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The pandemic is changing the way we design our world and the way we move around in it.

“If you’re creating a journey from home to destination, then obviously everything you touch and interact with is design,” said Paul D. Priestman, founder and chair of PriestmanGoode, a design consultancy out of the United Kingdom that counts Airbus SE, Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, and Transport for London as its clients.

“Good design is not an add-on but a crucial part of what makes a business successful,” he tells BusinessWorld reporter Patricia B. Mirasol. “When used effectively, it can make a massive difference to any business.”


Health and wellness are now part of every design brief because of the pandemic.

When it comes to public transit, designers are incorporating crowd control; social distancing; and self-cleaning materials that wear well, such as brass. The coronavirus has pushed health and wellness to the top of the priority list when it comes to design briefs.

“There are universal principles when it comes to good design,” Mr. Priestman said, “the first of which is that you really have to understand who you’re designing for. What are the problems you are trying to solve?” 

A key element that drives the work the design consultancy has done for its clients is the enhancement of customer service. “How can we create an environment that provides comfort, convenience, and efficiency for passengers?” he added. “How can we include design elements that also make the crew and maintenance staff jobs easier?”

Companies gain a competitive advantage with good design.

Design is a strategic tool that improves business profitability as well as the appeal of a product or service, said Mr. Priestman, who pointed out that good design is essential for companies wanting to compete at the international level. “Design is not an add-on cost. It’s one that improves profitability and saves expense and money,” he said, adding that most successful brands in the world use design effectively.  

Design creates a sense of place. 

Another key element is creating a sense of place. “We work a lot with national airlines, and our designs always focus on referencing the cultural heritage of that country, so that the interiors don’t just look like every other aircraft, but that they look distinct, and of that place,” said Mr. Priestman. The rebrand of Aegean Airlines, for instance, references the classical architecture of Greece translated into cabin patterns and motifs.

Transport plays an important role in how people experience places. It becomes one of the reasons people visit a city, he said. Travelers in Hong Kong go on the Star Ferry, visitors in New York get on its iconic yellow taxis. Transport has to be a cultural experience because part of the enjoyment of travel is doing something different. 

“We’re working in Austria, where we have to create places for putting skis so people can go skiing,” Mr. Priestman shared as he talked more about designing products that become a cultural symbol of a country. “In the vestibules where you get on and off trains in China, people like to have hot water, but in the UK it’s not necessary.” 

Designing to include the needs of the elderly will be a growing trend.

One of the other important issues shaping up in the world—apart from the pandemic and climate change—is its aging demographic. “Think about designing for your grandmother or grandfather. When designing a new product, ask: can they use it? That’s what we need to constantly reference,” said Mr. Priestman.

“Why take the fast train? Take the slow lane. Enjoy the travel experience,” he added. “Enjoy living. Design has everything to do with enhancing that.” 

This B-Side episode was recorded remotely on Jan. 13. Produced by Nina M. Diaz, Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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