PAALALABAS reimagines COVID-19 safety remindersusing design thinking

PAALALABAS stickers and signages are installed in carinderia stalls and pedicabs in Intramuros as safety reminders for customers to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Design industry leaders including the Design Advisory Council and the Design Center of the Philippines, led by the Communication Design Association of the Philippines (CDAP) are working together to bring forth PAALALABAS, a comprehensive campaign targeted to encourage Filipinos to practice more vigilant health and safety practices amid rising COVID-19 concerns.

PAALALABAS, a combination of the words paalala (reminder) and labas (to go out), is a campaign that utilizes human-centered design to create effective communications for Filipinos.  PAALALABAS utilizes the nudge theory which uses “positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence behavior and decision making”. In a study published by RN/Psychologist Maria Lourdes de Vera (2017), the use of positive reinforcement can create an effective social learning experience. The study, published in the London Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, also cited that if positive reinforcement is integrated with the creative approach, it could enhance social interaction and participation.

Current communication needs

The constantly evolving pandemic conditions has affected the way we interact with one another as well as the way we move through public spaces.  One way by which design can help us navigate the pandemic labyrinth is through the creation of a system of design that can communicate this new etiquette, to encourage and constantly remind individuals and local communities of mindful and safe behaviors against the virus.

These behaviors become more crucial as we begin to expand the opening of our economy to spur our recovery, acknowledging that the current health crisis has heavily impacted people’s livelihoods and businesses, particularly those of the micro, small and medium enterprises.  Our road to economic recovery must always find a balance with keeping our nation safe and protected.

The PAALALABAS campaign offers a design solution to this wicked problem by designing visual cues coupled with communication taglines that will help influence and encourage new behavior.  To develop the concept, design thinking was applied to get to the heart of the problem and approach it from the point of view of the grassroots community, the essential workers who must go out, and how this initiative can resonate with them and encourage healthy behavior.

The team took into consideration that most Filipinos are experiencing COVID-19 fatigue and a PAALALABAS nudge could be the key to break through this fatigue and to nudge people towards new etiquette and safe behavior. 

“We fully understood that we were faced with the big challenge of COVID fatigue. Therefore, we knew this campaign should have the ability to pierce through this fatigue and resonate with our target audience.  We strongly believe that PAALALABAS has this ability because it has a very Filipino character of creative word play coupled with a very simple visual language and iconography,” said Rhea O. Matute, Executive Director of the Design Center of the Philippines. 

The campaign’s main call to action is mag-mask, mag-distancing, magtulungan, which leverages indirect suggestions to empower people to act, rather than compel them to follow rules. It puts first and foremost the articulation of our ‘why’, to remind people that we need to look out for one another in order to beat the virus.  According to Arch. Royal Pineda, Co-Chair of the Design Advisory Council, and Principal Architect of Budji+RoyalArchitecture+Design, leading with our ‘why’ resonates with people because it taps into the part of their brain that influences behavior and this is the impact that we want to achieve through this campaign. 

PAALALABAS is an expression of the Filipino’s love and care for each other during this pandemic. PAALALABAS is our creative and compassionate response to the overwhelming situation in our country and all over the world,” said Pineda. 

The team also highlighted that the PAALALABAS campaign wants to put emphasis on magtulungan, to remind everyone that even during difficult situations such as what we are experiencing right now, we are still part of a community that relies on each other and looks out for each other. 

The campaign is also a means for designers to come together and fight off risks of COVID-19 by developing research-based campaigns that is human-centered. Meanwhile, Angel Guerrero, member of the Design Advisory Council, and Co-Founder of CDAP, explained the relevance of the campaign to Filipinos.“We are currently in the timeline of the pandemic where a single-minded message that is strategically situated can provide that vital nudge that Filipinos need towards making the right choice on health and safety. 

The PAALALABAS campaign therefore involved a very grassroots-driven and -centric roll out by choosing where the public would often let their guards down and that is where the danger lies.  Putting our PAALALABAS assets in these areas can mitigate the risk and nudge towards responsible behavior,” Guerrero said. 

What’s next for PAALALABAS

The PAALALABAS team worked on strengthening the messaging of the PAALALABAS campaign. In a series of focus group discussions (FGDs), key insights were gathered from the target demographic in key areas nationwide. This Communication Campaign Evaluation Research targeted to integrate the messages crafted by design professionals with the reception of varied, but targeted audiences. The campaign will be rolled out on a nationwide scale, in numerous channels accessible to every Filipino. Currently, PAALALABAS has set up its City Lab in coordination with Intramuros Administration and its asset repository with support from Canva.

The objective of the PAALALABAS Intramuros City Lab is to prototype a scalable design solution for cities in addressing the COVID-19 challenges by concentrating on community and grassroots, as well as engaging community leaders and influencers to encourage and enforce healthy behavior and observance of the health protocols, especially in areas where people would tend to let their guards down.

The PAALALABAS Intramuros City Lab, upon its on-ground activation, will initially benefit grassroot beneficiaries. Some of them will include MSMEs around the area, including carinderiaowners, pedicab and e-tricycle drivers and operators, and other smaller business units around the Walled City. 

According to the PAALALABAS team, they want the campaign to be highly accessible to everyone, hence their partnership with premier graphic design platform Canva. Through the partnership, the creative assets will be available on Canva, a platform that offers a wide variety of materials and assets for both beginner and professional designers. This way, users can own all campaign assets and make it part of their daily lives. 

The CDAP and Design Center teams also mentioned that PAALALABAS will be a campaign that backs a strong social purpose: using effective design to benefit a significant number of stakeholders. PAALALABAS will have its own ‘nudge unit’, composed of private individuals with combined specialization from fields including mass communication, behavioral science, and design thinking. The role of these choice architects will be to engineer nudges, our pivots to lead Filipino communities towards making the right choices, the campaign team concluded.

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