Everything feels different post pandemic. From interactions with people and objects to the viewing of colours and spaces, and so inevitably this has had an impact on design. Graphic design has had to adapt to these new ways of seeing and being. Iconography – the visual images and symbols used to underpin our subtle communication – and our collective interpretation of this has shifted.
Graphics within exhibitions yet to be opened were tweaked for practical navigation and accuracy. Initially responding to the needs of temporary signage to encourage directional movement and social distance, soon became the need to accommodate shifts in news and current affairs by reviewing exhibitions which were no longer relevant. However more interesting was the public’s shift in perception of, and reaction to the tools of engagement.
For example bright, light, hopeful colour palettes were preferable to dark, oppressive, heavy shades reminiscent of our home enclosures – every graphic move considered for our new way of interacting with the world.
Whether a physical interaction using touch or a new interpretation of something which now has significantly different associations. Two projects which had begun pre pandemic and would have opened during lock down had to be reimagined.
At The Wallace Collection, Rubens: Reuniting the great landscapes, the key graphic leader for the exhibition had been a rainbow, which now had new meaning and the significance of this image during the pandemic had changed. Was it now appropriate to use this symbol and does the associated memories of this image impact peoples reaction and desire to see the exhibition, or does it in fact signify hope and moving forward in a way people will positively respond.
Our exhibition 'The Human Touch' at The Fitzwilliam Museum, about art and touch had been completed and left dormant over the winter. Our whole relationship with touch changed over this period and what started as a tactile, textured, experimental project using sensory materials which trigger meaning and encourage interaction through touch became a poignant reminder of what was no longer possible. How do we approach a tactile or sensory experience with the loss of touch and human contact which had had such a significant impact on people. A subject matter which had become totally alien and yet meaningful in a way that could never have been predicted. The experience felt even more important after lockdown, how do you represent without the ability to use your sense of touch became an interesting challenge.
The practical removal of tactile elements from the space were replaced with visual interpretations of texture and touch, and the use of crafted and authentic techniques and processes kept the textural prints and physicality we were craving, and moved us away from the screen and digital experiences. The wrinkly imperfect labels mirroring the crevices of hands and skin. Hand held labelling systems were replaced with hands free alternatives and communal facilities were avoided to remove any surface contact. Intuitive directional wayfinding encouraged single route journeying, created through traditional ink printed skin and shifting surfaces as a subtle system. The resulting textural feast allowing a welcome break from the pixels.
How many of these new ways of working and thinking will remain? Or will we move on and adapt as quickly as we did over a year ago to a world we could never have imagined.