other, and the sanitisation teams coming in on Wednesday or something like that. So there's going to be some interesting ways that people go handle that. Will, I know that, you know, the conversation we've been having around the design dialogue about what's happening in the design industry in London, continues because it seems like it's a new stage, it's about to go and launch itself off into quite a different direction there. But you've got some events, particularly around the transport, and that's both from an engineering and also the design of new transport. What are you seeing that's happening during this rebound period and the reimagine? Or is it same as?
William Knight 17:04
Well, I think there's some very interesting parallels with, you know, some of the applications that Paul's talked about, and particularly with Gurvinder in relation to kind of communities. The thing that has kind of struck home for the design industry here in the UK, as a trading city in London, is there are no commercial trade shows for the design industry in the next 12 months. I've really tried to kind of talk to as many people about that as possible. There isn't really a very clear way through that. But I am monitoring what content has been developed, I suppose in response to that, but also to provide more kind of specialist access. So we're seeing things like, 'hosted by' programs. We're seeing things like online matchmaking, quite sophisticated algorithms that are kind of bringing people together. I mean, just by sheer kind of nature of these things, there are two quite large scale digital online festivals taking place based in the UK this week, one's London Tech Week, and one is a program called Cog X. Interestingly, one of them had the Prime Minister on yesterday doing an opening welcome and one of them had a former prime minister in Tony Blair. So I sort of sat there and watched them, but I did wonder, you know, on my screen it appeared that they were just kind of for my personal information. So this notion of being able to personalise and to kind of provide niche content is a really interesting one. And connecting as ever, marketers and event organisers and campaigners and people who talk about design, connecting your client with your product remains a central challenge for us. It's really how that's delivered in the next kind of immediate phase. Your kind of bounce-back. But also, you know, for the duration of this phase that we're going through, because no one's going to walk through a door of an exhibition centre anytime soon.
Mark Bergin 19:08
Michael, I suppose for yourself with the businesses there providing furniture for interior spaces, has that conversation changed? Have people begun to say, well, we don't want to talk to you about what we were talking to you about before, we want to push back on one thing, we want to bring forward another. How are your interactions with customers who need immediate answers? And also, people who are trying to plan for the next three to 12 months? How's that working for you?
Michael Lambrianos 19:38
It's actually been quite interesting because it's almost brought a lot of different individuals and different businesses onto an even playing field. So, what some companies may not have been comfortable with as a transition, now kind of seems like the only logical thing, and other companies who are really excited about a major change, they can still go ahead with that. So, we're talking more and more about what has been happening over the last decade. So recently I read a report from Move Plan who are global office change relocation specialist company. And they revealed that many workspaces were significantly under-utilised in the entire decade before this pandemic. So, what they did was they took 80 different studies between 2011 - 2019 and they covered Asia, Pacific, Australia, Europe, North America, and observations were primarily focused on three different types of workspaces. So, you had, obviously your workstations, you had your conference rooms, and you had what they categorise as alternative work settings. So then they decided, let's choose five industry sectors and we can use cross sector analysis. So they used finance and insurance, government, media, pharmaceuticals and technology. So, in total, they collected 2.3 million data points, which is amazing. There's not that many studies that have been carried over practically a decade. So what they were able to find is that varying degrees of underutilisation is in all global regions across all industry sectors. And so, for traditional workstations, you had at about 55% average utilisation, which was still better than conference rooms at about 43%. And alternative work settings, which have been very, very hot topic for the last five years, all these breakout spaces, soft seating all the rest, that gets used less than 30%. So that has obviously the lowest rate. And a lot of the time, those areas are not very well understood by the users and they tend to use them for heads down work rather than social interaction, which is what they're obviously created for. So, then what they decided to look further into was conference room technology. And they found that that's also seriously under-utilised. So I think what we're seeing is all companies within our industry, that manufacture furniture, they are craving greater volumes right now. They want versatility. And they want to add value to office spaces. But what are the answers? So we need to take the best knowledge that we have, the best insights that we have about the future of work and workplace because office buildings are empty. And organisations are rapidly trying to implement all these variations now of flexible and remote working. So, what we really need to do is sit back and review the data and say that well, people have been