Designing For A More Comfortable & Familiar Public Transit

Role: Visual Designer | Interaction Designer 

Team: Ricardo Paz , Eclair Junchaya, Hy Nguyen

Timeline: 10 weeks



How might we make people more comfortable on unfamiliar public transportation journeys?

After researching, designing, and testing solutions, we created a product specification to address the rising use of public transportation and cities becoming more connected.

To fully figure out the potential future of public transportation in smart cities from a human perspective, we examined what public transit is like in today’s world.


Public transportation is the future, but there's a problem.

Riders regardless of familiarity with a city or a route, needed to feel comfortable with unfamiliar routes or bus transfers

As the trend of car ownership begins to decrease all communities are resorting to public transportation.


Secondary Research

As cities become smarter and population rises, we are seeing an increase in the use of public transportation.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, increased ridership on public transit has helped to revitalize previously underdeveloped areas, reduce energy consumption, and contribute to a sustainable future.

“The rise of the Internet of Things and the essential role that vehicles play as nodes in that network, and a transition away from achieving mobility through asset (car) ownership and toward accessing mobility as a service.”

– The U.S. Department of Transportation, on how increased public transit usage would achieve a more connected urban future



Understanding Our Audience

We interviewed riders who frequently used public transport and how they perceived their journeys. In order to get a better sense of who our audience was we set out to explore the greater Seattle area and all of the neighboring districts to expand the scope of how they traveled.


Our objective was to test our assumptions & see if these areas influenced their behavior :

/ Time of day

/ Presence of other riders at stops, or lack thereof 

/ Lighting or no lighting

We crafted a rideshare service sign to see if riders would resort to those services if delays, sense of safety, or short patience would also play a role in their usage. 


Assumptions from our in city journey

/ The effects of darkness and isolation on people’s awareness of their surroundings are more pronounced when it is late at night

/ People are unlikely to switch to a rideshare service if they’re at a bus stop, unless it is more convenient or if there are significant incentives

/ The presence of one or two individuals in close proximity can be more alarming than in moments of complete isolation


Exploring concepts

Method: 8 X 8

After reviewing our observations and interviewees, we began to explore concepts that would offer reassure our riders instead of making people more afraid and less secure . The main objective was to create ones that would facilitate riders when feeling safe at transit stops, and help with finding areas nearby with better lighting conditions.


Storyboarding Our Scenarios

After exploring our different concepts, our participants created a clear narrative that they use a combination of applications that help them coordinate their transportation needs on any given day.  Given that the combination offered them the feeling of “knowing” where they were going. We created a storyboard to represent the idea we wanted to test and then set out to prototype the concept back in the wild.

Concept Illustrations by Eclair Junchaya


Paper Prototypes

We tested our paper prototypes with 12 participants and asked them to let us know their thoughts and immediate reactions.

After some further informal interview questions, we discovered that the scope of experience we looked at was too small and focused on the wrong thing.

We listened closely and began to move away from "feeling safe" focus.


Listening To The Riders & Shifting Gears


"I generally feel safe on the bus" – P1

"The bus driver has a responsibility to be vigilant, and I normally feel safe" – P2

"Have not felt unsafe on the bus before, & I am a night sift nurse so I ride the bus a lot" – P3

Our 12 participants revealed that overall the public transit experience had less to do with feeling "safe" than it did with feeling familiar or comfortable with unexpected bus transfers and new areas. 

Listening to the riders we began to make principles to keep in mind while making our design.


Design Principles

After our testing and feed back we crafted principles that best reflected our rider's journey, and the areas that arose from our testing.

It should look friendly, inviting, & personable

Experience that covers the "whole" journey

Information should be personal and helpful at a glance


Creating Our Friendly Language

The cozie character originally made its debut on a few post it notes, and eventually after many iterations I landed on the characters seen above . It became apparent that the riders had preconceptions of how public transportation applications looked and felt.  We examined the impersonal aspects of the available applications. I began crafting the personable component to our language, based on these impersonal aspects. 

I created an identity and language that would be a companion to your journey.


User Interface

The objective of the interface was to keep the app friendly and unique to the riders atmosphere. This was accomplished through the use of heavily rounded corners, playful colors, big beautiful photos, and the quirky playful cozie character as your avatar


Interaction flow

We emphasized the fun and friendly tone for our interaction models. Even though cozie has not yet been developed, our UI specification is designed to build out a more fully function prototype in the future.



As the team walked away from this project, we identified a few crucial things to keep in mind.

Always be ready for a moment of surprise: You always need to be ready to adapt to any change that may arise while developing any product, no matter how late in the process.

There can always be more testing: Always test everything, this was by far the best thing we did, and are looking to continue to do with this project. Testing will generate new insights that could change the way you see your own challenge.

It is perfectly okay to not be the first at something:  Adding something new to any product space at first seems easy, but you find out that most ideas out there are trying to do the same. It takes iteration and testing to be able to look at things through a different lense that can help create something original.

Last but not least, teamwork: Without teamwork, you won't be able to do much. Our team always made time for us to bond, as well as work. Through our bond we created an even stronger dynamic and made our entire process more hands on.