Why Stand the F Back?

A look at why provocative swag was our solution in assisting the fight against COVID-19.

Photo: JP Holecka
Published by J.P. Holecka on 04.08.2020

This article will not be the first or the last that starts with, "We are living in unprecedented times..." because the magnitude of what we are experiencing cannot be referenced in modern history.

Modifying human behaviour

Our world is being turned upside down by COVID-19. Different countries may be at varying stages of the spread, but we are all aligned in the protective measures that need to be adopted to flatten the curve. One of the best ways to beat the coronavirus is to stay inside. Yet, as simple as that sounds, we are finding it is easier said than done. Society has a lifetime of habits and biases to curtail. Born social, we line up, talk, eat, run, and do so many other activities close to one another that keeping our distance does not come easily.

So, the problem our team was looking to solve was temporarily removing humanity's innate tendency to be close to one another. Therefore, the solution needed to:

  1. Remove proximity bias quickly.
  2. Stand out and not be ignored.
  3. Be easily and quickly distributed globally.
  4. Not cost a lot for the users.
  5. Help the World Health Organization (WHO) get increased funding to fight the pandemic.

When we looked at the problems to be solved, it quickly became apparent that the focus had to shift from designing our usual bespoke solution to leveraging ready-to-go technology. The product had to be decentralized to ensure quick and easy distribution to global customers. The price also had to be approachable for users to afford in a rapidly crumbling economy, yet leave enough margins for donations to be sent to WHO.

A practical solution

Clothing immediately came to mind. With warmer weather approaching, t-shirts seemed to be the appropriate and most cost-effective choice. The first step then was to produce a fashionable streetwear brand that was bold, a bit shocking, and had a printed message that was loud and clear - "Stay the F back!". Nothing about the product could feel slapdash if we were going to attract customers and get them to wear the garments where they were needed most: supermarkets, pharmacies, and other essential services.

Quick to market

Next was finding a way to get them into market as quickly as possible. We chose the no-code e-commerce platform, Shopify, because of its ease of use, complete toolset, and expansive marketplace of third party suppliers and drop shippers.

Within two days, the brand, the fashion line, e-commerce platform, print on demand, and fulfilment processes were ready to go—all for a price tag of about $100. Within the first 24 hours and through word of mouth only, we've sold over $600 worth of merchandise. T-shirts are already being printed and will be in the hands of the quarantined worldwide within seven days of conception.

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Fighting this together

As a digital product and service design studio, we prefer to create solutions from the ground up. But given the current climate, the simple ready-to-go platforms have enabled us to do our part during this pandemic. So we did ours, now it's time for you to do yours. Stay-in, wash your hands, practice social distancing—and remember if you must go outside, please Stand the F Back.