ux research


Context: Design Methodology Final Project
Group project with Andrea Lin, Jun Zhong, Katherine Qiu, Manisha Ponniah

Time frame: 8 weeks

Role: Visual communication, research, ideation, interviewing, prototyping, user testing


After three cycles of practice with the design process — observe and notice, frame and reframe, imagine and design, make and experiment — students have tackled the wicked problem: "How might we improve commuting?"



We reimagined the riding experience of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), targeting specifically young commuters through improving the interior colors and lighting. We have also developed a supporting business model that includes installing ads in the form of art/murals inside the BART.

initial research

We started off with some research regarding commuting and public transportation. Here are some of our key insights:

  • Driving sucks
  • Current status of the BART: a lot of riders are commuters to work
  • Increased numbers of commuters: New York and San Francisco had the strongest.
  • The average commute time in the bay area is around 30 minutes. 
  • Worn down public transportation contributes to traffic.
  • Health and hygiene are big concerns.
  • What affects transportation: colors & art


We also conducted interviews with commuters in the age group of 18-30, trying to understand their experiences with the BART and commuting in general. Some common insights from our interviews:

  • Safety seems to be a concern - people wants to feel comfortable
  • The interior seems dull and depressing
  • We can learn from the public transport systems in foreign countries


 refining our "how might we" question

refining our "how might we" question

As we progressed with more research and interviews, based on the initial prompt, we continued to reframe and refine our how might we question.

We narrowed down our target user group to young adults entering the workforce, and we came to set on the question:

How might we improve the visuals in BART to help improve abstract elements of BART?



We used various methods like brainstorming, journey map, AEIOU, and system mapping to help us diverge on coming up with different ideas.



 System Mapping

System Mapping

Here are some of the ideas we had:

  • Change the BART's layout to enable more passengers to reduce traffic
  • Redesign handles and poles on BART to make efficient use of the space
  • Propose new policies regarding time schedule to ease traffic
  • Enforce policies on fines and tickets to improve safety


After we came up with different ideas, we used a decision matrix to narrow down our options, evaluate their effectiveness, and converge on a single solution.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 3.18.20 PM.png

We evaluated the ideas based on these elements:

  • cost & profitability
  • visual aesthetics
  • functionality
  • space availability
  • cleanliness
  • storage capability
  • accessibility
  • comfort

We also compared them with public transit systems in other cities, and  we decided to change the interior design of the BART, with a specific focus on visual elements like colors and lightings to improve other aspects like safety, comfort, and cleanliness.

further research

To further develop and support our idea, we did more research specifically on lighting and colors. Here are somd of our findings:



  • Colors affect our mood, emotions, behaviors
  • Meanings of colors can vary by culture (Fig. 1)
  • Color saturation/hues can impact level of comfort 


We also created a persona Risha to further understand our target users: young adults entering the workforce.


Age: 23
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Recent Cal grad, Bio-E and Cog Sci major
Current consultant at a biotech consulting company
Daily commuter between Berkeley and San Francisco

I also wrote a pitch with a short story reimagining Risha's experience with BART after the revamp.

prototype testing

To visualize the differences that our project would make, we created digital and physical prototypes of the BART interior using photoshop and 3D printing.

 digital prototype

digital prototype

 physical prototype

physical prototype

business model

We developed a business model to fund and support the revamp of BART interior, using a business model canvas.

Besides the improvements on lighting and colors, we would also install murals in the interior of the BART, with logos from corporate partners like companies in the Bay Area, so that the young commuters can enjoy the art and feel empowered as they work toward their goals.

 business model canvas

business model canvas

 partnership with companies to create murals

partnership with companies to create murals

user testing

We created an online survey, and distributed through our social media so that we can test out our prototype and collect feedbacks from our target user group.

We asked questions like how often do they ride the BART, their main reason of travel, and how strongly do they agree to some statements regarding BART:

  • The current color scheme of BART puts me in a positive mood
  • A different color scheme of BART could put me in a more positive mood
  • A different color scheme of BART could make me feel safer riding on BART
  • A different color scheme of BART could make me ride the BART more often

From the 70 surveys that we've collected, we got an overall positive feedback on a new and improved BART interior:

  • 78% agreeing that a different color scheme will put them in a better mood
  • 76% agreeing that brighter lighting will put them in a better mood
 survey result

survey result


At the end of the class, we presented our project to students, faculties, and industry professionals at the 2016 Jacobs Winter Design Showcase.

We even had the opportunity to speak with a representative from BART, who recognized the problems that we've brought forth, took notes from our project, and gave us some feedbacks on the feasibility of our project.

 Final presentation

Final presentation

 Team photo: Andrew, Katherine, Manisha, me, and Jun.

Team photo: Andrew, Katherine, Manisha, me, and Jun.



I enjoyed working with my team members, who are from different academic backgrounds, each with a unique set of skills and knowledge that contributed to the project. 

We also explored different design methodologies during the ideation phase. Most importantly, I got comfortable working with ambiguities as we went through different iterations and the design cycle. Though there were some hardships, we were all proud to present our final result at the showcase after all.


Starting off with the broad, wicked problem "how might we improve commuting?", our team struggled trying to define a proper problem space. In fact, we went through two cycles of iterations, first targeting specific physical components of the BART like handles, poles, and seating arrangement. It turns out to be too specific, and rendered few options that were neither cohesive enough to form a final solution,  nor strong enough to stand alone. Luckily, we pivoted (few weeks before the final showcase) and landed on our final "how might we" question, and at the end, were able to present a solid project at the showcase.

If we were doing this again, I'd wish that we have more time to explore some of the other options that came up during the diverging process in the ideation phase.

Additional Info

Final deck:

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