collaborating through this shift to remote work and how can we use this information to inform the return to the office? Because a lot of the time we still go back to 'there needs to be a vaccine that has to be developed and reproducible worldwide', but it's important for companies to leverage these workplace analytics to inform their decisions around their employee health and how it will impact the organisational health. Because if we think about it in the age of COVID-19, open plan is the antithesis of social distancing. So how drastically will it need to change to get us back to work? And I think once the threat of COVID-19 subsides a bit more, I think the business world that emerges will be very different. And the new normal will see the workforce expecting a much, much greater, flexible approach to the way we work and a huge reduction in real estate needs. I mean, JP Morgan have already said that one third of their real estate portfolio is gone. They don't see a need for it anymore. So, I know we've had some discussions with Gensler and as part of their ongoing research they're offering- they came out with a document recently that had 10 considerations for transitioning back to work. And it was very clever. Very well put, I think the first five were just very, very obvious. And then the last five were really interesting because they were talking about why don't you track who sits where, introduce things like shift work, designate isolation rooms, and you need to create plans and communicate cleaning regimens, and then maybe even screen people for admittance to the office. So, the conversations that we've been having, interestingly enough, are changing. We're not having conversations with the usual suspects. Like recently we spoke with Third Way Interiors and they're launched something called Hybrid Working. And this is a new program that will help businesses navigate the return to the workplace, but they've split it into three distinct phases. And they've kept it very simple. So, it's just Fit for Now, Fit for Tomorrow, and Fit for the Future. So, the reason that this is all being driven is because people truly regard working from home as a real option now. In a world of workplace interiors, we've been hearing about flexible working for many, many years, but very few companies seem to practice it in reality, and despite suggesting that they do in their marketing, and it's an easy way to get people attracted to the company if they're screaming about flexible working-
Mark Bergin 25:36
I'm going to actually, I need to be a little bit short here with that, I want to pick that up and let's go in and do a deeper dive in depth with that, because I want to get to the rest of the panel in the time that we've got. The amount of knowledge that you've got there is phenomenal, so we will get to that. Phil I want to move across to you and you've heard you know, we've got people who are planning how the transport systems going to work, how offices are changing, you've got how strategy in real life meetings and how transport meetings are working. You've got this perspective, you've been listening to what we've got here, you've also got your own work. How ready are we to actually to respond to the immediate need? Or is everybody still trying to- it's like we've woken up and there's a bright light and we really can't see anything and we're all scrambling around trying to go find our feet. Are you seeing any direction there?
Phil Nutley 26:33
Um, good question. I think some of the panellists already have said that I think that there is there's a lot of tension and friction out there. That change naturally kind of kicks up, right? And I think we're at a kind of pivoting moment. And I think that there's certainly something around the kind of people-cantered response to recovery. And I think some of the, well we've already touched upon this idea of the kind of resilience of communities and that's across your local community, the kind of localism that we're seeing in the community support. I think we're beginning to see how people are kind of taking note of this pause this moment in time. I read a New York Times article which had a lovely quote from Dov Seidman, the American author and columnist, who said, "when you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. But when you press the pause button on a human being, they start. That's when they begin to rethink and reimagine." And I think we're currently, I'll put that on our on our chat that little quote, but it's a lovely New York Times article, where he was interviewed. And I think that resilience that we're seeing across different sectors, different groups, I think people are starting to realise that those tensions and frictions can turn into something that's people-centred. And it's a response that we'll begin to see. I don't think we know what all the answers will be. But that idea of localism and listening locally, gathering that kind of intent, and that kind of positiveness that people are starting to have, but there's this play off between people understanding what there is and, you know, people feeling more involved locally, I would say in in what they're working to. But then there's the kind of anxiety that I think we've spoken to, about feeling remote, Christine talking to you know how we like to be face-to-face with people. So as a creative thinker myself, it's great doing all of these, you know, these kind of virtual meetings, but I do miss you know, just kind of listening and observing people, you know what I mean? And when you're creating together, you know, half of it is what's not said, you know, it's what's inferred or the way people will sketch something or, you know, pick up on a word that's spoken about and I think that's something that I think we all miss, particularly across creative industry.
