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Design During COVID-19

By Andrew Connor

April 22, 2020

Product Workshop Spring 2020 Concepts
How the ID community is addressing the pandemic

The need to practice responsible social distancing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the way in which we learn and work. As swift, adaptive designers, IIT Institute of Design’s faculty, students, and alumni have pivoted  to address the many ways in which our lives are affected in times of pandemic, from studying public health infrastructures to reimagining the way universities teach remotely.

(For more information about ID’s plans for Fall 2020, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.)

Product Design Workshop

Martin Thaler’s Product Design Workshop will develop new offerings for Rebuilding Exchange, an organization based in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood that repurposes building materials. Students will design physical products and experiences as kits for entertainment—building skills and customizing home objects that can then be distributed online.


A faculty research and student project led by Ruth Schmidt will consider how to provide remote learning in graduate-level design education. remoteID is grounded in a combination of user and behavioral research and will use research findings to consider how design courses can deliver an engaging and productive learning experience and support a community of practice without in-person interaction. Insights gained from research completed during Spring 2020 will inform student-led prototyping during the summer and feed ID strategy for Fall 2020.

Strategies for Open Innovation

Carlos Teixeira’s course Strategies for Open Innovation will analyze public health infrastructures during the COVID-19 outbreak in regards to how products, services, communication, and interactions are performing in China, South Korea, Italy, and the United States. The aim is to better understand how design tools are equipped to address the common good during times of crisis.

Leadership Greater Chicago

A group of 11 ID students will be working with civic leaders through Leadership Greater Chicago to address local issues relating to blood donations, loans for small businesses, violence prevention, and food insecurity arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. All students are working as with LGC on a volunteer basis in addition to their regular coursework.

Paycheck Protection Program

ID students Zhongyang Li and Justin Walker and faculty Tom MacTavish and Chris Rudd will collaborate with the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration on creating an app to assist Illinois small businesses in navigating the United States Paycheck Protection Program. The app aims to ease the application process for the program, which was created by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wicked problem of COVID-19

ID alumni Laurel Komos, Divya Jain, Christopher Swan, Diana Cholankeril, and Vinod Kizhakke are taking part in a six-week, online design sprint led by the Berkeley Innovation Group. The collaborative brings design professionals, health care workers, educators, and students together from across the globe to apply design thinking practices to problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will culminate in actionable prototypes and plans.

Open-source PPE

ID alum Mihai Hogea (MDM 2018) collaborated with a group of designers at mHUB to create an open-source design for a protective face shield for healthcare workers combatting the COVID-19 outbreak. The shield is made from polyethylene film and polyester elastic straps, and includes step-by-step assembly and package instructions to make it accessible and simple to produce.