Social distancing are reforming our cities

Social distancing marks are evolving around the world where it bring awareness to people. These signs are slowly standardised and upgraded.

Social-distancing markers are appearing around the world with thousand variations. They do more than just reminding us to keep ourselves distanced.

Blue-and-white wave-shaped marks in Paris.

In central Paris, a series of blue-and-white wave-shaped marks painted the street and pavement. The metropolitan introduce these marks as a new initiative to encourage social distancing around schools.

Sign in Paris printed with “1m apart”.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris city’s has to prepare Phase II, a period of partial lockdown-rule relaxation between May and July that included the re-opening of some schools. Hence, Paris-based creative agency Studio 5·5 has devised the markings on street in response to the call from Paris. Paris has now entered Phase III where all schools can be re-open and the wave-shaped signs have been expanded to another two schools.

These markings, symbols and signs signify the pandemic-changed world that not only works differently but now looks it too.

Progressing in an organic way

The pandemics have shaped the cities we live in more than one time. Take an example, Venetians lockdown an entire island to quarantine infected patients in the 15th century. Besides, the city-state of Milan also erected an entire block for plague patients at that time. But for the first time, multiple cities are still inexperienced and concurrently adapting to the same challenge. Each country is doing it in various ways that reflect their values, cultures and priorities.

Harold Takooshian, a professor of urban psychology at Fordham University in New York City said that social distancing signs around the world have three wide categories:

  • Government signs
  • Organisational signs
  • Citizen-created signs

Government signs include the wave-shaped marks in Paris, as were the white-painted squares in Vicchio Tuscany. However, most of the social distancing signs around the world are in the other two categories.

Cobblestones of Piazza Giotto have been painted white to create a social distancing grid.

Introducing a new standard

As the pandemic going on, these improvised social distancing signs slowly progress into more standardized markers. For instance, each city marked their respective pedestrian crossings before the zebra crossing was introduced. Same goes to social distancing signs.

An ideal symbol is where it gets attention and triggers a natural response among viewers. People tend to ignore wordy signs, whereas simple signs with bright colours tend to stand out more.

Implementing “emotional component” can also make a marker more effective. For example, the Paris wave-shaped mark is playing on Paris citizen’s loyalty. However, social distancing signs that convey emotional messages may vary across countries.

Fullilove, who has researched the impact of 9/11 on New York City civil society, believes that local governments should collaborate with organizations to co-create signs that convey hope and possibility messages. That may bring massive effectiveness in pushing people to obey social distancing rules.


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How social-distancing symbols are changing our cities


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