Since March, we have all had to adapt to the “new normal” of 2020 with increasing concern on our own mental health and ways of working. For me, my search for internships at the start wasn’t as stressful as I thought because I was lucky enough to start the DPS course with an internship with Mercato Metropolitano (which was a result of a previous competition where I pitched the idea of developing an App for them). Mercato Metropolitano is a sustainable food market based in elephant and castle (now expanding into different parts of London and Berlin) with great ethical and social morals in relation to food and wanting to help the local community through various charitable means.
The internship started where Mercato approached us asking if we would re-design their website instead of focusing on an application, as that was more important to refresh their previous designed site to reflect the market and its community values. This meant the first month involved researching the main markets, the people, its community initiatives and how it became such an inspirational movement full of culture and passion for good food.
Interestingly, this research uncovered a lot about their positive social and environmental impact with their sustainability goals and how this has built the foundation of MM. Of course, this was needed to be communicated greater within their website pushing their amazing initiatives to the public. During this whole time, I was able to work in the offices physically interacting with the other members of the team and working closely with the marketing team and head designer. With their help and understanding how the market worked (in terms of operations and financial side), it was beneficial especially in the next couple of months when everything changed again with the new government regulations…
Even though the shift in technological advances has affected most businesses in terms of virtual communication and basic operations, working with Mercato has given me first-hand experience with this dramatic shift especially in the hospitality industry. Weeks before the second lockdown was introduced, I was approached by Mercato to work more than 3 days a week (my prior agreement) to full time with pay, expressing their concern of the current climate and the urgency of exploring new digital ways of operating. At first, their original operations of ordering food at stalls had to shift to a table service idea due to government guidelines, meaning they had to become one of the largest restaurants in Elephant castle and Mayfair. Only 6 people could sit at each table, resulting in a more controlled operation of the usually busy and thriving market site which immediately altered the atmosphere and community spirit of Mercato. Nonetheless, it still managed to attract to people to visit in safe space. This restriction meant that Mercato had to shift their own ways of working and bring in a new ordering system from your phone. Like a lot of restaurants at the time, this dramatic shift allowed app developers and designers to respond to the current needs of many clients in hospitality, which for me was more interesting to experience as a designer because of the adaptably and importance of the work we do. During this pandemic, designers have still had to problem solve and respond to new ways of working, despite the fact in some instance they are still underappreciated.
This global reset has helped reflect the type of work I do, in more of social mindset and made me realise that without designers during these unprecedented times, a lot of people would be struggling more. The basic level of virtual communication through zoom and online platforms was designed and coded by someone trying to help find a solution to the dramatic shift of having to hold digital meetings and virtual workspaces. This accelerated over the time of the pandemic, and companies might now use this new method of communicating within their structure if people are able to work from home, cutting financial costs of travel and even the physical spaces. Despite this point, many companies like Mercato still rely on this physical social interaction within offices and their physical sites which is why despite the recent lockdown, Mercato still wanted to try and help the community physically and in other virtual ways which was possible. As part of the internship, I was asked to work on their online grocery and help find ways of selling their goods online due to the markets now being closed. This shifted their operations again, as their only form of revenue and way of helping the community was to shift completely online using Shopify and Social media.
Instead of focusing on app developing for their new table service system, I had to suddenly adapt and learn more about how Shopify works and re-design their old site, so it is up to date with their style. I had to work closely with the operations and grocery team to make sure it was up to date product wise, which meant staying after work 3 days in a row before the new lockdown restriction to make sure it was live and ready for customers. This intense shift of working was a tiring experience and made me aware of the pressures that working in situation like this has on people in businesses. The stress of having to re-design the website had its own complications, but the shopify website was up and running in under a week after hours of quick photography and intense hours. Mercato still managed to have some physical interaction with the public as they recently opened their physical grocery where they hand out food bags and provide goods to the local community, even on a smaller scale.
Overall, seeing a business like Mercato shifting from its reliance of physical space into a complete digital reset was something I am glad I was a part of, as it made me realise how adaptable designers have to be in situations even when faced with external influenced that make the job harder.
Here are examples of the shift of mercato, from the seated market space to the new grocery which still operates its community initiatives such as CoMMunity meals which was given out freely to children and family during this time.
GMD - Graphic and Media design