This is our second article from the new Covi/Design column, born to analyze some of the recent projects together, with a critical point of view. Designers and architects are currently working on possible solutions to deal with this crisis. One of the hot topics, which we have already talked about, is social distancing and one of the possible solutions for it are personal protective equipments (ppe). We will show some projects as examples and end with a general reflection.

Officially called Covid Socializing Tools, the collection is produced by Fusina Lab and designed by Matteo Cibic Studio. It consists of seven transparent aluminum and perspex (plexiglas) dividers available in various shapes and sizes, the cost ranges from € 96.00 for the “Cov – Dining Table Divider” to € 1830.00 for “Solanio – Room Divider”. They are designed to be used in meeting places such as restaurants, bars, beauty centers and offices. Matteo Cibic said in an interview “I never expected the dividers to become the key element of the socialization of the future. I designed a smart and elegant solution to go back to socializing in the less acute phases of the pandemic, to spend time with colleagues and friends.”

Although the product is for a specific target – buying a stock of Covid Socializing Tools could be a problem since most restaurants, bars, beauty centers and offices have difficulty paying rents and bills – we cannot limit ourselves to indicating plexiglas dividers as a smart solution.

Lately we have seen more and more products like this one: Caimi Brevetti has created a new project, Caimi Safe Design, a collection of dividers already in the catalog, but redesigned for new needs. However, compared to those in plexiglas mentioned above, some of these models have BIOACTIVE fabrics with silver ions that create a permanent antimicrobial effect.
Going back to personal protective equipment (individual), we may have read about Soffio, an inflatable PVC face-shield designed by MARGstudio, Alessio Casciano Design e Angeletti Ruzza; or the New Yorker Joe Doucet who presented a concept design that transforms PPE into a fashion accessory, to be used as a pair of glasses. And so on…

The products mentioned are different and have diverse targets, but they have been designed for the citizen, for the so-called phase 2, and they are similar in another aspect: they respond to the company need for visibility or for the creation of a physical product to sell, in which the user can also recognize himself. I will choose those dividers instead of the others or that protective device instead of another one… Why are we not designing a universal mask, accessible to all?

At this point, however, we should ask whether this type of design, which involves the objects production, trade and recycling, still works.
If we cannot return to normality, we cannot even have Covid emergency collections of dividers and protective devices for the next years, perhaps in plastic and difficult to recycle. We cannot exploit this crisis as a new trend: the emergency requires and will require the help of designers, but not for targeted or market solutions, for a collective global response in which we can all find a new normality.

I would like to add one thing, unfortunately this problem is not only linked to studios or designers, but also to the country in which we work. Like others, we need to make ends meet and often the production of an object is faster, more real and more profitable than the redesign of an urban / economic / consolidated development system. Maybe if there are enough financial supports and helps for everyone we could really stop and start thinking about how we can find a vision of collective well-being, instead of rushing to design the cool room divider to sell.

Wouldn’t it be nice to imagine the future we want together?


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