Information in railway stations

A guidebook for information in railway stations

Information in railway station plays a vital role for passengers and other users.  When designed well, this information enables travellers to orientate and navigate commuting needs swiftly, as well as to discover and understand an unfamiliar place with ease. 

How should a Railwaystation communicate with its travellers putting the travellers' interests first?

In 2011 Reframing Studio began working on a vision for the information in railway stations across NS, ProRail and Bureau Spoorbouwmeester services. This ongoing project aims to improve and enrich the information landscape within Dutch railway stations. The goal is to perfect an information system that is intuitive for all users and well integrated within larger contexts.

Digital technologies like smartphones, RFID and video walls are transforming railway stations. Information becomes more dynamic. You can steer messages depending on location and the time of the day. Potentially these new technologies shift greater control to travellers. They enable them to make informed decisions about their commute and help manage their time and experience. These developments also make railway stations more interesting as destinations on their own.

However, more information can also make it more difficult to focus on what is important.  A traveller’s attention is limited. Hence a wealth of information creates a need to allocate attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources.

Future-proof vision

The key element in the design vision therefore is a clear hierarchy in the information landscape. The vision originates from our expertise in managing attention. The sphere of attention consists of three organizational dimensions: focus, context and margin. Depending on the specific moment in the user's journey and use of the rail system, specific information needs to be in focus at specific times, while other information shifts to the background.

To organize information from the user’s perspective, the journey through a railway station is described in mental maps. These mental maps show the natural sequence of actions people expect to encounter during their departure, transfer or arrival. Information is organized around these moments that we call touchpoints. For each touchpoint we described what information should be in focus and what can be relegated to the margin of that point. 

Furthermore, the information landscape is divided into six layers. Each layer of information contributes to the travel experience in a different way. Media enriches the waiting experiences, while local information helps to give a station a sense of identity.

To be able to distinct different types of information, each layer has its own design language and set of design guidelines. The most important layer is the ‘infostructure.’ This layer consists of the basic information that is needed to navigate the station and plan your journey. The infostructure is the same at every station, independent of the branding of carriers, creating a seamless rail user experience.

getting everyone involved

Reframing Studio is currently working on the implementation of the handbook. To introduce the vision and handbook to the intended audiences, we are developing short videos that explain the vision and illustrate possible interventions. Workshop tools are being developed for implementing the vision in real situations. We are also active as a consultancy for all updates and developments of the rail system's future information needs, also as a means to guard the essence of the vision as it evolves in context.

Awards: 
Category: 
Public design
Project kick-off: 
November 2011
Project delivered: 
November 2013
Type: 
Service Design
Project size: 
Large
Project developers: 
Beatrijs Voorneman
Femke de Boer
Gijs Ockeloen
Menno Manschot
Renske Solkesz
Deliverable: 

From vision to design guidelines

The result of this project is a handbook for design, planning and maintaining information in train stations. This handbook can be applied to every station type, from small regional stops to large and complex city transportation hubs.

Expertise: 
Public transport
Public space
Capability: 
Service design