The UX of Escapism:
TSA Green Wall
How might we transform human user experiences through physical spaces?
User Experience Design | Human-centered Design | Service Design
“People compare going through the TSA Security Checkpoints as a march to Hell.”
As a part of a collaboration with the Graduate Communications Design department and the Graduate Interior Design department, our class was tasked with transforming the human experiences of airports and addressing an immediate problem. My partner and I challenged ourselves to apply UX principles and design thinking to transform a complicated opportunity: the TSA Security Checkpoints.
Through the research, we found that going through security lines is awfully stressful and outright painful so the airport experience worsened by TSA security lines. One of the factors is that TSA employees don’t enjoy their work due to low morality, public hostility, and low pay. When everyone greets you with hostility, it’s difficult to find value in your work, especially when the duties are repetitive. This aims to provide TSA with a sense of value, privacy and importance in their work space. My teammate, Yichin Chen, and I approached the opportunity of the TSA Security Checkpoints with empathetic understanding and perspective.
Empathy through Research
We created an empathy map to understand the needs, actions, feelings, and perspective. First, we looked into their responsibilities on the job and we found that most of their work was repetitive. In order to improve the mental state of working at the TSA line, we speculated that they needed:
to find value in their work,
to feel that they are important to the airport process,
to reduce repetitive tasks.
No wonder so many of them hate us, look at the mindless, senseless shit I'm doing right now" - Former TSA Employee
We began by evaluating the work flow and activities and then excessing their behaviors, patterns, tone, and needs. The first round of research that while a large amount of complaints and attention came from the passengers, the TSA employees were largely overlooked. From the perspective of the TSA employees, it is difficult to find delight in their jobs when they are despised by the public.
This aims to provide TSA with a sense of value, privacy and importance in their work space.
State of mind was crucial to the employees as it was to the production of the security clearance.
We were inspired by the nature, open spaces, and greenery to improve the quality of the workspace. We loved the idea of implementing "escapism" at the airport, and giving the TSA employees and airport passengers to enjoy and relish this area. Waiting in line is inevitable, and to soothe the anxiety of waiting, we proposed the idea of installing a green wall in the TSA Security checkpoint. The concept of green walls or living plant walls was intriguing because they seemed to improve the working environment of workspaces and improving the state of mind for employees. The place and objects TSA employees that interact with should support their jobs and support their bodies. So their work stations needs to be humanized.
Proposal: THe Green Wall
Our proposal aims to humanize the workspace of TSA Airport Security Checkpoints. We plan to integrate materials used at security lines to address their needs to create a enjoyable and pleasant experience. It addresses employees of being in the state of mind that is psychological sense, not logical sense. Instead of a living plant wall that would require garden maintenance and proper lighting, we designed a wall that mimicked a green wall to change the tone of the workplace. The material would be made of scraps of leftover fabrics and in various luscious shades of greens.
The green wall also provides privacy for the TSA employees and a space that they can lean on and rest. Through our research and observations, when the employees sit behind the X-ray machines to scan our luggage, their backs are exposed to the public, which is uncomfortable because they don’t feel protected and feel that they are being watched.
Cushioned Floor Mats
We proposed cushioned floor mats that exists between the green wall and the x-ray machine- the area where TSA employees are required to shuffle back and forth and without seats. We proposed that the floors be switched from the outdated linoleum floors to LVT, vinyl tiles that mimicked wood to instill the sense of sturdiness yet value.
Anxiety begins early in the waiting line
After the passengers pass through the security lines, there are seatings areas with the same green wall motif that allow them to put on their shoes and gather their belongings. This aims to solve the problem of bunching and crowding after the items pass the x-ray.
We observed that areas that gather most anxiety was at the start of the TSA lines, where passengers are forced to remove shoes, coats, belts, phones, laptops, and place them into plastic bins. The process of removing personal items starts rather late and creates anxiety because they are required to do many things at the same time. We proposed reminder stations throughout the beginning of the line to remind passengers to begin removing their belongings. This prepares them mentally while they wait instead of later.
Although the concept was strangely intriguing, we were unable to test our theory at the TSA Security Checkpoints. However, what we have learned from this project was the exercise of empathy and improving the mental state of those involved. We were able to address this issue not as an interior design challenge or a graphic design challenge, but an opportunity to improve the UX through spatial experiences.