Project Panacea: Improving Social Distance


Panacea is an experiment series that I together with a collegue initiated during the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 began its rapid spread around the world. Like so many others, our team was forced into the new reality of 'lockdown'. Within two months of lockdown, we created a series of seven product concepts and released them as lighthearted low-fidelity prototypes. We built fast, leveraging new video-conferencing platforms with quick 'hacks' to validate and develop ideas. Each experiment looked for a new mode of collaborative communication to explore how we might adapt our digital interactions to this new socially-distanced context.



- "An experimental approach to look for new ways of feeling togetherness during the early stage of the pandemic." -


The name Panacea came first: "A solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases". For us this meant keeping things light-hearted and playful, relatable, and inspiring. In a series of micro-experiments, executed in the form of a Sprint, we prototyped ideas, using the range of skills we had in our team.

Concept design

The experiments responded to issues that we encountered in our isolated way of living, we adopted a very “self-centered design” approach. Each week we asked ourselves a new question. For the Mingle experiment for example we asked ourselves How can virtual social gatherings feel more natural? An overview of all the experiments can be found here.



The concepts are all portrait in 1 minute video’s in a social media format. They explained our thoughts, give a sneak peek into our process and showed the final experiment. They provoked quite some reactions from the design community and beyond showing that these light hearted pieces of inspiration were appreciated.

My role

Overall we did a start of the week brainstorm all together to find and pick one direction. Once set I started building quick prototypes; paper prototype, p5js sketches or wireframes. Through acting out and testing on ourselves we validated the designs for the final experiments. After documenting the result I would edit the videos and generate a new visual based on the graphic design style to finish of the weeks experiment.

My thoughts

The project really suited my nature, it was very explorative and iterative, along the way we figured out what process worked best. Throughout the series, we had a lot of fun ideating the concepts and playing with some silly easter eggs in the movies. Having fun throughout the process is clearly reflected in the outcome of every experiment. We certainly sourced a lot of inspiration from the physical interactions of our day to day lives. Creating familiarities in the digital world made use of our mental model of interactions and the outcome was very positive. So far the series mainly lives on social media in the form of 1-minute1 minute videos. The beauty of it is that you need to keep the concepts simple and concise which really suits the nature of this project.