Charette is a term used predominantly in the architectural domain. It originates from the École des Beaux Arts in late 1800’s Paris where architecture students would work on their scale models in the studio right up until the absolute deadline. For this exhibition’s extension activities we used the charette format to engage incoming, first year design students at the Wilson School of Design.  This fast-paced, collaborative session brought together new students from all 7  disciplines to think about the ways designers might address everyday problems arising during the pandemic.  Working remotely over Zoom, multidisciplinary teams were asked to identify a problem and draft a potential solution, based on only cursory research.  Participants, together with their senior student coach, worked through the design process to generate better understanding of the problem and come up with a suitable solution within a very narrow time limit. Needless to say, the teams worked feverishly in a remote setting to come up with viable solutions. Teams with the help of their coaches were asked to consider taking on one of the pressing problems (or, perhaps more aptly referred to as  challenges) below.


Challenge 1

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. So, what would you put into a pandemic emergency kit (for an individual or a family)?

Challenge 2

What kind of set-up would be required for an outdoor workspace for students (furniture, amenities, resources, landscape feature…)? How about an outdoor classroom?

Challenge 3

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) currently available is decidedly medical, sterile, and uniform. Is there a way to amp it up? Can it become more urban? More “black tie”? How could PPE become more… personal?

Challenge 4

Retail environments (IRL) have been hard hit by health orders that limits both social interaction and product interaction. Is there a way to build more safe interaction with both people and products in retail environments?

Challenge 5

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has proven to be effective in mitigating exposure to many kinds of viruses – but only if worn properly. For many people with different abilities or limitations, finding PPE that is effective is a challenge. How can PPE be designed to be more inclusive?

Challenge 6

By the end of October, disclosing your vaccine status will be required to use many different services in our community. What does a vaccine passport look like? Is there an alternative to the “passport”? Could there be another way to communicate this information?

Challenge 7

If a person does not have proper documentation of vaccination, a rapid COVID test may be an option. What might a rapid testing COVID site at WSD look like? How would it work and where would it be located?

Challenge 8

Some people, despite our national efforts to increase access, are not be able to be vaccinated. In many cases, they may have to reduce (or avoid) interacting with others in public spaces. What kind of emotional support objects might help them through an extended period of isolation?

Challenge 9

It was announced this summer that post-secondary schools would be returning to in-person learning. Understandably, some people have concerns and anxieties about returning to populated spaces. What could help those who are concerned about being around people to come back to school? How can they find safer, less populated spaces at KPU to study or read between classes?


The challenges presented to students were intended to be simple: not be too technical or difficult to address. The aim was to  encourage participants to empathize with the user, identify central needs, restate the problem, allow for fun discussion and debate (through critique, testing, and improvement of ideas) and finally, to present their ideas in a visual way. The charette exposed students to the design process, creative work with designers from other disciplines,  and technologies for creative collaborations in remote settings.

Check out their design solutions to some of the challenges — completed in just 75 minutes!

Safer Shopping App

Coach Alex, Britney, Emily S, Emma, Josie

Solution to Challenge #4

Our goal was to create a safe and efficient shopping experience for everyone, encompassing all comfort levels. This app allows users to select and map out where to find products in a store as well as what products are available in each store ahead of time. FoodFinder prioritizes all users and aids them in their shopping environment and experience even after the pandemic.

COVID Touch Detector

Coach Olivier, Clara, Jaiden, Kitty, Kelly

Solution to Challenge #4

The COVID Touch Detector is a waterproof,  adhesive label that can be applied to a variety of materials. The sticker is reactive to temperature and can detect a fever at the touch of a finger. The Detector comes with an apps history tracker and a QR code health update. 

Safer Retail Shopping

Coach Max M, Caitlyn, Jaqueline

Solution to Challenge #4

By guiding the shopper through the store in this way, the environment could be used as a showroom of sorts, for shoppers to pick up orders while browsing in a safe way. This showroom model could also replace the store model of racks of items being rifled through by multiple shoppers, instead opting for digital browsing–perhaps with scannable QR codes at the bottom of each display for shoppers to research further.

Vaccine Card

Coach Erika W, Bérénice, Meena, Adam

Solution to Challenge #6

The COVID-19 Vaccine Status Card keeps your information private by using a QR code. Restricted business can scan the QR card and see if the individual is allowed access. The card comes in a physical and digital form to assure it is accessible to all ages. The app comes with the added bonus of government approved COVID-19 updates.

Vaccine Card + App

Coach Judy, Angela, Cody, Elise

Solution to Challenge #6

It is important that the vaccine status card be a bright colour, easy to carry, and highly legible.  Our card comes with a RFID sensor for touchless verification thus eliminated cross contamination on the surface. It is also waterproof and constructed of eco-friendly yet durable materials. There is also a digital version which can be displayed on your smart phone.

Vaccine Card

Coach Haley, Anqi, Brandon, Klara, Max L, Mumtaz

Solution to Challenge #6

Vaccine passports should be easy, safe and convenient to use for people of all ages,
demographics and income brackets. We suggest a vaccine passport that comes in three different formats: a bracelet that is convenient for children or older citizens, a vaccine card for people who prefer to show a physical card and a digital version that is securely stored in a user-friendly app.

Outdoor Classroom

Coach Karen, Amber, Emily M, Phoebe, Lyanna

Solution to Challenge #2

Our main idea is an outdoor learning space utilizing large tents or canopies to create interaction opportunities. This would entail plexiglass separated tables and a bar trolley full of supplies with extension cords or other equipment for students to use. This will all be done with sanitation stations for everyone to clean up after themselves.

Outdoor Workspace

Coach Josh, Owen, Paulina, Quintin, Ulla

Solution to Challenge #2

The Space Donut is an outdoor communal work hub designed to encourage safety and inclusivity in a time where the world feels anything but. Developed with zones in various levels of togetherness, washrooms accessible by an outer pathway, integrated heating, and strategically placed PPE and sanitization stations. Each zone is covered to protect from the elements, with the central core being an open green space to evoke calm creativity.