Businesses and service providers that during the Covid-19 pandemic are not included in the so-called ‘essential services’ must improve their branding, adapt their businesses, launch themselves into digital marketing and often need help to do so. Designer Rui Lira took the initiative to come to their rescue with the help of creative industry professionals.
By Ellen Queiroga

Designers of the People (Designers do Povo) is a new platform that links (so far) 300 creatives to more than 100 active businesses. The mentor of the project, the strategic design consultant Rui Lira, has already dedicated part of his time to small businesses and cultural and social organizations in São Paulo since 2005. But with the arrival of the pandemic, he saw the need to expand his action and give life to an old idea: to challenge designers, marketers and hackers from around the world to voluntarily help local businesses. The initiative’s website was launched in late April and quickly reached international engagement, with registered professionals from 18 countries, each working within their own region as a mobilizing ambassador. WDCD talked to Rui Lira, who is originally from Portugal.

Rui Lira (source:

For you, what is the role of design professionals in this pandemic?
Rui Lira: ‘We must ask ourselves: how do we contribute to the collective? As a designer, we have a systemic look, and we use research, planning and creation tools, which materialize in services, products and communication. Our current role is to review the place we occupy in a more macro way, questioning the logic of the work we do: is it really necessary? Who benefits from it? Are we putting our energy in the right place? I believe we should start strengthening what is small, bringing up projects that are at the bottom. We have the ability to change the market and influence consumption. The biggest companies in the world invest a lot in design, this is no accident.’

(source: @designersdopovo)

How can designers take part?
In the app, you can access all information about the challenge. The journey is based on three steps: finding a business, developing the brief in a collaborative way and spreading the word. Our goal is that the professional after solving the business’ needs, starts challenging other designers, strengthening this chain within the creative community.

How did designers help the microentrepreneurs?
‘Our challenge is big! We deal a lot with a more mature and less digitally educated audience, which until now did not see the value of having a well-designed visual identity or having a digital presence. However, due to the urgent context, they needed to readjust their businesses. The demand for almost everyone is: to build a digital presence and to know how to use their own social media to increase sales’.

Can you share some examples already?
‘We have a case that arose from a partnership with Rede Asta – which supports women artisans. We held a meeting with them to explain what design can do and the relevance of digital presence for difficult times. Among others, Sandra Portella (@sportellacroche), who has professionally crocheted since 2016, received consultancy to develop her brand on social networks and expand her online presence. She told us: “I set up my social networks, but I didn’t know how to use them. The help was very important. My social network boomed, because people not only followed me but also sent messages to order products and get to know my space.”

Two examples from Designers do Povo and Sandra Portella working on her crochet project (source: @designersdopovo and Rui Lira)

‘Another very cool job we did was the strategy and the layouts of a crowdfunding campaign for the production and donation of FaceShield masks to frontline workers in hospitals. In two days they hit the goal and distributions were made in the first weeks.’

What is your message to small traders in the midst of this crisis?
‘Try not to stop! It is not the time to block because of perfectionism or what is missing, but it is a time to do something with what little we have. Nowadays we have several tools that make it possible to build our digital presence and sell our product online and for free. ‘The platform recently launched the Conference “Learn, create, overcome”, covering digital presence, design thinking, finance and marketing for small local businesses to inspire and regenerate their quarantined enterprise. Study a little, watch tutorials about how to use digital tools and ask your support network for help: family and friends (especially younger people who already have experience in social media). We are together!’