If It Must Be Paper…

In December I enjoyed a piece in McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama wherein Chip Kidd redesigned Amtrak tickets for clarity. At the same time, Tyler Thompson began redesigning a Delta boarding pass, which is ugly but no where near the mess an Amtrak ticket is.

Chip’s work seems to have garnered little attention, but Tyler’s generated a wave of reactions, included misguided accommodation of thermal printing and some genuine insights into information hierarchy and many visual improvements. I’m particularly fond of Julian Montoya’s vertical layout.

But none of them added anything beyond boarding time (which many passes already display). Where are the guides to whether my seat is on the left or the right of the plane? Or a mini-map to my gate letting me know where the nearest Starbucks is?

These have all been graphic designs (with the exception of J. Jason Smith’s prose version). No one has gone back and questioned the function of the thing or, really, the emotional desires of its users (in what frog would call discovery).

Some added boarding time (which is already common), but they all provide location data without context. Why not a guide on whether my seat is on the left or right of the aisle (or which aisle I’ll need)? Or a mini-map to my gate letting me know where the nearest Starbucks is? How might my boarding pass help me choose which security area is closest to the gate, and if it includes a fast line for my frequent flyer status?

Beyond location, can any of these help me feel secure about how rushed I need to feel to board and claim overhead space? (I.e. how full is the flight, and how cramped is this plane? Is my seat on a bulkhead with no below-seat storage?) At my destination, will the taxis generally take credit cards or will I need to visit an ATM?

I imagine if TripIt were able to print boarding passes directly, we’d see a serious redesign of this paper experience.

I posted this in January 2010 during week 1873.

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