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Designing for Social Distancing: Balancing Safety and Human Connection – Redshift

Designing for social distancing is about a lot more than tape on the floor and plexiglass. It requires an understanding of public health; human behavior; and, most of all, context.

Illustrations by Micke Tong
Illustrations by Micke Tong


by Susan Etlinger, Altimeter Group Sr. Analyst

Before 2020, when people visited a museum, attended a concert or sporting event, went shopping, or simply commuted to work, they probably never thought much about what it took to ensure the experience was safe. People took for granted the ability to move confidently within their environments and didn’t often pay attention unless something was amiss: crowding, long lines, an out-of-service elevator, a fire alarm.

It takes a considerable amount of forethought to ensure that groups of people can move around safely. That planning requires an understanding of math, biomechanics, data science, design, demographics, psychology, local regulations, sociology, and geography, among other disciplines. Designing for social distancing requires an ability to consider thousands of factors and analyze many different types of data about what people do and the roles they play in physical spaces, whether they are institutional environments such as schools, offices, and hospitals or social environments such as stadiums and tourist attractions.

“Before the pandemic, we’d be looking at how to reduce congestion to make crowded environments safer and ensure people have a positive experience,” says Dr. Aoife Hunt, associate director at Movement Strategies, a people-movement consultancy based in London. “And then, at the start of lockdown, the focus changed.”

Movement Strategies is primarily known for its work assessing large-crowd dynamics at locations such as tourist attractions, sports stadiums, offices, and retail spaces. In early 2020, Hunt says: “We looked ahead to our summer and our work with football and Wimbledon and music festivals, and we thought, ‘Goodness, all these crowded events are just not going to happen this year.’ But now the problem of people movement has become a really critical issue of safety and reducing risk of transmission of the virus. So understanding how to lay out spaces and how to organize for people movement has actually moved up the agenda. And there’s been a bit of a spotlight on our little niche world.”

Illustrations by Micke Tong
Illustrations by Micke Tong

Read on >>>> Source: Redshift Designing for Social Distancing: Balancing Safety and Human Connection

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