Mark Bergin 29:19
I wanted to then throw across back to Christine because you mentioned there about the about the mindset and the fact that, you know, we need to create for people where they are. In the previous Town Hall that we went and did in Australia, the idea of trauma and designing for people who are in the new abnormal and are traumatised. I think, Paul Pressman, you mentioned before in the pre conversation, you talked about the before-COVID during-COVID and after-COVID, and I suppose what's interesting there, after-COVID is for most people's expectation, 18 months to two years away, and the during-COVID is a traumatic experience. You know, where we're displaced from our office, we're not acting the way that we'd expect to act. And if we start to design things which are going to last for a long period of time, when we get back to normal, and we're not in this abnormal state, we could have other problems that exist there. So, I suppose Christine one of the things that we see, particularly when it comes to domestic abuse, is domestic abuse is often that there's been other traumas in people's lives and it gets reflected back in domestic abuse, highly inappropriately, but that’s part of the reality. How are you finding it with the people who are in your world there? Are they actually presenting with more trauma? Because I think everybody seems to be a little bit more on and if you've got somebody who's got an underlying, you know, inclination to domestic abuse, they're probably going to be a bit on, a bit wired themselves. What can we do to actually bring that down? Can we, or can't we?
Christine Loscaat 30:59
Well, I, you know, yes, definitely there's been an increase. I mean, just from our charity alone, we've had 75% increase in calls to our helpline. And I know that that's the case across the sector in the UK, and actually in Europe as well and probably wider - I don't have the data outside Europe in my head. We've always advocated for a community response to domestic abuse anyway, because it is a societal problem. It is not something that should happen behind closed doors, and it's something that people should feel comfortable bringing out into the fore. But I was just reflecting as I was listening to the conversation, the you know, we have some principles when we deal with trauma and domestic abuse we have some key principles that we work to when it comes to healing and sort of a trauma-informed approach. And I was just thinking, how applicable they are to society at the moment and to the world at the moment now. I'm talking about things like getting back to trust. You know, people have lost trust in governments, in the medical system, in themselves and their neighbours. I mean, we've seen terrible behaviour even out in the streets with people shaming other people for, you know, sitting on a bench in the sunshine when they're old and need a bit of vitamin D. So trust is important. Peer Support is very much a pillar of trauma informed approach to domestic abuse. So we need each other, we've been talking about needing a sense of community and how important it is to be able to rely on one another. Empowerment and choice. So empowering people, the fact that people can go home now and work from home and have power, to a certain degree greater power, over the time that you were just talk about. You know, how they spend their time, what parts of the day they spend doing what they have choice and ultimately it comes down to giving people back a sense of confidence. I think there has been a big lack of confidence. And those are all principles of, you know how you heal people who've suffered trauma. And I think we've all suffered trauma but on a much larger scale. So, yes, so I think I might write a blog about that...
Mark Bergin 33:23
Yes, I think you should. Now I want to go back to both Phil and Paul here because we know that mass transit environment or mass transport environments rather than mass transit, mass transport, they are generally thought to be unsafe places in one second, but then in another moment, they're considered to be safe places. We go look at the cruise lines. I checked while we're on the call and the infection rate of the population who were on board one of the Princess ships, I forget which Princess it was, oh Diamond Princess: it was 1.8% of the population that became infected with COVID now, that's some of the lowest infection rates per head of population for a lot of people. So, you know, it was thought to be an unsafe place, statistically and mathematically, it is a safer place. And we know that it is the same with airports. So when you've got people who are in these environments that you're creating Phil and Paul, did you design them for people who might be a bit more wired, you know, whether it's through terrorism or whether it's through a pandemic, what do you do to help rebuild that trust? Because what you want is people calm who are moving through a mass transport facility, don't you?
