Pia Betton: iterating your way to better railways

Edenspiekermann was commissioned to create some posters, and ended up designing an information system to improve rail travellers' journeys.

Warning: liveblogging

Prone to error, typos and crimes against grammar. Post will be updated and corrected during the talk and over the 24 hours afterwards. 

ProRail are responsible for all the Dutch rail infrastructure. They needed some posters for redevelopment of Utrect station. Their research was revealing – growing peak time traffic, with safety concerns on crowded platforms. They resisted the demand to produce a big report, and created a visualisation instead, showing where the challenges were in the station. They produced videos to document the uncomfortable reality. They had the evidence that more was needed than posters.

Problem. They no longer had a client. The communication department wasn’t able to take this on. So they and to find a different internal stakeholder. And people only take over solutions, not problems. How about some indications of what was about to happen on the platform? They could be done dynamically.

Problem: No business case. No-one had a budget with a business goal that matched that solution. They were 18 months in at this stage and no-one wanted to work on it any more… New solution: improve the transfer process between platforms. That could create efficiencies and there was a business case for it. Two sues cases: the regular commuter, who just wants a faster journey, and the newcomer, who is confused by the platforms. 

They started a co-creation workshop with passengers. They came up with a lot of great ideas based on Edenspiekermann’s ideation. These included:

  • Smaller platform sectors
  • Maps of free space
  • Communicationf rom the train
  • Warning lights showing where the train stops
  • Division of walk and wait areas
  • Personal travel advice on the platform, based on ticket
  • Navigation apps

They showed all of these to ProRail, to try and find a match to business needs. 

Problem: The solutions couldn’t be delivered alone. Prorail didn’t have most of the data they needed – they don’t manage the trains. They have to collaborate with the rail company. They did a roadshow called “Fishing for partners”. Some were OK, and some were lacking in energy. 

But they caught the big fish.

One person from the train operator said that they have the data – they have cameras in the railway carriages. 

Problem: They were running out of time. They started visualising the solution – simple images of what it would look like. This made it easier for people to grasp – and thus easier to get the budget for. 

The final result matches the prototype well, and has been on trial, and is now being developed for rollout. 


  1. Prepare the stakeholders for a fuzzy process. 
  2. Align perspectives between the creative team and the business department
  3. Newcomers mess it all up – repeating questions. Create a sense of urgency, and keep briefings short.