Tart Modern
17th May 2019
Logo design and identity
The Mermaid London
5th February 2018

design innovation to help stop the spread of coronavirus (and social awkwardness)

Stop The Awks is a Creative Clinic initiative – conceived, designed, produced and launched within three days – in response to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Recognising the awkwardness surrounding how people meet each other in the coronavirus era (now that handshaking is no longer socially acceptable) we decided to launch online our own range of 14 button badges with various bold messages communicating how the wearer is happy to greet and be greeted. The primary aim was to reduce the awkwardness felt in social and professional greeting situations with the secondary benefit also being to help reduce the spread of infection.

With the world panicking about the spread of coronavirus and minimising physical contact in order to limit the spread of infection, we as an agency were noticing how uncomfortable people were when meeting each other. The news and social feeds showed us that world leaders, politicians, royals and celebrities were also struggling with the awkwardness of these encounters. We ourselves had quite a few ‘awks’ moments with clients and friends, where we found ourselves practically dancing around each other as we flapped between handshakes and elbow bumps.

Acknowledging that as the virus spread rapidly, so did the sense of social awkwardness, behaviour confusion and disease anxiety that came with each new meeting, we decided to sit down as a creative team to come up with a way to use design to try and solve the problem.

We concluded that the answer was a simple one. Creation of a range of badges, in multiple colours, with various messages, designed to make it easy for the person wearing it to silently and immediately communicate to everyone they meet, just how they are happy to greet and be greeted – thereby instantly eliminating the awkwardness. We also took the decision to donate 100% of all the profits to Age UK and the British Red Cross, two amazing charities that are right on the front line in dealing with coronavirus.

In an all-agency three day sprint, the entire Creative Clinic team successfully came together to conceive the idea, create all the designs, get button badges produced, build an e-commerce website (stoptheawks.com) and launch across several social channels (as well as share the idea with national press and broadcast media).

Although coronavirus is clearly an extremely serious situation, we devised an innovative concept and brand language to bring a much-needed lightness in response. This was an opportunity for us to stress-test the agency’s abilities under pressure and to use design to help make the world just a little bit better.