• Drafted protocol for user interviews; shared with team for feedback and revised accordingly

  • Conducted interviews with 2 users; reported findings back to team

  • Generated persona based on interview data (i.e. "Alex")

  • Facilitated brainstorms

  • Originated final design solution (i.e. immersive digital pods (aka "bubbles") for subway/light rail passengers)

  • Designed initial app and digital bubble screens for paper prototype

  • Designed medium-fidelity digital bubble screens in Axure RP

  • Co-wrote final report

  • Co-created and delivered final presentation to stakeholders


My team and I were tasked with conceptualizing and prototyping a new product in the span of a single semester. The product needed to address user pain points in one of three areas: travel, healthy eating, or commuting. After identifying UX-related challenges in each realm, and surveying the market for existing design solutions, we decided to focus on commuting--the area of greatest opportunity and an experience ripe for disruption.

The project brief was broad and intentionally ambiguous, aside from the following requirements:

  • Users needed to access the UI from at least 2 different touch points: one digital and one tangible

  • Users needed to connect with and share their information with others

  • When appropriate, the information presented by the system would be customized to the user's location

  • When appropriate, the user would be proactively notified/alerted  

With those parameters, my two classmates and I got to work.


  • Identifying design opportunities based on user pain points and un(der)met needs

  • Generating user research protocols (i.e. non-biased, non-leading interview protocol)

  • Conducting user research (i.e. interviews)

  • Analyzing user research data using affinity diagramming

  • Sketching

  • Storyboarding

  • Paper prototyping (a mobile app and an immersive 360 degree digital interface)

  • Conducting usability tests with paper prototypes

  • Wireframing in Axure RP (a mobile app and an immersive 360 degree digital interface)

  • Generating medium-fidelity prototypes in Axure RP (a mobile app and an immersive 360 degree digital interface)

  • Building a 3-D prototype

  • Communicating findings (i.e. written report, oral presentation)



For many, commuting is a rare opportunity for solitude and reflection; a temporary escape from family, friends, and colleagues, where users can prepare for their day, reflect on personal or professional concerns, or simply get lost in a favorite book, podcast, or song. For most, the current subway/train commuting experience fails to support this type of personal reflection. Coping with its unpredictability, overcrowding, and other stressors drains precious cognitive resources. Commuters are also unable to easily and privately engage with secondary activities (e.g. reviewing emails) that can lead to a more productive and pleasurable experience.


  • Design a digital and tangible UI solution that addresses user pain points for our primary persona (i.e. Alex, a white-collar, public transit commuter who values productivity, privacy, and peace of mind)

  • Leverage current infrastructure in the design solution

  • Push the boundaries of current technology and envision what's possible

Public Transit Re-envisioned

Design a better public transit experience for commuters

Problem statement: We began by brainstorming potential pain points in the commuting experience, including travel via car, bus, and subway. From there, we narrowed our scope to subway commuters and formulated our initial problem statement.

Target user group: Next, we identified the various user groups involved in the commuting experience and selected our target: working professionals who utilized the subway to commute to/from work. We discussed their characteristics, potential goals, and pain points and formed a skeletal persona.

Research: We then recruited and interviewed six commuters within our target user group. We crafted our interview protocol with the goal of understanding their wants, needs, and pain points.

Our "eureka" moment came during one interview in which a user equated his commute with his "shower time"--his daily chance for solitude, calm, and reflection. During affinity diagramming, we realized this sentiment had been echoed by the other 5 users as well. As a result, "shower time" became the mantra for our team. We found ourselves returning to it again and again. It galvanized our team and shaped our design decisions, from the UI's functionality to its appearance.

The interview data also enabled us to identify three key pain points in the experience: unpredictability (e.g. ETA at work/home unknown, seating availability in incoming subway car unknown), lack of solitude (e.g. lack of personal space and visual/auditory privacy), and lack of connectivity (e.g. unable to safely and easily access content on-the-go while riding). These pain points informed our design requirements and principles (to be discussed later).

Additionally, the data enabled us to generate a more robust and accurate persona (below).




















We individually sketched concepts that could satisfy the needs of our primary persona (i.e. Alex). When we reconvened, nine sketches were brought to the table. We discussed the sketches, ideated, and narrowed our focus to three product concepts (below). We then separated again to individually re-sketch the three concepts.

After presenting our revised sketches, we eliminated one concept, but could not settle on the final approach. We decided to present sketches of the two finalists (The Digital Bubble and the Commuter's Best Friend) to the individuals we initially interviewed. Based on their feedback, we selected the Digital Bubble design as our solution.

Storyboard: We then storyboarded Alex using the Digital Bubble on his way to work (see below). Our storyboards were shared, discussed, and iterated upon.

Once we discussed the storyboards and came to consensus, we ideated further on the specific interactions and capabilities of the product, the functional cartography of the app and digital bubble, and the execution of the paper and 3D prototypes.

We identified three key tasks in the user journey

1. Setting up the user profile

2. Pre-boarding activity, and

3. Bubble activation/user experience.


We decided that the initial set-up, including the setting of default destinations (e.g. work, home) and personal preferences (e.g. environment, audio, bubble functionality) would take place on the comMooder companion app. This was done to ensure that all interaction in the digital bubble was related to the user’s desired tasks (e.g. reading emails) rather than logistical set up, maximizing time devoted to pleasure and productivity.


