R-Design, or how our everyday life becomes Corona-safe

The fight against Corona becomes a life with Corona. A new lifestyle is born. In order for concerts, trade fairs and football matches to take place again, organisers and industry must also take unpopular measures, writes GDI researcher Detlef Gürtler.


Only if R, the infection rate of the corona virus, remains below 1, only if each newly infected person infects on average less than one other person, can COVID-19 remain controllable until a vaccine is found. At present, this is still mainly seen as a task for politics (lockdown) and society (#stayathome). But especially if it is a medium to long-term challenge, it will also be a task for the economy. Their products, their processes, their technologies, their business models can help to reduce the risk of proliferation. And in doing so, it can increase the scope for all of us to find a new lifestyle worth living in.

This is a design task. An R-Design, so to speak. Of course, this is most noticeable in its outer form - with designer protective masks, social-distancing picnic blankets or distance apps that warn if you get too close. But the actual design tasks go deeper. For example, to touch-free doors in offices, shops, government offices, toilets. Where there is no button or handle, there is no risk of being infected by touching them. Or to create open spaces: between tables in restaurants, between spectators in stadiums. If the football leagues were allowed to start again on the condition that every second seat would have to remain free: would clubs and fans get involved? Probably.

A new R-design is particularly necessary for those industries that would otherwise be threatened with (almost) total destruction. Trade fair or concert organizers, for example. This can be done by limiting the number of visitors, by nationwide tests or by new technologies. For example, by installing a sensor in the trade fair badge that registers every movement of the visitor during the trade fair. If a visitor turns out to be infected afterwards, it is possible to determine in retrospect from all movement profiles who was in the vicinity of the infected person and for how long. That doesn't sound pleasant - but again: If a trade fair could only take place on the condition that every visitor wears such a sensor, both the organizer and the participants would probably agree to it.

R-Design is all about finding a balance between virulence and resilience. And to achieve this, many questions arise that have never been asked before. How do you make your value chain corona-safe? How can you transparently trace all raw materials and product components to be prepared in case something goes terribly wrong? How can a delivery service reduce the risk of its drivers being infected by customers - and vice versa? How can the air in the elevator be filtered or disinfected?

It is clear that there are still no answers to these questions, as fresh as this crisis is. But it is equally clear that those who can give the first good answers will benefit. Those who are now starting to R-design their processes and products.

An uncut version of this text appeared in "Das Magazin" on April 10, 2020.