Redesigning Ticketmaster’s Tickets
Excuse me, my ticket says section GA, but there’s only Sections A to F. Where is my seat?
In December of 2013, I wrote an article called Dear Ticketmaster on Medium. This open letter addressed Ticketmaster’s uninspiring paper tickets. With digital mobile tickets and PDF tickets on the rise, paper tickets are slowly becoming extinct. To me, paper tickets were a keepsake you’d collect from your favorite bands or sports teams.
But there was a bigger problem than extinction. Volunteering as an usher, I would read hundreds of tickets in the dark. Even with a flashlight to read the seating information, I would still struggle to decipher what I was reading:
After an event, this became a physical keepsake that proved you went to it. My colleague, Christopher Simmons, called this project a redesign of emotional ephemera. This mundane object needed a redesign worthy enough to keep these souvenirs in circulation.
Read the article:
I came across a post on Medium, that called a redesign for airplane boarding passes. The process of each designer varied from making the visually ideal ticket versus a practical printed ticket. Aesthetics and function teetered inconclusively.
Airplane Boarding Passes
The main inspiration for my project comes from designers contributing redesigns of boarding passes. Tyler Thompson ran a blog in 2010 called Boarding Pass Fail and talked about his design process. Adam Gylnn-Finnegan posted his redesign on Medium, which I wanted to emulate.
Dutch money was beautiful before adopting the Euro. The use of abstract halftone shapes gives a visual identity that isn’t a pure rendering of bitmap images.
I found that I wasn’t the only one who did a project on this. Although these were aesthetic redesigns, I wanted to aim for a better holistic user experience from size changes to printing techniques.
The beautiful tickets that I wished all tickets had were visual elements that could be a photo or an icon. The ticket should be universal enough for replication across the thousands of different events while maintaining a distinct identity. The Munich 1972 Olympics is one of the best examples of minimal ticket designs that was beautiful and functional.
Apple released their universal mobile solution for tickets. The airport codes were large and the seating number was at the top of the ticket. The barcode was placed at the bottom.
Faces worked better than logos or graphics. Large faces seem to be the best way to capture the spirit of the event.
Ticketmaster’s uses a universal template to fit Boca printers — the thermal based printers that use heat instead of ink. The unusual format size is a mystery and almost seems arbitrary. The width of the ticket is about 2". It’s the same width as the printer and the tickets are attached horizontally. A key factor in the redesign was to use the same 2" width printer to avoid changing the printer’s configuration.
The first redesign drafts took in the same form as the current ticket and explored typography changes to enlarge seating information. The words section, row, and seat, needed to have enough room for other languages that could be swapped out. Section could be replaced with Table, etc.
For these tickets, I wanted a visual system that could prevent fraudulent tickets. I looked at currency designs and their usage of microprinting that allows complex lines to blend into a background.
Using a free tool called Scriptographer, I experimented with multiple patterns that were based on a square pixel grid.
The image backgrounds generated a halftone effect on the ticket and allowed the information to be printed on top.
The background pattern renders better with portraits of people. Graphics and logos make it more difficult to read ticket information.
The ticket was originally designed to be torn as a ticket stub, a physical rip to void the ticket of re-entry. But that’s changed. We now have barcode scanners speed up entry, identifies each ticket patron, and can detect fraud. These perforated tear-lines have become pointless with duplicate information printed on the ticket. Simplifying the information will make the ticket less verbose.
Make the ticket smaller.
At this point, I was ready to push the redesign further. I hated folding tickets because they never fit my wallet. What could be an ideal size? Business cards. At 2" x 3.5" the ticket was now at the of the perforated tear lines.
Turn it vertical.
The last step in the redesign was to change its orientation. I noticed how some wallets stacked business cards vertically and that the information could peek from the top. This enhanced the functionality as a quick-glance ticket to remind patrons where their seat was instead of removing the ticket out.
I wanted to make sure that this project was something Ticketmaster could do. The printing would take a step further — a single-color background for an artist on tour. The red hologram strip would be embedded at the top.
After posting Dear Ticketmaster, I received media attention from several design and technology blogs, including Designer News, BoingBoing, TheVerge, Fonts in Use and WIRED.