Each team member sketched out the core interactions of each of the three tasks. We discussed those sketches as group and later refined them. Finally, we regrouped with more advanced sketches, ideated, and developed paper and 3D prototypes.


comMooder is a product suite designed for the premium-class subway/train commuter who values solitude, predictability, and control. Our target audience aims to stay connected (e.g. email, phone, internet) during their commute, with the goal of arriving at work calm, collected, and on-time. Unfortunately, a variety of variables—from service delays to overcrowding—negatively affect their experience. Additionally, a lack of Wi-Fi, as well as a safe and easy means of accessing content on the go (e.g. emails, internet, news articles), are constant sources of frustration. Our target audience is willing to pay more for a “premium” subway/train experience that allows them to optimize their commuting time, while also enjoying solitude and peace of mind.

comMooder liberates users by taking on the logistical burden of getting you from point A to point B efficiently and on-time. While traveling via rapid transit (i.e. subway), comMooder grants you safe access to all of your desired content and activities, enabling users to maximize their commuting experience.


Though there are products on the market—primarily apps—that serve to decrease commuting time by crowdsourcing user traffic data (e.g. Inrix, Waze), none truly succeed in making the commute efficient, productive, and peaceful. Unique to the marketplace, comMooder will offer solutions above and beyond those of our competitors, leading to increased market share and profitability.


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Step 1: The user downloads the companion app to register his/her account.

Step 2: The user learns how to set up his/her preferred routes, alerts, and in-bubble experience preferences via a quick onboarding tutorial.


Step 3: In “Settings,” the user is able to establish his/her standard routes, choose a digital environment (e.g. beach setting, mountain landscape) and music. These settings can be altered at any time.


Step 4: While commuting, the app allows the user to review incoming trains, reserve a digital bubble, and select their “mood.” The user then receives a confirmation, noting his/her destination, ETA, mood, and bubble number. (Note: The user is able to reserve a bubble up until the train arrives at the station)


Step 5: The user boards the train. He/she steps onto the sensor plate of his/her reserved bubble and adjusts the safety bars to the locked position. This launches the digital bubble. Once the user has verified his/her identity via speech or fingerprint recognition, the bubble loads a home screen, featuring the digital environment and audio and app settings the user previously selected.


For digital bubble and companion app:

● Demands minimal cognitive load to operate it; user receives notifications/alerts

● Is operated via voice or touch; highly responsive

● Is driven by technology and compatible with other technology products (e.g. iPhone) and current operating systems

● Connects to in-train Wi-Fi

● Is user specific and, therefore, not easily transferable for privacy reasons

● Requires identity verification via username and password (app access) and speech or fingerprint recognition (bubble access)

● Alerts user to subway/train status and provides relevant updates during commute, based on weather, construction, and service delays

● Alerts user to ETA to their destination and update it in real-time

● Alerts user to geographic location and time until next waypoint requiring user action (i.e.train/subway stop)

● Provides access to relevant subway/train maps

● Syncs with smartphone content (e.g. email, photos, music)


For companion app only:

● Allows user to see bubble availability and reserve a vacant bubble

● Allows user to create, name, and save preset combinations of digital environments (e.g. beach scene, mountain vista) and audio (e.g. iTunes music playlists)

● Allows user to determine which apps will run/appear in digital bubble interface (e.g. email, phone, internet browsing)


For digital bubble only:

● Auto-detects and syncs with companion app, seamlessly uploading personal preferences (i.e. digital environment, audio, functionality)

● Grants access to content/activities that promote productivity (e.g. email, phone, presentations and other miscellaneous files) and a peaceful state of mind (e.g. music, pleasure reading, photos, video)

● Displays customizable digital environments (e.g. beach scene, mountain vista)

● Train/subway car designed to accommodate digital bubbles will:

○ Include safety bars/harnesses at each bubble station, that will support/protect the digital bubble user (in a standing or seated position) while the train/subway car is in motion.The bubble uses explicit signifiers for seating and security (see model).

○ Position/place the digital bubbles strategically throughout the car, such that passengers can freely exit and disembark at any time

● User must adjust safety bars to locked position to activate bubble. This is to prevent accidental activation by passersby.




Sketch 1
Sketch 1

Sketch of "A Commuter's Best Friend" by team member Madhuri Dabeeru

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Sketch 2
Sketch 2

Sketch of "Mindful in Motion" by team member Amos Berger

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Sketch 3
Sketch 3

Sketch of the "Digital Bubble" by Vanessa Wiegel

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Sketch 1
Sketch 1

Sketch of "A Commuter's Best Friend" by team member Madhuri Dabeeru

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Storyboard Version 1
Storyboard Version 1

Storyboard created by Vanessa Wiegel

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Storyboard V2
Storyboard V2

Revised storyboard created by Vanessa Wiegel

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Storyboard Version 1
Storyboard Version 1

Storyboard created by Vanessa Wiegel

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UI Sketch for Digital Bubble
UI Sketch for Digital Bubble

Preliminary sketch of Digital Bubble UI

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UI Sketch for Digital Bubble
UI Sketch for Digital Bubble

Preliminary sketch of Digital Bubble UI

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UI Sketch for Digital Bubble
UI Sketch for Digital Bubble

Preliminary sketch of Digital Bubble UI

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