Paul Priestman 34:41
Yeah, I mean, one of the skills of designing airport interiors is the consistency and calmness and it's a very high stress environment, people are late, and people are rushing and, you know, worried about various aspects. So, I mean, that's always been part of it. I mean, I must admit, and I think this is a trend in airport designs from the security point of view, it always seemed crazy to have security happening halfway through a building. And why didn't happen before you entered the building? And that was a trend that was happening in hotels in certain parts of the world. So that trend was happening and again, I think this current situation has pushed that on. And again, I think that health and security screening will happen before you get anywhere near some of these environments. And that's a good thing. So, I think that's one thing. I think one of the things we have to get used to is that, you know, we talked about during-COVID and after, it's not just going to be like that, it's going to be like when you've had an injury, you get better slowly, and some people will be able to get back to some sort of normality more quickly. But it's what we do in the meantime. And one of the projects we've been promoting actually recently is using social distancing on public transport for use. And one of those concepts is to use bicycles for social distancing. So we have a concept seat which, so if you use your social distance and you don't want someone opposite you, you put a bike there. So instead of transporting just people, you're able to transport people and bikes. So when they arrived, perhaps in their city, where they're going to work, instead of going on to public transport again, they jump on their bikes, and then have individual transport. So we're using this current situation as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. And I think that's what designers and creative thinking is all about. It's like, we've been given this situation, what can we do about it and how can we implement and make what we've got work better? it is getting the grit out of the problem. We can't just get rid of all our railways and tram systems and pieces of transport; we have to reuse in a better way. And to some degree, that's better, I think. One of the last comments, we're talking about zooming and I did a Zoom last week with China and everybody on the other end of the call all had masks on. So you wonder why we zooming? Apart from looking at the thing behind them. And I do think it's pretty funny that, you know, on TV you see these eminent people, looking at their dog in the picture behind them. You know, and I think there is a bit of a humanistic element to it. Meeting people's eyes, but if everyone's doing this, what's the point? And so I think we just have to, again, think from a creative point of view, how are we going to communicate and, you know, go through this transition, which will ease up we'll get used to this current situation, but it won't ever go, we'll just learn to live with it.
Mark Bergin 37:45
So, I want to then go across to Phil because you know, you're you've got a different take, more being about the actual spaces rather than the congress of people through the spaces and the vehicles that they're on. The creation of safe spaces, has that been changing much? Or you know, Christine's indicated that we already know how to go and actually de-escalate, and we saw that in Black Lives Matter. Some cities brought out tear gas, other ones the police got down on their knees. We know how to do this. How's that interacting for you?
Phil Nutley 38:19
I think it's kind of interesting, picking up on Paul's point there, we've also been looking at security and they're highly anxious spaces for people. And we've been looking interestingly at colour and colour theory and how we could gamify that. I think it's quite evident that if you introduce more of the senses into given environments now, you know, look, I don't think we should return to normal... I think normal is a bad place to go, I think we've got a kick for dust up. And I think where we've got highly anxious spaces and we've got fear, and we've got to make them safer, we've got to look to the senses around us that we're naturally born to kind of to look at, which is colour. Interestingly enough, I was just on a mass call, kind of talk, around safety on autonomous vehicles for female users. And one of the women that was talking spoke to the idea of bright lights. And our kind of technical frameworks naturally get us to put bright white or bright yellow lights into those environments. And we then believe that the female audience or user will feel safer. Actually, it's the complete opposite. They don't feel safe. She used the phrase that she feels like, or most female users feel like that they're in a horror movie when it's that kind of lighting, right? So, we've got to be smarter and not go back to normal. Realise who we're talking to. And really understand what that need and desire is. I thought Christine's trauma principles there, That idea of trust, support and confidence, I think are hugely, you know, we need to bring them to the fore in any kind of design brief, creative brief, but particularly around these areas where we're having to come back together again. And it's not going to be normal, you know, we're going to have to use colour, we're going to have to think the way and kind of relearn the way we come together almost.
