Modern life was a boundless diverse global community. We were moving towards an ideal that seemed to defy borders and limitations to achieve constant connection. But the worldwide lockdown created a dramatic new perception of our modern lifestyles, as overnight our rosy view of their infinite possibilities was replaced by a new, more essential view of what and who we really need. So, as we experience the ultimate reset, what will this mean for designing a new future of togetherness?
As humans, we are instinctually driven to be a part of communities, groups who are unified by their common interests. Globalisation, facilitated by technology, introduced radical change to our ideas around their shape and possibilities. Cultures were fusing, new social-cultural and geo-political alliances were forming, and social movements championing inclusivity and more fluid approaches to living were emerging. A new generation began to grow up with different views, unhindered by previous boundaries and driven by the ideal of individualism and their growing obsession with ‘me’- culture.
Branding culture too, championed and thrived in this global world, urging their consumers to be part of a growing network of like-minds and aspirations. Establishing a global community and consumer base was their ultimate ideal. Seemingly overnight coronavirus ended this ideal. This warm, friendly world of infinite possibilities quickly siloed into what is now available. Our ultimate desires replaced by what we really need.
“The coronavirus spreading around the world is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other,” says Nicholas Christakis, social scientist and physician at Yale University.
As we face our new reality, the definition of community will never be the same. We will see a new world where individual responsibility as part of a purposeful collective will matter more than ever. Communities will be truly connected entities of interconnected actions that work across our physical and digital worlds, and that make a real difference in our lives. The brands and the ideas of connection that were once inspirational will now be essential – they will replace the idealist communities we have created.
We are already experiencing this. Over recent weeks, new value systems have been shaped by stories of exceptional human compassion, integrity and heroism, which have inspired and united global audiences. We have seen today’s viral culture take on a new purpose as we see acts of real and virtual solidarity from communities looking to support each other. As Americans and Britons clap for their healthcare workers, Italians sing to the streets, Egyptians pray together from balconies and Indians feed migrant workers, it is clear that globally we are trying to help our neighbour – transforming into a society that once again appreciates the necessity of true connection, support and togetherness.
We have also seen an increase in brands responding to the lockdown with quick and clever responses, with Heineken, CVS and McCain all sharing authentic and candid moments through ads shot in lockdown this week. Other brands are pivoting towards real world social needs, with fashion brands creating PPE and alcohol brands’ production lines rolling out hand sanitisers.
This is not the world’s first or last global pandemic, so the lessons we learn and behavioural changes we make from it must have lasting impact. Coupled with the current situation, it will be the man-made challenges that continue to be the greatest our planet faces, and the role of this and upcoming generations need to harness this new human, unified ‘community spirit’ and make it a part of not just our present but also of our future. Going forward our responsibilities will be redefined within our communities, there will be new ideas of how, why and when we should come together. Tomorrow will not look like the togetherness we had before or thought we were driving towards. We will need a more realistic, streamlined and purposeful approach to our communities.
Brands are by their nature idealistic, but recent weeks have shown that positive mantras and aspirational marketing are no longer going to resonate in the same way. Instead, we will gravitate to those that are more essential, pragmatic and dependable. Where brands have previously tried to speak to our hearts, souls and egos, now they must connect with our human instinct and our gut. And whereas designers we were creating a life of infinite possibilities, we must now focus our skills and imagination on generating the fundamental ideas and systems that will form real communities – those that will sustain our newly connected ways of living to take us forward together beyond these isolating times.
Look out for our series Design for Life in extraordinary times published every two weeks and discover our latest perspectives below:
Join the conversation on our LinkedIn here with the hashtags:
#designforlife #designforextraordinarytimes #pearlfisher