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Now that the world has once again made yet another rotation around the sun, it’s time we reflect on the styles, trends and branding that defined the year that was 2020.

Branding “trends” in 2020 were unlike anything we have encountered before. The buzzwords that shaped the landscape were “keep calm, wash your hands” , “Together apart”, and the ever so catchy “Wear a mask!” By now a well-made sign has become a potential weapon in the effort to combat the spread of Covid-19. While some businesses simply slapped stickers on the ground and placed a sign on the door, others used them as an opportunity to integrate their own branding within the current social climate.

As some businesses reopened, signs became a key component to drive pedestrian flow and remind customers to keep six feet apart. Restaurants, hotels, shops, public transportation etc., have had to re-think old design habits in order to spread the word and stay safe. Makeshift signs have popped up everywhere to inform patrons on social distancing rules and restrictions. Although more often than not, these way-findings are unclear and even sometimes confusing.

Most designers, even consumers, know developing a sign that is both memorable and effective is no easy task. “For a seemingly simple analog device, a lot goes into designing a good sign. Coronavirus signs typically suggest a change in behavior — discarding old habits for safer practices — and that’s never an easy thing” explains Tim Fendley, creative director of the London-based consultancy Applied Wayfinding. This requires company designers to think outside of the box while staying in the box at the same time; it is all about striking the right balance. Most companies have adopted the strategy of finding humor in the irony of the situation and putting things in a perspective that is more relatable.

A reminder inside Grocery Outlet

A reminder on the floor inside Grocery Outlet takes pride in social distancing rules. In the era of Covid, we all know the severity of the situation, but by bringing in a little bit of humanity along with humor, the shopper can identify with the brand or, at the very least, recognize the intent and hopefully draw a smile.

Albertsons grocery San Diego

Sometimes it’s hard to visualize just how far 6 feet really is, so Albertsons grocery stores put things into perspective by reminding people to stay 2 shopping carts apart. This is a fun tactic that companies used to give people an interesting perspective on the distance of staying safe. Other examples include “stay a dolphin’s length apart”, “two golden retrievers apart”, “a sofa apart”, and, of course, you are not really practicing safe social distancing unless you are “moose’s antlers apart”.

CNN Health

If there is one thing that shoppers can appreciate it’s a well crafted pun. Dawn Foods has introduced some fun and colorful resources to help bakeries keep customers at a safe social distance. In subverting expectations shoppers are no longer instructed using the X marks the spot method. Instead, the space is replaced by another graphic element that first draws the eye of the viewer, then relays the messages. By now shoppers know to stay 6 feet apart, but in slightly changing the narrative, it helps to solidify the point. In this case the focal point becomes a donut in others a bagel. Depending who you are shopping for, you might even come across a paw print or two.

Dawn Foods
“Creating a good sign isn’t about matching colors or fonts to complement a corporate logo. It’s not about being unique to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You’ve got to focus on its objective, which is to change behavior,”

These floor decals have quickly become an unexpected space for advertising. Of course, they are just one of many new opportunities for companies to brand and communicate with their shoppers, but they are undoubtedly the most unique. As we move ahead into the New Year, it looks like we will still be seeing this kind of branding. So as we take things one step at a time, it might be a good idea to watch where you step, because you never know what you might find.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity
Sources
  1. Social distancing means standing 6 feet apart. Here’s what that actually looks like
  2. Dawn Foods offers social distancing signage for bakeries
  3. Signs of the Coronavirus Impact in San Diego