Payphones may seem obsolete in a world that focuses on mobility. Frog Design’s Beacon, which won the NYC payphone redesign challenge held in late 2012, takes a shot at reviving it.
Jonas Damon, creative director at Frog Design, offered the context for this concept: “It’s easy to ask what payphones are good for when everyone has a cell phone. But if you dig deeper, there is so much that can be done on top of the system and infrastructure.” NYC is not only one of the most populated metropolises in the world, but also a hot destination for tourists and businessmen from all around the world.
As Damon stated, the entire design studio wanted to take part at breathing new life into the new payphone: “All the different disciplines got involved: UI, ID, Mechanical Engineering, design research. That doesn’t happen often, but everyone made a concerted effort to participate.”
The designers of the Beacon took inspiration from the skyscrapers that NYC is so famous for: “We wanted it to be an icon worthy of the city, it’s 12 feet tall and slender like the skyline. Also, there is nothing to touch, we’re all mindful of hygiene.”
Unlike old phone booths, the Beacon will provide all sorts of information when not used for talking: “We also played with the idea of hyper local advertising. A Beacon could show what food trucks were nearby or if a store was having a sale. All those features make technology on the corner quite compelling.”
Damon also emphasizes the importance of payphones in the event of natural disasters: “Superstorm Sandy impacted everyone. A lot of us in the city didn’t know when the power was going to be on or where they could go to help.” Mobile networks are quite reliable, but cellphones need batteries to function. A payphone that also offers information when faced with an emergency is much more valuable.
The creative director concluded that designing this payphone made the entire team feel enthusiastic about the concept: “It’s a matter of local pride, we love being in New York City. The topic of payphones has all the elements, physical and digital, that make it juicy to work on. Exercises like this are like fertilizer we bring to client projects.” Unfortunately, Frog Design is not going to manufacture the phone booths, its only role being of designing them. In case the contract is approved by local authorities, expect to see the Beacons decorating the Big Apple in the near future.