When I looked around underground on my daily commute I had no trouble finding plenty of problems with the ways in which people use the subway. I saw hundreds of possible topics for my project.
When I was headed home through the 14th St – Union Square station on the L train I saw a crowd of folks had gathered around a performer, and they were dancing along and talking to him and to one another. The instantly familiar human connection struck a chord with me. I knew the MTA had a program in place to faciliate the placement of musicians and artists in the subway stations, and I started to do more research into that aspect of the subway experience. I learned that the Arts for Transit program’s mission came to life out of the City Beautiful movement, and that its goal is to enhance riders’ experiences during transit.
Through informal surveys and interviews I learned that many subway riders recognize artwork and know where they’ve seen it.
Without knowing the names of any of the artwork, people were using it as a kind of wayfinding system.
In response to that behavior, I included a keyword for each piece of artwork that is easier for riders to recall.
I considered ways that the interaction between riders and musicians and artists could be enriched. There is no wifi or cell phone service available in the subway, so I thought about using a bar code or a background application that could automatically send data when a passenger ended his or her trip above ground. But there was a problem with all of the smart phone solutions I came up with: the majority of NYC subway riders are not iPhone users. I decided to use a simple SMS interaction that could reach all riders using any mobile device.
The new signage I designed for each piece shows its keyword at the bottom. When a rider sends a text message containing a keyword to the specified five-digit number, he or she will receive a quick response with additional information and a link to the new Arts for Transit website that I designed as a companion piece in the project