BrandCulture: The Future of Built Environments After COVID-19

BrandCulture: The Future of Built Environments After COVID-19

Read Time: 4 minutes

The novel coronavirus has shown how vulnerable many sectors are to future pandemics. While occupancy levels are lower, it’s the perfect time to create more resilient, adaptive spaces, and the experiential graphic design industry has the potential to lead the way.

Sydney studio BrandCulture has published a series of articles explaining how COVID-19 will impact the design of built environments from hospitality and education to healthcare and public spaces. Here are a few of its key observation-based predictions, broken down by sector:


Rethinking public spaces with wayfinding

We’ve seen lots of tactical innovations over the past few months, from automatic pedestrian signal crossings to robot dogs patrolling parks in Singapore. But what does the future hold?

As streets are converted into cycleways and car-free zones, wayfinding will play an important role in branding and communicating these changes, and redirecting people to new routes. Cities of the future will work more like an "accordion" with areas that can expand and contract as needed. Resilient cities will need more agile wayfinding systems, using big data to show crowd volumes and how people move within cities.

We’re about to embark on a fundamental reimagining of public spaces and how people move and interact within them. We have a window of time to make things better—and the SEGD community will play an important role in rethinking the future.

From minimalism to escapism: the future of hospitality

After being cooped up in our homes for so long, people are craving exotic destinations that feel nothing like our homes. According to a trends report from Roar in Dubai, escapist restaurant interiors could be a “lasting design legacy of the pandemic." Expect to see more decadent, surreal, other-worldly interiors and experiential graphics like you’d find inside The Ivy Asia in London and Saga Bar in Chippendale, Sydney.

We may also see more intimate dining pods that minimize the risk of contagion by cordoning off guests. Many restaurants are expanding their footprint onto the pavement outside to enable social distancing.

As for hotels, with international tourism and large conferences on hold, hoteliers need to reimagine how various spaces can be reimagined or made more agile. To minimize the risk of contagion, provide maps and directions before check-in. To guide people to adaptable spaces that have multiple uses, it’s a good time to implement a digital wayfinding system that can be updated in real-time.

Initially, the coronavirus may lead to more minimalist, hygiene-conscious hotels with a mere splash of ornamentation. Over time, people will seek out hotels that provide a sense of escape, or extraordinary experiences. Environmental graphics and digital installations can add layers of discovery to hotel spaces, providing moments of joy and surprise as guests journey through your hotel.

The future of schools and campuses

According to UNESCO more than 90 percent of the world’s student population—over a billion students—have been impacted by school and university closures. Now is the perfect time to take stock. What is the optimal density for a lecture hall or a classroom? If educators move to a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, how will this impact the management of spaces around campus? Can wayfinding and signage design help with this transition?

Digital wayfinding and information design will help to reactivate campuses safely, de-densify popular walkways, and support more agile, flexible spaces. Touchless wayfinding solutions—like QR codes that send maps directly to student’s phones—are likely to become more prevalent. When combined with sensors, digital wayfinding systems can even equip facility managers with real-time occupancy data, which is invaluable when rethinking circulation paths and re-routing students to less crowded rooms.

Is this the end of the office as we know it?                                                                                                 

We’re in the midst of a huge, global work-from-home experiment, and the power of using visual cues to nudge behavior has never been more apparent. Longer-term, expect to see more automation and voice-activation, and digital wayfinding that enables more flexible floorplans.

It’s a good time to consider materials with antimicrobial properties woven into them. Copper is a good choice for signs and fixtures given its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, but designers may even take inspiration from innovations found within healthcare environments.


This is an opportunity for reinvention, and the experiential graphic design industry has the potential to lead the way. Read BrandCulture’s full serieson the future of built environments post-coronavirus, and the role of experiential graphic designs in reshaping them.

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