As video conferencing has rapidly moved from work tool to social tool, interfaces should take a cue from the fun of early UI design and catch up.

As I write this, we are coming up on three months of some form of stay-at-home orders for many of us in the United States due to the CoViD-19 pandemic. As work and home life have blended (along with the days and weeks), video chat software like Zoom, Houseparty, and Facetime have become standard parts of life, keeping us close not just to work colleagues, but to our friends and family as well.

A Zoom video chat window showing 25 participants on a single screen, with a second page of participants indicated.
A Zoom video chat window showing 25 participants on a single screen, with a second page of participants indicated.
Zoom employees on a large group chat. Source: Zoom Blog

At first, despite the circumstances, it was kind of fun and novel to connect with our social circles this way. My experience, and a common refrain I heard from friends, was that we were connecting with people we hadn’t spoken to in years. …


Though many examples seem to exist to the contrary, there’s no reason signage that works for everyone can’t look good.

In late 2018, news of the removal of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station’s old split-flap departures board caused some outcry for nostalgic and aesthetic reasons. The whirring and clicking of the board’s periodic updates was a comforting and familiar sound while you waited in or passed through the station, and the analog machine seemed to fit more nicely with the historic station than a giant screen might.

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The recently-removed split-flap board at Amtrak’s 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, PA.

Amtrak, owners of 30th Street Station, needed to replace the board for many reasons, primarily because it failed to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). …


Transforming maps into diagrams can help speed up travelers’ comprehension, but requires removing many factual details. How do we know what hurts and what helps?

Recently, I worked with the Port Authority of NY & NJ to design new wayfinding and train arrival displays for the AirTrain at JFK Airport. (A link to the complete project case study is at the end of this article.)

Here, I’ve broken down a what I found to be a difficult piece of the puzzle — figuring out how to best represent the AirTrain system in a small on-screen space.

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While working on the project, I challenged myself to meet this goal: Answer the question “Can I get to my destination on this train?” in under 5 seconds.

A natural starting point was thinking about the map of the full system, which immediately and clearly failed to meet that…


Making a great product not feel like a chore to use.

I’m a huge fan of MealPal — for less than $6 per meal, dozens of restaurants offer meals for lunch every weekday for me to pick up at a time of my choosing. I went from buying $10 lunches at the same four places every day to finding a bunch of lunch spots I would have never otherwise found, and paying less for it.

It’s a great product that’s easy to grasp the appeal of. However, the MealPal app — the main point of interaction — leaves a lot to be desired. …


These things are so insane, it’s kind of a shame to fix them.

Update: The Port Authority of NY & NJ reached out to me to help make this proposal a reality, and it is now live in Terminal 8 of the JFK AirTrain. Read my latest write-up on the project.

I recently returned from vacation and flew in to JFK. While waiting for the AirTrain, I took stock of the amazing status screens — I’d seen them before, but never really appreciated their total gaudiness and lack of practicality:

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The clouds! The tiny text showing when the next train comes (the most important piece of information!) The duplicated and equally unclear ways of showing the route! …


In which my design proposal gets upstaged by an actual new design.

After seeing the positive feedback on my redesign of the NYC Subway’s countdown clocks, I couldn’t stop thinking of the many other ways the MTA ignores good information design principles in communicating with its customers.

Redesigns might not have as large an impact as fixing the subway’s signals, but they’re relatively low-hanging fruit that could vastly improve communication, which is half the battle. I might not like it when my train is delayed, but if the reasoning and expected delay is communicated well, it puts me much more at ease.

So what is planned for today’s redesign exercise? …


New York’s bike share system could use a little bit of precision applied to its fun brand.

I love using Citi Bike to get around New York City, and in general find their promotional material, kiosks, and branding to be well-designed and a pleasant addition to the city streetscape. That said, the logo and app icon — two of the most important elements of their brand — grind my gears every time I see them:

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The amount of stuff jammed into that icon! and the poor forcibly-rounded and smushed letters in “bike!”

In a quick just-for-fun project, I got rid of the mushy rounded corners in the logotype, using a modified version of the Circular font to ensure the geometry of the letters would match. …


Can we do better than barely trying?

Over the course of 2017, the MTA, overlord of New York’s transit system, took on the big and much-needed project of installing countdown clocks on all of its train lines, in every station. While they were an upgrade from nothing, the clocks showed very little consideration for the specific ways trains and customers of the NYC subway operate.

I’ve been building a personal list of complaints with the MTA’s train countdown clocks for a while, but seeing this tweet was what tipped me over the edge to actually putting pen to paper on a better solution:

For those not from the area or who haven’t noticed this issue, what he’s talking about is the second row on this display. It cycles through the next six trains to arrive, showing you their estimated arrival time and destination. …

About

Adam Fisher-Cox

People-focused product, brand, and experience designer. Portfolio: adamfishercox.com

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