Redesigning the traffic light system woes

Hi all fellow industrial designers,

I’m a 4th year student doing B.Arta Industrial Design program. I’m working on a thesis topic . I have particular interest in redesigning the traffic light system, the shell of the lights and overall asthestics of it. but i got shot down by one of the lecturers who happens to be a engineer. oh boy…

I mean i want to evolve the traffic lights to the next level. and he said that “Oh, a lot of engineers and industrial designers are in the traffic companies producing great work in traffic lights” Oh man…i was like thinkingin my head “oh gosh…the designer and the engineer having that conflict on the ideas” and he goes on saying “All you are saying is all bullshit” I’m like ???

Then i went to say that there isn’t any Major uplift to the traffic light system other than just replacing incandescent lightbulb to LEDs. There’s no chance in design. It’s just hardware upgrade.

There, an idea of asthetics always get thrown in the waste bin

I mean has anyone has the same encounter as me that engineers always like to think that they are better than designers?


is this a sympathy thread? or request for suggestions on how to resolve issue?

I think it sounds like a great project. What should a trafic light look like. I suppose as long as it has three stacked lights, a modular construction (for other apps like the single blinking light, left turn arrows and what not) it could look like anything.

What a huge impact it could have.

I think the key would be to develope a design that is somehow cheaper than the current units which would compell the buyer (in this case indidual government municipalities) to purchase them, since they could care less what it looks like.

Oh ok…I guess i better explain myself…how do i resolve issues from the industrial designer point of view? Sometimes I feel it’s useless to argue with an engineer.

Well, I’m a designer and you haven’t convinced me yet. What are you trying to accomplish and why?

I for one would go the route of safety through cognitive design.

Do you know why the the red light is above the green light?
Do you know why newer green lights now have an added bluish cast?
Why traffic lights are doubled-up at intersections?
Why overhead traffic lights are never laid sideways?

All have legitimate design reasons, but there are other opportunities to take those reasons further. Look into it–he won’t be able to argue design improvements that solve real problems.

first you need to improve your grammar.
you type in an informal conversation verse. like gosh oh boy you knowmsayin?
and you misspell like a biatch at that.

maybe something else about you annoys the lecturer and others as well. that is a very good possibility. i’ve seen some fairly good things get shot down just because of the nature of the person. happens all the time.

other than that, i think the traffic control system is a very good thesis project.
you need to propose it well, with a shitload of lists of things you want to address and explore. don’t just go to them or us, saying, yea… um traffic lights?

Dude, it’s an online forum, not a proposal to the US congress

So you are judging his entire personality based on two posts? OK.

I agree with your overall post, but I don’t think any of us would know those specifics until we started the research phase of the project, unless you happen to be a bevy of random public design knowledge.

“how do i resolve issues from the industrial designer point of view?”

by making them non-industrial design issues. more to a product than ID.

“Sometimes I feel it’s useless to argue with an engineer.”

over aesthetics it usually is. but many IDers dont even agree w each other over aesthetics. so don’t argue aesthetics. debate the product. all of it.

Why overhead traffic lights are never laid sideways?

seems to me I remember seeing them that way when I was a kid… 'course that been a year or forty.

Out of curiosity I wanted to see if there were national or international standards for the design of traffic lights. I couldn’t find much, which is a good indication that there’s a need.

I did find this from the Minnesota DOT:

The design manual extremely detailed…Certainly thesis-worthy.

An aesthetic redesign of a traffic light is a fun exercise, but a weak concept. Think deeper. What’s wrong with the system of traffic lights? What are the problems? What are the opportunities? What can replace the light? Read this article from WIRED a few months back-- it should help you think ‘big picture’ on intersection design in general.

I personally think the design of public objects is really interesting and I am infact working on the same premise for my thesis. The aesthetic argument is pretty weak though, yes most of the public objects we see around us are ugly, but I don’t think that alone is enough sell your idea to an engineer or a designer. You need some context and your story needs a backbone.

what is the purpose for your redesign
-social comentary
-urban fabric
-traffic issues

i don’t know, it could deal with a number of things. You need to pick an angle, develop an interesting perspective on it by doing research and then you will be able to discuss why you are redesigning the street light.

Some cities in the US have sideways mounted traffic lights. I know I’ve seen them, but I can’t remember where- Phoenix maybe?

Part of the problem with redesigning “the traffic light system” is user expectation. If you came out with some system that used symbols, or totally different colors, or anything substantially different from the norm, most people wouldn’t know what to do. And that’s a problem. Many things in this world are the way they are because that the way they’ve always been. (The control layout in a car is a good example.)

there was a “maybe” and a “possibility” in that block of words and such. Did you manage to FAIL the verbal part of your SATs? OK.
Its pretty unusual for a lecturer to shoot down a student like that also, calling it all “bullshit.” Maybe this kid needs to lok at himself as well. And how he proposed it. Yea, that’s a “maybe” as well. Sit back, relax, you’re nose is smudging your CRT. OK?

uh, it is not in my experience at all unusual for a guest lecturer to shoot down an idea bluntly, especially engineers. I really don’t think he needs to “lok” at himself, but rather his project. How about them SAT’s hugh.

@fueled - remember that article. reminded me of first time in China. “light? what light?”

…the word is “premise”, people. spell properly.

I rented a car in Germany, where the aesthetic design of the lights were of course subtly different, but there was a major difference in the operation of the lights that I instantly apprehended, even though it was my first time driving there.

The lights were red, yellow, green, of course - but just like when it goes from green to yellow, to warn you to slow down, it would go from red to yellow, to get you ready for the impending change.

Now, many crosswalks have timers or audible alerts, which are a visual cue, but this system of changing the lights was very efficient in that you could get your car in gear, and be ready to pull away once it hit green, saving you a second or two, but four cars back perhaps 10 seconds and so on.

Just an example. someone thought about this, over there.

made me laugh, got to love those audible visual cues.

seriously though good point. Like evey good American in a rush, I crane my neck to see what the lights are at in the intersecting street. Once theirs goes amber I pop my car in gear and get ready to go.

I think there could be a cool way to look at pilsing or gradating the light to prepare people for a coming amber, red, or green. I remember reading about a concept a few years back (I think in a car magazine) for a light that had a pulsing amber. The shorter the time on the amber the more it would pulse, indicating it was about to change to red. This would be good because yellow light times vary based on tafic flow and lane amount of individual intersections. Also lights with cameras to catch light runners frequently have shorter amber times programmed in (which has been debated in court several times, us speeders got to know this stuff)

Through location-aware networking it’s theoretically possible to put roadsigns, speed-limits, advisories and traffic signals into the dashboard.

That’s thesis-worthy.