Earlier this week, a colleague and I went to the New Designers fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Jumping on a Circle Line train at Liverpool Street I was immediately impressed with the brand new tube train we found ourselves on.
My immediate surprise was how spacious it felt. It took me a few seconds to realise that this was because the eye is taken down the entire length of the train—the doors separating each carriage have gone, replaced by a generously wide space.
Secondly, the seats have been arranged much more appropriately, and they cleverly float off of the floor, giving the illusion of more space as the eyeliner is unbroken as you look at the floor.
So impressed was I with this layout and sense of space, (accepting that the train I got on wasn’t exactly full), the short journey we took was a pleasant experience. I will go as far as to say I was actually slightly excited—I was witnessing intelligently considered design that put the user experience first.
This experience was sharply contrasted when we stepped out of the train at Moorgate, which is a rough and unloved station. To make matters worse, changing to the Northern Line, the deepest of the lines on the London Underground, the lift wasn’t working! This proved problematic for the pensioner in front of us, who struggled with the stairs clinging onto the rail with one hand and a walking stick with the other. Just in front of her was a man with a small child in a pushchair on his own. There could not have been two greater examples of the contrast between the user focussed design I had previously experienced and just how bad this was for people going about their everyday activities, bar there being a wheelchair user on the top step staring blankly ahead.
Pushchair man managed the first flight of stairs, conventional as they were—he was able to bump the chair down on its back wheels. However, when he got to the spiral staircase, he looked exasperated. I therefore offered to help him and carried the front of the pushchair for him. Finally, out of breath and sweating profusely on a humid and muggy summer day, my colleague and I got on a Northern Line train, which was cramped, unfriendly, and had none of the sense of consideration for giving people a quality experience that we had previously felt.