Intuitive Train Tickets


Millions of train tickets are used every day, but when was the last time you saw a train ticket that was useful? As a practical design exercise, Vestal Design rethought one of the most basic tenets of travel- the ubiquitous train ticket.

Design Limitations

In doing so, I tried to approach the design with the most realistic expectations in mind. Train tickets have their info printed at (relatively) low resolutions. The colors, if any, needed to be simple and survive a low-grade 4-tone offset printing in mass production. Finally, the tickets needed their information arranged in a physically protective manner to account for wear and tear.


At Vestal, we approached the new tickets with very specific goals in mind:

  • No understanding of the native language should be necessary to comprehend the ticket
  • It should be easy to discern critical information in one glance. For example, one glance while sprinting towards the platforms.
  • The ticket should not only accomodate passengers’ needs, but also those of conductors
  • How to validate the ticket should be blatantly obvious

Design Elements

Some design elements I would like to highlight are:


Origin and destination information: Graphical depictions eliminate the need for understanding the language the ticket is printed in. In addition, the clock hands reflect the time for quickly referencing times at stations with old-fashioned clocks


Where your seat is on the train car is displayed with an arrow, telling to whether to board at the front or back of the car.


Validation instructions: One of the most confusing aspects of having a train ticket is knowing when and how to validate the ticket. Again, a graphical depiction as well as distinctive color draw this information to the attention of the passenger. We’ve included a notch in the full size mockups in order to prevent users from entering the ticket backwards into a ticket validation machine.


Purchase and other information is concisely represented with a tamper-resistant background.

Design Process

Below are images of design iterations and other thoughts we had during the process.

Visualizing the flow of interaction


Listing the necessary information to show on the ticket


Blocking out information in three different ways


Iteration I


Iteration III


Iteration V


Final Mockups