Eva Vanessa Bruno and Beatrice Lerma
This paper highlights the evolution of designers’ responsibility during an unexpected emergency period like the COVID-19 outbreak. This process will be described through a set of case studies showing that the design discipline is resilient and capable of gathering the proper needs at the right time and relieve market tensions. Indeed, designers can help companies in the process of industrial reconversion, an ambidextrous strategy that allows producing what is missing but extremely urgent during an emergency. The paper describes the way firms converted to produce necessary goods such as clean hand sanitiser, lung ventilators and the personal protective equipment needed by citizens and medical personnel. During the COVID-19 emergency period, what are, and have been, the challenges for designers? What new expertise, skills, activities will the designer have to gain? How do designers give innovative answers with new activities to support companies during emergencies? The answer was found in the designers’ ability to examine the problem holistically and choose the most innovative and contextually appropriate solutions. Together with management ingenuity, they also fit in with ambidextrous strategies that direct the company towards new opportunities by exploiting the resources already belonging to the firm, untangling the economic complexity.
Keywords: design for emergency, industrial reconversion, ambidexterity, innovation management, market tension