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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EWU students design signs for STA bus rider education

Former EWU students Audrey Carter, left, and Ashley Teel, who worked with classmates to design the graphics on the STA Bus seen above them pose for a photo  Tuesday in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Former EWU students Audrey Carter, left, and Ashley Teel, who worked with classmates to design the graphics on the STA Bus seen above them pose for a photo Tuesday in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The colorful cartoon character on a sign posted in a Spokane Transit bus gives riders this bit of advice:

“Please leave the driver alone so we all make it safely home.”

Then there is this gem that’s a favorite of coach drivers: “Get your fare ready while you wait. This keeps the bus from running late.”

The new STA bus signs are the work of 26 seniors at Eastern Washington University who designed the signs last spring as their capstone project, a requirement for graduation.

Spokane Transit Authority chose the students to design what it calls a “courtesy campaign” for bus rules and behavior. The students’ work is just now showing up on buses.

The campaign was a collaboration between STA and the students in the visual communication and design program.

The project gave the students a sample of what the working world after college might bring.

“Students got to experience a real-life situation as far as design is concerned with real-life clients,” said associate professor Mindy Breen at EWU.

For years, buses have had signs posted above the passenger windows with tips and rules for being a good passenger. Things like, music can only be played through earphones. Eating is not allowed. Side-facing seats should be left for older passengers and those with disabilities. Alcohol consumption is forbidden.

STA’s communications staff provided the students with parameters for the campaign and its goals.

The design students broke into six teams and developed their ideas before pitching them to STA.

As part of the work, students were required to ride the bus to help stimulate their ideas.

“I was thinking, what do I want to see on the bus?” said Audrey Carter, 23, of Spokane Valley.

Student Ashley Teel, 23, of Cheney, said the bus was a new experience for her since she had walked to Cheney schools growing up and to EWU while in college.

Her group went to the Plaza and to bus shelters to get a feel for bus culture.

“The second we were on the bus we knew we had to make them (the signs) as loud as possible,” Teel said of their design approach.

Many riders might not even notice the signs since they have their faces pointed down at their smartphones, she said.

Student Cassandra Baden came up with the idea of using exaggerated cartoon characters with rounded figures. Each of the six characters was drawn to mimic one of the students on the project.

The campaign will also include banners at the Plaza, a brochure for new young riders and a social media outreach effort, said Marc Morris, who worked on the project for STA.

Breen said the visual design capstone projects are different each year. Her students have worked with government agencies and nonprofits in past classes. One project involved a community engagement effort for the Peace and Justice Action League in Spokane, and another was for interpretive signs for the state Fish and Wildlife Department.

She said she is open to proposals for future student projects. “People with ideas are welcome to contact me,” she said.

Teel said she is proud her group project is now being seen all over town.

Carter said, “I just love that we had a real-world client.”

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