Posted by Ryan Croft on 5/28/13 6:58 PM put together a report on "The Psychology of Wayfinding", which is explained as the "process of defining path and place in public spaces in order to make and execute appropriate decisions." Essentially, it's a way to help a person navigate their way through a city by way of signs, symbols, maps and landmarks. The reasons these wayfinding systems are built are to help a traveler move from point A to point B as easily as possible through the city's transit options. CHK America, Inc. studied some of the major transportation agencies in the largest cities in the US, including the WMATA, Los Angeles MTA and Chicago's CTA, Pace and Metra, and researched the psychology behind their wayfinding strategies, and the successes of those strategies. “What we learned is that we’ve got 8 seconds to provide useful answers to a customer’s questions before they become frustrated and walk away,” stated Rick Wood, President and CEO of CHK America, Inc.

Let's take a quick look at author Rick Wood's major ideas in his report, and how TransitScreen displays address those ideas.

You've Got 8 Seconds

Think for a moment about those bus/train schedules: the paper ones you can pick up, the ones posted at stations themselves or the online one saved on your smart phone. Even if you're a seasoned rider, they aren't exactly user friendly. Sure, the information is all there. But as you sit on the edge of your seat in your local coffee shop, bag slung over your shoulder, thinking through all the tasks ahead of you that day, your brain capacity is low. The caffeine hasn't quite kicked in yet, and you know you have to make the next bus. You scroll through the the bus schedule, but wait, you think you remember that the bus was running late today. You can still make the train, you think to yourself. Click out of the bus schedule, pull up the train schedule (hopefully you are connected to the coffee shop's WiFi), and there went the train just now.  You can either catch the bus, which is running late (it will arrive eventually, you hope), or wait for the next train. Or, since you don't want to be late, again, you can jump in a cab, again.

1776 TransitScreen Mockup

Now consider the same scenario, but this time, your local coffee shop has a TransitScreen display. You walk up to the counter, bag again slung over your shoulder, and you take one look at the TransitScreen display. You can see within a few seconds that yes, your bus is running late this morning, but if you move quickly you'll make the train with moments to spare.

Avoiding Brain Freeze

"As wayfinding design pertains to transit specifically, often the abundance of information included on at-stop panels creates a congested design that quickly loses the user. For example, the inclusion of topography and unnecessary roads on a system map that are meant to be helpful, more often than not, creates 'brainfreeze'." Simplicity is the key for wayfinding systems to succeed. And TransitScreen displays were built to be the epitome of simplicity. No scrolling, no changing screens, no flipping pages back and forth. One static screen has all the transit information a traveler needs for trains, buses, bike share and more.

Minimizing Cognitive Load

TransitScreen displays are designed to be easy to use for all travelers. Each screen uses the same colors and images as all the other displays in the city, so once you've learned one, you'll know how to read them all. But even if it's your first time viewing a TransitScreen display, all the text and images will provide you with an easy and accurate understading of your current transporation options.

Essentially, what author Rick Wood's report boils down to is that “by decreasing the amount of information we think we need to provide we are actually increasing our customer’s decision making abilities, which ultimately leads to increased use of public transportation.” Which is exactly why we created our TransitScreen displays: to provide travelers with a quick and easy understanding of all transportation options from their current location.

Read the full report on