Our reflections on 2020

None of us could have predicted the sheer amount of struggle, hardship, and upheaval that this year would bring with it. It has truly been a roller coaster of emotions.

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What a year it has been. 2020 began with such promise; with grand ideas on how we would celebrate what has been an incredible twenty years for Placemarque. But the world had other plans. And alongside businesses all over the globe, this year has instead been about adapting to new ways of operating and reimagining what the future might look like for us as individuals, a business, and as a society. None of us could have predicted the sheer amount of struggle, hardship, and upheaval that this year would bring with it. It has truly been a roller coaster of emotions. We have all spent so much time at home, in smaller social circles, feeling isolated from friends, family, and colleagues. I have felt the responsibility I bear as a business owner – as have many in the UK Sue Manley But with crisis comes big change, and we are confident 2020 is no exception. As the year has progressed, we have steadily found hope amongst the heartbreak of COVID-19. So many important, positive changes to how we live, work, and connect have slowly taken shape.  Digital transformation One of the biggest accelerations of 2020 has been the use of technology. Mass work-from-home guidelines created a sudden need for all of us to embed flexibility and digitisation into the very fabric of how we work. Fortunately at Placemarque, with our work taking us all over, we were largely ready for it. Our dedicated team of seven has carried on with minimal change, except for missing the vital component of in-person interaction. And, in a lot of ways, we are communicating even better than we did before. On a wider scale, we feel this mass adoption of technology and flexible working will revolutionise the world of work, far outliving the pandemic itself. Daily commutes and needing to live near your employer are – we hope – things of the past.  The future is local As a result of all this remote working, we have become so much more engaged with and inspired by our local spaces. Across the country, people are taking better notice of what is around them. Without the luxury of driving into the nearest city or national park for days of productivity or exploration, we have had to look much closer to home for all we need. And, as such, town centres and local areas are massively in flux.

The concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods has now become a reality. With so many people staying put, smaller and local businesses are thriving. Consequently, places are strategising more carefully about what the future could and should look like. We’re now asking how we can ensure our local areas contain all the enjoyment, experiences, and commodities we need from them now and long into the future.

A focus on people

This brings us to another big change. Something that lies at the very heart of wayfinding: a need to streamline and simplify the user experience of towns and local areas. Finding ways to effortlessly communicate all that makes a place special. Putting the end-user first and making it easier for people to engage with their local spaces through better wayfinding and mapping.

By improving the physical and digital tools available when engaging with a place, we can help with people’s navigation and experience of it. Considering the needs of the many, rather than a select few, will help us create spaces that combine value, desirability, and accessibility in equal measure.

Placemakers’ understanding that great places are made – they don’t just happen – is just another trend that COVID-19 has accelerated.

Sue Manley

What is a place without the people that bring it to life? And, as such, what is placemaking or wayfinding without taking a people-first approach to decision-making and design?

Looking ahead

We do not believe there will be any going back from a more flexible, digital approach to business. This newfound appreciation of locality doesn’t ever look set to disappear entirely. Many of these changes have been amplified by the pandemic, yes, but they were already a long time coming.

In terms of efficiency and accessibility, 15-minute neighbourhoods are here to stay. In both urban and suburban environments. We cannot reverse this new connection people have with the place they call home and this desire for more sustainable, efficient living. Moving forward, we believe this will continue to be a large focus for local authorities.

All in all, we are feeling positive about what 2021 will bring. As a society, we need to figure out new ways of operating, rather than simply reverting back to what came before. And, as a business, we are approaching this new year with the very same mindset. Whether it is how we approach our wayfinding solutions, inter-office relationships, or anything else, it is only forward from here.

At Placemarque,  we look to bring simplicity, vibrancy, and excitement back to a range of different environments and local areas, always maintaining a people-first approach to wayfinding solutions. If you would like to discuss your wayfinding needs or have any questions about our services, call us today on 0161 241 3174

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