How to Secure Your Design DNA as an Operator

How to Secure Your Design DNA as an Operator
Address: Yellow Window Antwerp
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This article first appeared in the Railway-News Magazine Issue 1, 2022.

The Metro M7 in Brussels – How to Secure Your Design DNA as an Operator

In 2021, the European capital saw the introduction of the new CAF-supplied M7 metro trains. While the project is unique for various reasons, it’s significant that the vehicles’ industrial design was defined for and with Brussels’s public transport operator MIVB/STIB.

The designer, Antwerp and Paris-based studio Yellow Window, highlights this ‘design first’ approach, in which vehicles are collaboratively defined prior to tendering the project.

Innovating the Design Process in Project Tendering

From a design perspective, metros can be considered highly pragmatic vehicles, born out of rigid tender processes and technical specifications, with attention to end-users often being little and late. And once the procurement formalities are concluded and a vehicle supplier is contracted, any operator with the ambition to modify the vehicle needs to deal with penalties or delays.

Even if exaggerated, disappointing experiences in previous offers (and projects not quite delivering their promise) led Brussels’s operator to boldly decide to specify its next metro generation to include all its design aspects, as an integral part of the technical specifications.

And so, the story of the M7 starts here, in what we call a ‘design-first’ approach: designing the vehicle concept with the operator and its stakeholders before going to market. Taking procurement along this route requires thorough integration of the design within the vehicle specifications. But return on investment can also start right here: the alignment of all internal processes leading to vehicle specifications, a task never to be underestimated.

And once envisioned, the aspired vehicle concept can be reviewed, co-designed and optimised with internal or external stakeholders. This ‘testing’ can range from the pragmatic (the optimal door width or layout options) to emotional aspects such as styling, shape and identity.

The Ambition behind the M7

Developing a tangible design vision upfront was also the surest way to further carve out the operators’ unique design DNA and to guarantee its faithful materialisation in the project. Centring around the user, MIVB/STIB’s objective was to set new standards in quality and experience – to ultimately persuade more citizens towards sustainable transport.

Download the full PDF here.

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