Designer's Guide for COVID-19: Physical Distancing

Designer's Guide for COVID-19: Physical Distancing

March 22, 2020

I wanted to use my creativity and skillset to make something useful to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to lighten the mood in these uncertain times. Using the latest information published about the virus, I’ve translated these into dimensioned drawings and diagrams hoping this would give some perspective (and some humour) into things like what does a 2-meter gap look like between two people or in some of the unusual and selfish behaviour generated by this pandemic e.g. panic buying toilet paper.

The graphic style of this blog series is inspired by Ernst Neufert's book, Architects' Data first published in 1936, a classic in the architecture and design world. The entire book is filled with dimensioned illustrations: dimensions of different body positions and dimension guidelines in practically all areas of the built environment from residential, supermarkets to sports fields. These have acted as guidelines for design. This blog series has re-adapted this concept for a COVID-19 pandemic scenario hence the title: ‘Designer’s Guide for COVID-19’.  

Note: ‘Architects' Data’ original book was first published in 1936 so an unbalance of genders in roles and ratio was evident in the human figures drawn. I've amended a lot of these from the original to balance things out.

All dimensions are in millimetres. Sources are mainly around NZ regulations and guidelines, some are from other sources from other parts of the world. 

Please refer to for official information on how to beat the spread of COVID-19.


Physical Distancing

The coronavirus isn’t airborne meaning the virus can only be transmitted from surface to surface. Things like handshakes, rubbing your eyes or nose will increase the spread of the virus. The coronavirus can also use saliva droplets as a surface. Generally, the exhalation of saliva droplets during relaxed conversations travels about 1 meter. When speaking loudly or coughing, droplets can travel up to 1.85 meters before they fall onto the ground (source). That is why physical distancing is a very effective precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. 



A really good video that illustrates how far exhaled airflow travels: Shadowgraph Imaging of Human Exhaled Airflows


1.5m to 2m is the distance recommended by the ministry of health (2m for level 4 alert). I didn't realise how far that was until I scaled these drawings. 1.5m is equivalent to approximately two (adults) arms fully stretched and 2m is equivalent to approximately three arms fully stretched. 


Scientist Siouxsie Wiles in collaboration with cartoonist Toby Morris use a bubble as an analogy to illustrate the point of self-containment and physical distancing 


Generally in New Zealand, the minimum footpath width is 1.8m and the maximum width is 3m. If you're walking on a 1.8m wide footpath and someone is coming towards you, then you know you'd need to step onto the road (which is empty anyway) to leave adequate distance. Source: NZTA

Probably best to use the stairs instead of a lift.

If you're queueing to get into a supermarket, use a trolley as a spacer in between yourself and the person in front of you and remember not to touch your face.  


We may be more physically distant but we are still socially connected. It’s time to video call a friend and share what you've cooked today!