Design is all around us (it’s everywhere I go): Skytrain sparks design musings

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My daily commute is often filled with small annoyances that I drown out with either music, email or eBooks.  But this time it was different, some cylinder in my brain fired as I contemplated this ill-placed transit map:


Plan My Trip Here?! Oh, you mean, after I’ve found the underground entrance that’s practically unmarked, paid the fare, walked down three long flights of stairs that place me on a dingy platform, oh then I’m supposed to plan my trip? 

I’ve often internally fumed about the lack of signage, timetables and maps (let alone shelter from the elements at bus stops) at any of the transit stops here in Vancouver.  How is the typical visitor or newcomer to the city expected to discover any of this information?  How about a casual user, who may not be completely familiar with the ins and outs of the system, but wants to try it out ad hoc from time to time?  I use transit every weekday, and still am unable to just casually wait for a bus that’s not part of my commute and feel confident that I know when it’s going to show up, how long the trip is going to take or where it’s going to take me.

Does Translink really expect that users are going to spend 15 minutes on their website while toggling over to Google maps to figure this all out?  Talk about lack of user-centered design, not to mention lack of transparency. 

Ahh, how easy it would be to fix this problem, I mused.

And then it dawned on me – so frequently I critique these everyday things, but so rarely do I offer a solution.  And that’s when it really hit me – how about a regular design exercise where I’d collect these things–big and small (probably mostly small)–and propose a shoot-from-the-hip solution, and limit myself to 30 minutes, at max an hour, to generating ideas for fixes?  What kinds of things would I notice?  What ideas would I come up with?

So back to the ill-placed sign.  Here we go…my solution to you, dear Translink, is to duplicate, shrink, and laminate this map and either:

a) Place it on a post on this popularly trafficked corner right here where it is in context of where someone might actually think about planning their trip.  Although not everyone may need the information, at least it’s information that can be soaked up in the periphery and it perpetuates constant awareness.  And it highlights to visitors that there is indeed public transportation that can take you from the heart of the city to more far-flung locations.

b) Place it on the wall of the Bay building outside of the Skytrain entrace.

And while we’re at it, a large, illuminated subway sign  (lit when it’s in service, a la NYC) would be a nice gesture as well. 

Eat your heart out (does anyone seriously say that anymore?), Don Norman.

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