Michelle Sheng Bubble Openers - Placemaking concepts for public transport

  • Tauira / Student
    Michelle Sheng
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Kim Meek, Fiona Grieve, Natalie Robertson

Developed from a study of interactions between strangers, Bubble Openers is a design resource that playfully reimagines commuting by public transport in Tāmaki Makaurau.

In our world full of socially distanced bubbles, online filtering and friendship circles, many people struggle to build positive and meaningful connections beyond the bubbles they live in. Research shows how emotionally rewarding prosocial interactions with strangers are; and the need for effective interventions to illustrate the value of these interactions to benefit another person’s mood and sense of belonging.

Growing up, I was a shy child who desired connection but was too scared to initiate any conversations. After being actively welcomed by others, I learnt how I too, have the power to brighten up a stranger’s day with initiating a simple “hi”.

Bubble Openers engages public transport as an integral part of many Aucklanders’ daily life to create space for positive interactions between diverse strangers. Creative utilisation of this everyday environment could allow Aucklanders to better understand and connect with people outside of their ‘bubbles’.

Presenting a selection of visual icebreakers and placemaking concepts, Bubble Openers hopes to promote conversation and laughter between commuters on public transport. The concepts have been developed to be more inclusive of different ages and literacy levels, with inviting biomorphic designs inspired by nature. The visual depiction of eyes act as a motif in the final concepts, linking and guiding commuter’s awareness towards each other.

Concepts in Bubble Openers aim to help make commuting more enjoyable and safe; providing fun, easy ways to start conversations and connect with fellow commuters. This resource acts as a platform to start reimagining the future experience and interactions of commuters using public transport.