Creative Brief

April 23, 2020

Figuring the Future

A New Economic Outlook

Looking ahead to our post-COVID-19 future, there are few outcomes that anyone can predict with certainty right now. We don’t know how the world will change, or for how long, and what kind of lasting social, political, and cultural impact this event will have. However, one thing we can count on is that our economic reality is bound to shift profoundly. The global impact of reduced trade, increased unemployment, decreased individual spending, rising health costs, and declining productivity are likely to have far-reaching effects on households and businesses for years to come.

It’s not all bad news though. Life won’t be canceled forever, and when this crisis ends, we are likely to reorient our thinking, values, and habits concerning income, employment, financial security, and consumption, towards more sustainable outcomes. For governments, businesses, and individuals alike, this crisis may be the wakeup call that finally forces us as a global society to reckon with some hard realities and allow us to better see that our fates are all linked.

Here is an exploration of the many ways that the coronavirus pandemic may change the way we earn, spend, and think about money for some time.

Home Base for Work and School

Eventually schools, businesses, and offices will reopen; but after months of learning how to work from home, it will be damn near-impossible to put that genie back in the bottle come fall.

Parents are likely to be wary of sending their children back to classrooms for some time. For college students, returning to an expensive dorm room on a densely populated campus with shared facilities may not make sense, and may force massive economic innovation in this sector.

Many families may find that they prefer full or partial homeschooling, online learning, and remote work. Now that companies have been forced to figure out remote-work systems, it’s going to be harder going forward to deny employees those options.

As office-based employees shift to work from home, the new working landscape is increasingly flexible. Long term, this change may spur growth in second and third-tier cities, as uncertainty drives people closer to their families and homes.


What might this look like?

  • Virtual learning
  • Working from home
  • Balancing child-care & work
  • Homeschooling
  • Gen Z back in the home
  • Virtual solutions or remote work
  • Telemedicine and more and more professional and medical services moving online
  • Home consultations and appointments for some services, such as haircuts

Collection notes: “Webinar” is one of the top 100 most searched keywords in the last 90 days that yields less than 100 results.“Telemedicine” is one of the top 100 searched keywords in the last 90 days that yields less than 100 results. Video conferencing apps saw a record 62M downloads during one week in March, with Zoom alone seeing 2.4M downloads on March 25th.


Worldwide, employers have been forced to drastically cut back on labor costs and overhead, leaving millions of workers jobless. Freelance and gig economy workers are also suffering, being vulnerable to non-essential or surplus spending, and without long-term contractual obligations. There are three processes we can predict as outcomes of this new reality:

  • Economic recession, financial hardship
  • Widespread unemployment, job searching, and need for government assistance
  • Fluctuations in leading sectors of the economy as society adjusts to lifestyle changes
  • An eventual (but maybe not necessarily imminent) hiring boom as the labor market reopens and employers rush to populate the workforce again

What might this look like?

  • Job searching
  • Submitting job or college applications, receiving results
  • Applying for jobs
  • Indications of Help Wanted or Help Needed
  • Phone or Video applicant interviews
  • Preparing resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Continuing education
  • Researching and applying for unemployment benefits, loans, grants
  • Hiring, on-boarding, and training new employees
  • Preparing to open up shop again


Effects on Market Society

We’ve seen corporate social responsibility ramp up as different industries and businesses grapple with either their essentialism or complete non-essentialism in this crisis. Businesses are shutting their doors–or keeping them open, absorbing losses, waiving fees, extending grace periods, and refunding customers in order to show their support for community health and the common good.

The coronavirus pandemic has also put pressure on corporations to weigh the efficiency and costs/benefits of an increasingly fractured globalized supply chain system against the advantages of domestic-based production. As a result, we may see a shift towards increased localism. Communities have rallied to support small and local businesses and help them to financially weather this storm with donations and increased patronage. Additionally, new government programs, subsidies, low-interest loans, and stimulus packages may foster favorable environments for small and local businesses as we rebound from this crisis.

Global shortages on medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene products, and basic provisions have also alerted us to our vulnerabilities as consumers. And as we’re learning to minimize and “go without,” an increasing sector of society may start to place more value on reducing, reusing, and recycling. In the best-case scenario, the trauma of the pandemic will force society to accept restraints on mass consumer culture as a reasonable price to pay to defend ourselves against future contagions and climate disasters alike.

What might this look like?

  • Donations, Volunteering & Fundraising
  • Supporting local small business
  • More emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling
  • More homemade solutions (cleaning products, sanitizers, clothing, tools)
  • Developing regional food supply chains and markets
  • Celebrating essential workers and operations that kept the economy afloat, such as medical workers, mail and delivery personal, supermarket staff, farmers, factory workers, warehouse and distribution associates
  • Renewed investment in science, scientific research, and scientific institutions
  • De-privatization of social and public life — people more likely to utilize parks and backyards instead of restaurants, cafes, malls, etc.

How We Come Together

When this ends, we are also likely to make substantial new investments in public spaces and community services. Even after we no longer need to stay six feet apart, this event has sparked a renewed appreciation for open spaces and communal life. We now understand the inalienable need for accessible, all-weather places to gather. Rather than new commercial developments, malls, and car parks; we may choose instead to preserve and revitalize parks, sanctuaries, promenades, and gardens–and make them more accessible for all.

What might this look like?

  • Coming together but keeping distance
  • Moving social activities outdoors
  • Utilizing parks and gardens
  • Gathering in backyards, porches, lawns, rooftops, balconies, stoops
  • Increased neighborhood activity as people stay close to home



Fiscal Re-thinking

Once the health emergency is over, we will see the extent to which families and individuals have been forced to think carefully about their own financial security. How are we prepared to weather harder times? Do we save enough, do we spend our money wisely, have we invested enough in our own health?

What might this look like?

  • Financial services and advisors
  • Mortgage refinancing
  • Loan applications and appraisals
  • Retirement planning
  • Saving and investing
  • Filing taxes
  • Stock market and trading
  • Organizing financial documents and records
  • Banking
  • Budgeting 
  • Home economizing
  • Downsizing homes and cars

Money Themes

Because the nature of a lot money related subjects is immaterial or virtual, concepts and abstracts are particularly effective ways to communicate themes such as:

  • Interest
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data
  • Shares
  • Currency
  • Trading
  • Transfer
  • Deposit
  • Stocks
  • Appreciation and depreciation
  • Profit and loss
  • Liquidity
  • Markets
  • Diversification
  • Risk
  • Capital
  • Accrual

Credits: CZAR/ Phenomenon, Amsterdam; Neverist/ Le Hof Media; 10,000 Hours/ Getty Images; Westend61/ Getty Images; Cavan Images/ Adobe Stock; Hero Images/ Adobe Stock; Paul Peterson/ Marine Corps; Getty Images; Yevhen Rychko/ Alamy Stock Photo; Wavebreak Media; Marc A. Hermann/ MTA New York City Transit; Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times; Isaac Lawrence/ AFP via Getty Images; Kathryn/ GoingZeroWaste; Chava Sanchez/ LAist; Deb Linsey/ Washington Post; Snowpeak (left, right); Gray Malin; Grace Lee/California Sunday; Robert Herman; Maskot/ Getty Images; Null/ Getty Images; Getty Images; Humana; Aaron Tilley; Jon Enoch/ The Guardian; Baker & Evans