Social Distancing- print and design

Social Distancing Print & Design

There are many challenges associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for our everyday life.

As the situation continues to change and flux, it is clear that there will be some need for social distancing for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at how design and print can combine to help deliver a sense of normality in the current world of confusion.

Way Finding & Signage

Organisations can spend a large amount of money on helping their customers find their way correctly. Airports invest significantly in developing simple systems to process people through a maze of options.

The London Underground Map is probably the most successful design for clearly communicating a complicated route to millions of people, regardless of the language they speak.

Understandably, much of the signage so far for self-distancing has been produced for an emergency, with striking red and yellow colours and chevron warning signals. As we move into the next phase, we should take the time to consider how the customer experience could be greatly improved by more subtle, concise indicators to help guide users through shops, takeaways and communal spaces. Using colour, imagery, wayfinding tools, and visual cues to help bring calmness and confidence to consumers.

In the same way that we consider which products to place at eye level, we should be looking at how each customer will move around the store and follow subtle guidance.

Floor Graphics

Floor signage is a highly effective way of directing customers - but only when they are looking at the floor. 

If we consider a food retailer, we are likely to follow an outdoor queuing system to the letter and keep ourselves between the highlighted lines on the floor - but as soon as we enter the shop, we are drawn to the displays and products at eye level and are likely to forget about the lines across the floor.

Instead of thin striped lines, solid blocks of colour can help keep customers from stepping outside a specific area. For queuing in particular, instead of lines every two meters it can be more effective to use specific spots to stand on, so that you are clearly telling people what to do. 

We believe this could also be particularly effective for schools managing the social distancing of pupils, especially when combined with an engaging design. Telling children to stand on a drain cover with a monster coming out of it, is much more fun than a black cross on the floor. 

Cutting Grass Lanes

An example that demonstrates what we are talking about, is the grass cutting scheme in Birmingham. Pathways have been made by cutting the grass in lanes 2m apart. It is a subtle but effective way of communicating a pathway to visitors.

Cafe Barriers

Helping channel people can also be a valuable branding and advertising opportunity - full colour printed cafe barriers serve as a strong divider for easily denoting routes or separating customers.

They are large and bold and can be easily seen by older visitors and provide a physical barrier for young children, which traditional rope barriers or floor markings don't provide.

Bollard Covers also helpful to direct visitors from the moment they arrive, so they can better understand the best direction of travel.


Complex artwork which looks to convey the whole Health & Safety manual will have little impact. Instead, look for clear icons where possible or succinct wording and format across all your social distancing artwork.

If you have a small shop, then a clear poster outlining policies such as facemasks, whether they should wait outside, how many people are allowed in the shop etc should be clearly visible. 

100% Waterproof posters are perfect for outdoor settings as are freestanding poster frames.

Social Distancing at the Office

There are a variety of merchandise products that can help reinforce good practices in an office, an example is reusable branded hand sanitiser bottles, which can easily clip onto a lanyard or bag so they remain with the user.

Metal water bottles and thermos flasks keep your drink hot for up to 12 hours and can be a good way to reduce the number of visits to communal kitchens to make drinks. The lids also help protect drinks from contamination.

Rebrandable Counters & Strut Cards

Rebrandable counters are great for positioning hand sanitiser, items for collection or displaying instructions. Easy to move around, they are highly visible and with the right design, can be a great way to start a customer’s journey. 

Strut cards with simple artwork and messaging can also provide visual cues and reminders through the office.

Direct Mail & Literature

The biggest impact of social distancing rules is the number of people who are not at work but at home. It is now more important that staff and customers get to see your identity and core values to retain and develop that brand relationship. 

Direct mail campaigns are a great way to keep in touch with employees and demonstrate how much you value your people. Promotional gifts such as garden seeds, reusable coffee cups, desk pads and pens, presented in a quality branded box with printed stationery are all highly effective in achieving this.

If you want to go the extra mile, then branded logo boards, pull up banners or fabric backdrops can make that Zoom call even more professional.

Colours & Design

Keeping your message short and supporting it with icons will help visitors understand what they need to do. An explicit instruction will be more effective than a vague ideology. Footprints are a good example of a strong instruction, telling someone to stand here compared to two people stood next to each other, with some text about keeping apart.

A traffic light coding system in your own brand colours can further reinforce important messages and communicate the urgency of others.

Challenges Ahead

As more businesses look to return to work and consumers build in confidence, it is important that your message is clear, concise and keeps people following social distancing practises.

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