Xiran Yang


Final poster.jpeg

L Train Closure

Design research Project Overview



A 7-week Design Research course at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University in Fall, 2018



with Amy Mengzhen Xiao and Atharva Patil


Research Topic

The L-train shutdown to repair the damaged Canarsie tunnel connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn in New York.



Designed a physical poster which provides details of the L train closure and alternatives to put up on train stations and inside the trains. Presented the case study in front of 15 guests working in service design related industry.




Built in 1924, the L train is one of the most significant subway lines that connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. According to MTA’s official statistics, the daily weekday average ridership is around 5,580,845 in 2017 (L train takes about 7% of the ridership) --side fact: New York has more than 20 subway lines. L train carries about 400,000 passengers every day.



passengers commute solely at Manhattan


passengers commute between Manhattan and Brooklyn


passengers commute solely in Brooklyn

 Due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the L train tunnel has to be closed and reconstructed.


The reconstruction is expected to last 15 months, starting from April, 2019 to July 2020. And The train will be completely shut down between 8th Avenue in Manhattan and the Bedford station in Brooklyn, with the rest of the line running normally in Brooklyn.


  As a class wanted to look into

How the closure will potentially affect the community and people?

What steps the city could take to communicate the shutdown & its work progress?

What communities could do to avoid any problems?

What are some of the alternative solutions?


we started the while whole research progress by visiting the L train and coming up with HMW (how might we) questions to identify some more detailed research topics.

At the end of the HMW affinity mapping, the students were divided into three different groups for further research. (link to the details of questions in pdf form) The groups are

Passive Reaction: How the city can harness existing infrastructure to help commuters.

Active Reaction: How people can take action to help the community and commuters.

Action: Looking for alternative travel solutions from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

I chose to be part of the Passive Reaction group and with my teammates, we started a more in-depth research.

 Research & Solution


For our ethnographic research we decided to interview people on L train platforms waiting for trains and nearby businesses which could be affected by the shutdown. We created a questionnaire which was divided in-to different steps. The objective was to begin with general questions to build familiarity & then deep dive into the questions we wanted to ask to understand peoples reactions. Our questionnaire looked like this.


“I do not really have a plan.”

--- Barry at Bedford Station, Brooklyn
(takes L train mainly for work)


“I think there are delays, but I’m not sure about the closure.”

--- Emerson at Bedford Station, Brooklyn
(takes L train 4 times a week for work)


“Oh, I thought the whole line would shut down.”

--- Shiyu, lives in Brooklyn
(takes L train for school)

We found that…


People have different degrees of understanding


Their knowledge also has a mismatch with reality


Based on the interview and previous HMW affinity mapping results,

we decided to focus on researching:


How might we inform people who will be potentially affected by the L train closure about it?


Current Messaging and Platforms


Current Message

Has covered a lot of useful information about the closure: reason, plan, time and some alternatives.



The message is often delivered in a heavily text based way and spread out in many platforms. It might not be efficient and straightforward enough.


We Want To

Deliver conclusive, precise, strong and visually pleasing message that people can easily take away within short time.

What medium should we use?

We looked at the current mediums that cover the L train closure and found that the current medium used to inform people about the L train closure include Governmental Websites; Online Media Platforms and Physical: Billboard/Banners. In order to achieve our goal of delivering conclusive, precise, strong and visually pleasing messaging that people can easily understand within a short time, We decided to design...

A physical poster which provides details of the L train closure and alternatives to put up on train stations and inside the trains.

Prototyping and User Testing


First Prototype

 Based on our research, we started designing multiple posters and did user research with them


User Testing

We tested them with people to see their reactions



Clear information architecture was easy to scan.

Clear icons help identify information.

Url’s specific to the poster was a good addition



At subway stations information gets lost in the mix. Want to see only necessary information.

If there is a closure notice there should also be an alternate route information.

Explicitly mentioning Manhattan and Brooklyn if someone is not familiar with the station names.

Map is a crucial information artifact which helps in consuming information.





People want a direct message which is apologetic in nature.

In addition they want to know about:

- The exact closure dates

- Possible alternate routes

- The list of stations which will be closed



People would like to see a clear visualization of the closure.





We removed most text on the map like the streets name and landscapes

we highlighted the stations name of the L train. 
Starting with using different colors. L train grey and Red, popping color
Where to put the label of the city name. Both below the route? Or M above B below? 
Most of the NY map + Visual friendly.
For the closure part, we choose red. For the part still run, we use L train grey.





Obviously, we can’t put all the alternatives on the map, since it would be too much and people might get lost.So did more research about people’s preference about those alternatives.For people we usually take L train, most of them prefer taking other trains to ferry, to bikes like city bike. Buses might be their last choice. So to follow one of the  UX design principles that “LESS IS MORE”, we decided to put trains and ferry on the map, using the color that fits each of them.


Final Design

 Insights & Future Plans



We have walked through a full journey of user research and learned some useful. methods to do research (HMW questions, In-person Interviews, Crazy Eights, etc.)

We can get tremendous value from talking to real people at every stage of a project.

Future plan

We actually want to try to put up our poster in some of the L train stations to see how people will react to them.

Do A/B testing - whether we should put the map with alternatives into a pamphlet