Designing a better bus experience in Helsinki

Katarina Blind, a student of product design at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, designed a better bus experience for the public transport system in Helsinki and pitched it to the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority HSL.
Helsinki public transport system mobile app on a phone
Photo: Katarina Blind

Starting from their own experience as an international student, Katarina noticed there's room for improvement in how the HSL mobile app works.

‘I'm a digital product designer that values real-world impact’, Katarina explains. 

‘I observe the world around me from a designer's point of view: looking for problems and opportunities. The bus travel experience in Helsinki was one of those experiences I made a note on’, Katarina Blind says.

Highlighting issues through an international perspective, Katarina’s idea was how to better onboard people new to the city to the public transit system.  

In Helsinki, especially international people face even more issues with the public transport by not being familiar with the environment and customs. Like new passengers would not know the fact that buses don’t stop unless you wave at them, but nobody ever tells you that.

Katarina's key points for improvements were journey information in real time, bus stop names in Finnish and Swedish, journey updates through notifications as well as enabling voice overs in case of motion sickness and accessibility. 

From a self-initiated project to a real-life collaboration

A woman is working on her phone and laptop at a bus stop
Katarina Blind at field work on bus traveling experience in Helsinki

Currently wrapping up their English BA in Design, the product designer has before and throughout the studies at Aalto University also been interning in numerous tech companies with an aim to get a better understanding of the industry.

"So, instead of just thinking about it, I decided to seriously work on it. I didn't have any internal data or connections to HSL, so I conducted my own user, field and desk research", Katarina explains. 

‘Throughout the entire process, I focused very much on how this could realistically fit into HSL's internal processes by talking to former employees and referring to fragments of public documentation I could find online.’

After finishing the process from their side, Katarina contacted designers from HSL explaining the project and asking to present it to them.

‘I ended up being able to pitch the project to the Helsinki's public transit company design team which kickstarted the project on their end. We had another meeting to check the details of implementing the project which made them realize that the way I broke it down was incredibly suitable to their process, and they are currently implementing it.’

The HSL improvement project, which started as a designer-initiated project, is now an ongoing collaboration with HSL and improvements are being made continuously for an even better bus experience.

‘I’m super excited about the future of public transport in Helsinki, and especially what’s to come with buses’, Katarina rejoices. 

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