Mark Bergin 40:25
And Phil that's such an important point about the safety levels of what you might think is an environment that creates safety, rather than what's come through studies. I'll add into to the show notes a study that was done by the City of Melbourne that went into a lot of detail about illumination levels, and it was then done with surveys with women. What streets they would walk down, what ones wouldn't they, what ambient light level actually got them there? And the bright light they said was actually negative to them because their eyes were adjusted to the bright light and the perpetrators were in the low light and that they have the advantage. And you go, hang on my head doesn't make sense there. But what they really wanted was the nooks and crannies to be actually lit, not where they were, so that they had the upper strategic hand. I do want to go across to Will, I think you've got some questions for Paul about transport.
William Knight 41:19
I've always got a question for Paul about transport. Paul, I just, you know, I've seen the renders of the concept for the bicycles acting as a reinforcement of social distancing. You know, you have the practice, there's so much knowledge working with decision makers and policymakers. So, this is a kind of specific and a broad question. Obviously, the types of projects like that take a long time to come to fruition. But I just wondered really what your perception of kind of policymakers and decision makers on things like transport systems, how much do you sense that design is at hand for them in terms of providing solutions in this kind of time phrase during and post-COVID.
Paul Priestman 42:09
Yeah, I think during it's very difficult for any transportation company, whether it's airlines or train operators to implement sort of costly and long-term changes, because we just don't know how long it's going to go on for. So I think unfortunately, during, we're going to have sticky strips of sort of red and black tape on people's seats, at a maximum I'd say, saying do not sit here. But if we're able to design things which can adapt for different situations, and to allow to go back to full capacity and then to allow this sort, well using it for useful, usable space, whether it's transporting goods or people, then I think that that's the option. But I don't think that a lot of the companies we're working with a really able to think about what you can do right now other than sort of firefighting situation, and then just see how it goes. But I do think there's some of the digital inputs that were certainly being asked to look at and are looking at, about how you can help someone do the right thing through their mobile device and avoiding touching things, door handles are pretty much gone, sanitisers, automatic doors, toilets, all of those sorts of things. But if you're able to have an app that takes you to an airport station, guides you through the process and informs you how to do the right thing, then I think that that's going to really help. So those sorts of aspects have certainly been looked at, but the major sort of development changes that are costly at this stage and not really on the cards, I think.
Mark Bergin 43:59
I want to know through across to Pippa, because your expertise around museums are really interesting. How are museums planning to go adapt, because they want to get their doors open, they want to make sure that they've got visitation, and I think every big exhibition I've been to, I’ve felt like I was in a cattle race heading off to an abattoir, it was very packed. How do you actually see museums changing?
Pippa Nissen 44:25
I mean a lot of the work that we're doing now over shut down, with thinking about this for either exhibitions that were about to open that were designed or ones that we're kind of designing at the moment, and it's very similar to the discussion that we're having about transport. It's how we feel our anxiety levels can be sated. So, for example, as you go into space, how you can gauge your distance to somebody else. So are there kind of subtle layers of wayfinding or grids? Perhaps it's a linear route that enables you to always gauge your distance from somebody else. Or, as you come in the space, you're aware of where the exits are, everything's a bit lower, so that you're able to orientate yourself around the space. I mean, we are looking very carefully at what's happening around the world as museums start to open and trying to create interesting experiences that still have, you know, joy and beauty within them. But I think it's also about accepting less, so less objects, it'll be harder to get loans internationally, less people. But perhaps, that there's also a kind of excitement there in designing, being able to accept imperfection. As we're in lockdown, we are all understanding the kind of fragility of the world and our situation, so being able to use materials that perhaps they change when they get cleaned a bit like, you know, weathering in buildings, and accept that not everything's perfect, not everything has to be this homogenous view of the world that we're getting through our computer screens.
Mark Bergin 46:14
The 12-year-old Mark inside me is just now wanting to bust out and say are we there yet? And I think we've all realised that we're a long way from being there. We're a long way from being past COVID. We're a long way from actually working out how to solve all of these things. I'm really humbled by everybody's time on the call here. Thank you so much for helping out. And we'll have this posted and then you can go through and add some comments in there. Again, humbled with your time. Thank you, everybody.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant