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Contextually Specific Visual Cues Provide Clarity in Uncertain Times

Updated: May 26, 2020

When given the action to remain six feet apart from others in order to limit transmission of COVID-19, we are left with a new normal and a reminder that we are not good at judging distances. Visual cues for this six-foot distancing have appeared all over the world in stores, markets, polling places and community social media posts, making actionable this somewhat abstract directive. The effectiveness of these visual cues comes from the community level implementation as they have interpreted how to best serve their target audience whether with chalk circles, orange cones with signs or alligator reference points.

What is Working/What Might Work

Community level implementation has worked well, as they are experts in their users within their context. While this may come easily to some community leaders/groups/store owners, a basic reference guide based on similar community level solutions could be available for their reference, adaptation and use.

Recognizing the difference in needs between stationary visual cues (i.e. standing and waiting in lines with taped boxes on the floor designating the appropriate distance) and moving visual cues (i.e. while in motion throughout space, on walks) is crucial. While a room set up with chairs strategically placed apart provides a socially distanced queue, stronger, more vivid contextual references for the more uncertain moving visual cues may help with their effectiveness. (i.e. a Florida county asking its residents to 'Keep 1 Alligator' between themselves).

Uncertainty, lack of control and isolation are our new realities and as such, the role of humor should not be diminished, especially when interpreting and implementing actionable directives disseminating from an authority. As we process this new normal that has been thrust upon us, humor provides us with the elements we are currently lacking, a bit of control and connection, which may result in further unsolicited dissemination of the information (e.g. the number of shares of the alligator meme is nearly five times the number of likes).

Who would this be most useful for?

Influencers and Leaders (Community, Religious, Thought), Media and Communication Professionals


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