BFA Senior Capstone 

Space & Experience Design

Addressing user challenges inside the public bus through new visual and industrial design solutions


I am fascinated by transportation and devoted my year-long Capstone Design Project to researching UT’s campus bus system.

This project is fueled by my drive to design for safer and more eco-friendly cities with efficient bus transportation systems. In order to achieve this, more people should ride the bus, and in order to encourage ridership, the bus should be more enjoyable.

My observations and insights led me to redesign the bus interior space with a balance in space efficiency and comfort, ultimately creating a more enjoyable and user-friendly experience.

Timeline: August 2019-May 2020

Role: Designer & Researcher

Skills: User-testing, Observational and Qual. / Quant. Research, Prototyping, Journey Mapping,  Illustrator, Photoshop, Rhinoceros, Keyshot, Talking to strangers 


Photography is a strong tool that reveals design opportunities through evidence of human interaction, space interaction, and the behavior of the two.

   1 | Observational Research


I began my research by photographing the behaviors and existing issues on the public bus system. This allowed me to develop an intimate understanding of the system.

The main user challenges in the photos


1) congested information

2) a lack of knowledge toward

the silver “Pull To Signal” function

3) feet on hand rails

4) the “STOP” button perceived as an

emergency stop

5) lack of storage spaces



On a bus ride, I generated rapid prototypes that uncovered eye movement, user conversation, and system problems.

/ Key /

? System Questions

" Rider Quotes

o)(o Observations

0 notification if bus

is full

0 information 

placement v.2

0 information

placement v.1 

2 | Generative & Rapid Prototyping



   3 | Frequent Challenges


Through observational research, prototyping, and interviewing riders, I discovered the most major and frequent challenges related to information and signals, feet on arm handles, a lack of storage, and cleanliness.

These problems along with a better understanding of the bus system led me to develop my problem statement. 


/ How can I use visual and industrial design to improve a user's experience while maximizing rider capacity? /

4 | Defining User Needs


I was able to discover that the major problems combine to define comfort on the bus.

I then began sketching bus seats and new functions to respond to these needs.

5 | Iterative Sketches & Feedback


1) With this direction, I designed different versions of the bus seats to address comfort including new hand rails, foot rests, storage compartment, and a hadicap accessible lock in place chair.

2) I then received feedback from bus riders and my professors who allowed me to recognize the space efficient aspects of the bus.

Redirecting my perspective, I learned how to design around the space parameters. I ultimately implemented visual, industrial, and communication design solutions that addressed the interior challenges while maintaining rider capacity.

6 | Proposed Design

December 2019

My research led me to develop visual and industrial design

solutions to improve a rider's experience while maximizing

rider capacity. The longterm effects of these solutions ultimately

encourage more people to want to ride public transit.


/ Critique from professionals and professors: /

“Incredible research that demonstrated a clear vision, a clear authority on the subject - I immediately saw the benefit of what Arabelle was proposing and she presented it in an incredibly thorough, professional, clean, and thoughtful way. ” -Kelly Dewitt, Creative Director at KKDW

“The presentation was very strong. Arabelle was knowledgeable about her subject and spoke with confidence. Research was evident in her presentation and there was a logical flow through all her project assets.” -Jose Perez, Assistant Manager, Digital Fabrication Lab, School of Design & Creative Technologies at UT Austin


7 | Solutions in the Built Environment

Spring of 2020 I was challenged with communicating my solutions in an exhibition. I designed a space to reflect the inside of the bus before and after my redesign. I planned to build the bus seat within the surrounding experience.

Unfortunately, our exhbition could not occur, but the show must go on. This is what I came up with instead :) 


February 2020 Updated Bus

After winter break, I rode the bus to my

first class. I noticed that Cap Metro had 

made important changes to the bus design.

These include:

1) yellow pull cord instead of silver

wire: more noticable and inviting

2) clearer information about the 

"Pull to Signal" mechanism


I was excited to see a more engaging space

that would improve a rider's comfort.


I could not imagine my education at UT differently than how it turned out to be. Design has become my outlet to better express myself and it is one of my passions that fuels my drive. It is no surprise that this website would have been something of a challenge yet a rewarding experience all at once. 

My Capstone Project helped me realize what type of designer I aspire to become. It taught me the challenges in designing for an outdated system or a system that had such tight parameters. It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and speak to strangers. It pushed me to think differently.

 I would like to thank my professors for teaching me many outlets of design that helped me develop this project.

Thank you Jose Perez for encouraging me to challenge myself and think about criticism with an open mind. I would like to thank Jon Freach and Kate Canales for helping me discover how I can use my passion for photography to create better design. Thank you to Scott Witthoft for teaching me the concept of making to reveal opportunities instead of asking what we think we need to know. Thank you to Gray Garmon for helping me during a crucial turning point of this project - for pushing me to switch gears and think differently about the space efficient aspect of the bus. And lastly, thank you to Jim, Kelcey, Jason, Ritambhara, and Jorge for genuinely wanting to see me grow as a designer.

I would also like to thank my family and friends for bearing through my long talks about my bus project and for everyone's support along the way. I want to especially thank my dad. Thank you for showing me that design pamphlet a while back and asking "Do you think you might like this?" I could not have successfully fulfilled my education without your constant encouragement and interest in what I love to do.