Social distancing signs around the world show the new normal

A social distancing marker as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen at emirates mall, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

They range from simple spray-painted circles on the ground in a Mogadishu market to bright and breezy floor stickers in a Dubai mall, which blow a kiss and urge: “Hey there beautiful, don’t forget to keep a safe distance.”

A combination picture shows a variety of markers used to set out social distancing in multiple cities around the world as governments try to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in these pictures taken during April and May 2020. REUTERS/Reuters Photographers

The markings that will oblige us to keep apart in busy social settings, in order to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus, are appearing on shop floors, city pavements and train or tram platforms the world over.

As people emerge from weeks of lockdown, they face an array of new measures to try and keep the virus in check and protect society’s most vulnerable.

The signs mounted so far went up at speed – but look likely to become commonplace and could be in use for years.

Dots on the ground, lines, squares within squares, love hearts and smiley faces are being used around the world. The markings need to be impactful enough to be adhered to, but also, ideally, to reassure people without making them feel cattle-driven.

A combination picture shows a variety of markers used to set out social distancing in multiple cities around the world as governments try to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in these pictures taken during April and May 2020. REUTERS/Reuters Photographers

“Anywhere where there are graphics at the moment, it is because people have had to react super quick and put something in place – speed has been of the essence. We are now at the point where there is a bit of breathing space,” said Chris Girling, Head of Wayfinding at CCD Design & Ergonomics in London.

We have a hotchpotch of styles, colours, terminology, scale and placement strategies, he notes. “This means every single time a member of the public enters a different space they are having to relearn the rules.”

There is a balance to be found, he said. “People want to feel safe, reassured and at ease. If you can do that, they are in turn going to be more likely to shop, feel relaxed and return. The message needs to be clear and consistent … and absorbed.”

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