To say 2020 has been crazy, is an understatement. It’s been weird. And scary. And confusing. And challenging. And. And. And … I didn’t think things would roll out quite like this. Especially in such a futuristic sounding year. But here we are.
My experiential design and interactive media firm, Digital 55, has been very focused on storytelling and breaking down complex subject matter into accessible modular digital media and learning experiences. I’ve always leaned into futurism and designing for our future seems even more important now.
In those first weeks following the breaking news of a global pandemic and the introduction of physical distancing measures, like so many other entrepreneurs, I was busy trying to get a handle on navigating new workplace realities. With a heavy heart, I cancelled my long-anticipated travel plans to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, settled into work-from-home routines, applied for available resources and funding, and joined a myriad of webinars for businesses and start-ups aimed at preparing us for what was to come — all the while, still delivering on the pre-COVID projects I already had on the go.
I was frustrated, overwhelmed, and saddened by the seemingly sudden turn the world had taken, and I wasn’t always certain about how to best move forward. But I was also motivated and inspired by the questions that came to light. Questions like:
- What does it mean to authentically connect and empathize with others in the context of physical distancing?
- What do innovation and creativity look like in the midst of such unprecedented times?
- What is the role of digital tech in building caring, resilient, and psychologically safe communities and workplaces, both for today and tomorrow?
- How can empathy be practiced?
- How can we support a new system of design that creates the change we need to see in the world?
This pandemic really highlights that we have to look at the systems that have gotten us here and break those apart. Normally, I would be focused on human-centered design, a design approach that takes the human perspective into account. But, presently, I have to think beyond that because humanity’s perspective is frayed. Humans are going through a lot, on a collective and individual level. There’s the pandemic, and then also the social disparities and injustices that are not new in the world but which have become even more amplified and intensified as a result.
This has really moved me to use my quarantine period to work on projects that support people during these extraordinary times and set the foundation for systems of change in the future.
Digital 55 even got to partner with PowerEd by Athabasca University to create Navigating Extraordinary Times, a free, self-directed online course that provides leaders with strategies and frameworks to successfully navigate current realities and support the transition to the next normal.
Right now, experience designers and content/media creators have this great opportunity to think disruptively and creatively. To examine all the different intersecting systems that shape our world, and re-design them for the next chapter. As society moves to a more digital model, we can re-think what that future looks like, and craft the world we wish to see — from work, to health care, to social justice, to the environment.
For me — through projects such as Filter on Cannabis Culture Explored, World of Work, and Digital EDU — the priority is to unify society by advocating for equity, the inclusion of multiple voices and perspectives as well as global access to knowledge and to start enacting some major change for the future. And btw, the future is now.
By Lauralee Sheehan
Founder + Chief Creative Officer (CCO) at Digital 55