Introduction: Over the years, Show+Tell has worked on the Environmental Design / Signage Design of numerous Transit Centers in many major cities around the world. We’ve seen some great design and some not-so-great examples, both giving us a great record of “lessons learned”. After taking lots of notes, I wanted to share passages of my ‘transit design’ journal. I’m sure these are ideas many of you have gleaned as well, but I thought I’d post them for anyone to use, comment on, share as you like. Hopefully having another’s perspective may help you make your case one day.

Customer Satisfaction for the Win

Very successful companies today are recognizing that the true measure of the impact of their product or service is through understanding their customer’s satisfaction levels. Happier customers = more loyal customers. The same is true with transit environments. Yes there are many travelers who will use a transit system because they have no other choice, however more travel options are giving way to competition among destinations and methods of travel. Transit systems must consider ease of use and the style with which they are providing their service. Customers are noticing and acting.

Getting massive numbers of people from point A to B is certainly the prime directive of any transit system, but becoming a place-based ambassador to a forward thinking city is a key role of a transit center.  Delivering happy travelers is a more sustainable goal. 


Customer Satisfaction Enemy No.1: Travel Stress 

When we travel, it’s pretty common to be stressed. Travelers bring stress to the airport. Sometimes they’re running late or perhaps they are delayed by long lines. Many travelers are not as familiar with the environment, and that confusion produces stress. Confusion by novice travelers may hamper progress by more seasoned travelers, causing them both stress.  

Navigating efficiently and having good and relevant information is a key component to stress reduction. Transit information is dynamic; fluid, ever changing (gate change, track change, delays, bulletins). The language of the facility must acknowledge the need for good information and tell the passenger, “Ok pal, we’re in this together. Keep one eye on my displays and I’ll keep you informed. I won’t let you down.”  The traveler needs to have confidence in the information they are receiving or stress becomes even higher. In busy transit environments, there is a ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude for many travelers, with good information being the key tool to a successful journey. Recognizing changes in dynamic info is key and reacting to them smoothly is the difference between safely arriving home soon and a painful delay.

More terminals are becoming international ports to and from non domestic locales. For travelers whose native tongue is not the locally spoken language, information comprehension is even more critical. The farther a visitor has traveled, the more stress they typically feel. 

In transit environments, passenger attention is a natural resource that fuels the main objective of navigating the space successfully. That resource is limited, and in a busy environment, it is being tapped by many other, non-essential users. The lower their tank – the less attention the traveller has to give – the more stressed they feel in their journey. Good design practices can minimize the attention needed from passengers, relieving stress.

All of these issues are solvable with good design and better process control. Very simply, successful design teams must adopt some fundamental tenets:  1) Customer happiness is important and 2) Stress is a natural enemy to customer happiness and 3) In many ways stress is a product of poor or neglected design.

Good Design leads to ➜
Good Transit User Experience leads to ➜
Great City Branding

In the next section, I’ll discuss some of the various traveller types, and specific lessons about how, through good design, to reduce stress for each.




⬅︎  See Previous Transit Design Journal (Part 1)

See Next Transit Design Journal (Part 3)