How design can help us emerge stronger from the crisis



Christiane Bausback

Managing Director




Shen Liu

Founder Circle Collective

‘This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come.’

Yuval Noah Harari, The World After Coronavirus



We are currently facing one of the greatest crises in human history with immense economic, social and environmental impact. As individuals and businesses, we have been going through the emotional roller-coaster curves dealing with fear, anxiety, anger, acceptance and moving on. We are all physically, emotionally and financially effected to different extents. How can we cope with the situation? What should we do or not do? One unavoidable topic on the management agenda is that we are going through a big change, a shift.
How are you and your business steering this change management? The word ‘crisis’ in Chinese ‘危机’ is made up of two characters, ‘danger 危’ and ‘opportunity 机’. Where are the opportunities for each one of us?


Global role of design

As change agents, innovation and design studios as well as professionals we have been working alongside R&D and management to come up with new concepts and systems to navigate this constantly changing marketplace. ‘Design’ has transcended its narrow definition of look and functioning of an object. It is an approach to problem-solving. Converging diverse disciplines, it offers practical ways to look beyond the present and depict a possible future. The short game era is over. Businesses with a ‘winning’ mindset will exhaust their resources and morale. More important than ever, creative thinking and tools are now very much in need for discovering and paving a path.

Here are some of our thoughts on how design can lead the way into the post-Corona future:


1. Dare to dream!

Creative methodologies and tools allow companies to think out of the box and investigate unexplored opportunities. These methods help us not to be blinded by obstacles but to see chances and be open to change. Now is the chance to reach for the stars and believe in the impossible to make things possible. Look around us, what was unthinkable is now the new norm, within such a short period of time. Who would have thought WFH is an option for everyone! Let’s capture signals and data to increase our ability to predict and create a new framework of trust.


2. Focus on the people!

Understanding and empathising with people has always been at the core of design. The virus has confronted us with our physical and mental needs which has sparked a huge shift in values which we need to identify and understand. Formally unexciting fields have suddenly entered the spotlight and have gained importance. Healthcare, logistics and food have suddenly moved to the top of the list. Everything has been turned upside down and design can help re-evaluate what has now become relevant and significant to people – to ensure a more human future.


3. Let’s build ecosystems!

Recent global group efforts such as the #stayhome on social media have proven once more that we are stronger together. Like it or not, we, businesses and humans, are all connected through data and computers. Collaborating in business ecosystems gives all stakeholders the opportunity to act faster and more efficiently in developing innovations. Good design is not limited to surfaces like aesthetics, forms and functions. It should help identify capability gaps in organizations and find paths to accelerate their transformation. Look beyond the boundaries of status quo to find your position in the system and decide how you would build capabilities and partner with complementary system players.


4. Design for perpetuality!

Staying in the game is the goal. In turbulent times it is easy to not feel in control. Many long-established brands are filing bankruptcy or reshaping their business models. Design thinking enables us to simplify complex situations and pinpoint opportunities. It is not to show us THE solution, because they are no fixed rules or answers. It is to provide possibilities. With a vision of perpetuality, we can always flexibly adjust to change. Looking at multiple perspectives (viability, feasibility, desirability, sustainability) enables us to craft holistic solutions. Design also helps us to communicate processes creatively and simply. In German there is the saying ‘den Wald vor lauter Bäume nicht sehen’ which means ‘to be unable to see the forest because of all the trees’ and this is exactly what design overcomes - it allow us to see and understand the crazy forest which is our post-Corona world.  


5. Make it tangible!

Concepts are inspiring, but we believe in ‘making it real’. Prototyping is a key part of a purposeful design process as it enables us to quickly test solutions. This agile process saves time, troubleshoots issues and takes ideas from the drawing board straight into the real-world. In uncertain times like now, we need to focus our resources on the right things and make decisions faster.


6. Think universal, act local!

Complexity of international affairs intensifies the VUCA business environments. We have realized how digitalization has made our life and work easier during the crisis. The need of human society to connect with one another persists. Merging the physical and digital world is unavoidable and must be frictionless. When interaction is limited in the physical world, online connection is increasing exponentially. The level of digitalization has immense implications to our society. One must understand that engaging communities in Europe is remotely different than in China, not only due to socio-cultural factors but more importantly technological factors. Innovation catalysts who have local fluency can successfully facilitate this fluidity intersecting the physical and digital worlds.



Hand in hand

Although we are all experiencing certain degrees of isolation, we now have a window of opportunity to connect and work together to shape the future. By looking at an Asian and a European perspective, we can see the bigger picture and understand how we can share consumer insights, fine tune voices and experiences of brands, and explore answers to digitalization and automation. We believe that together, we can fuel business transformation and impact social change through the power of design.



Shen Liu
Founder of circle Collective,


Christiane Bausback
Managing Director of N+P Industrial Design,

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