Explore NYPL

Improving exploration experience for visitors at the main branch of New York Public Library - Stephen A. Schwarzman Building



September 2015 - December 2015 (14 weeks)

Team members

Carrie Tsang, Tingting Gao, Shixiao Wang, Sun-Young Na, Marcelo A. Mejía Cobo

My role

Involved in the whole research process, mainly worked on user journey, app UI/UX


Our design process

Design process-NYPL.png


The Problem

As the main branch of New York Public Library, the Schwarzman Building attracts millions of visitors every year. After we visited the main building and talked to some visitors, we realized that the current service for exploring isn't instructed or clear to visitors. Therefore, they don't or can't understand library offerings.


Research Synthesis

We started our research by looking at their current service system and talking to some visitors. Our goal during this process was to understand how visitors explored the library and discover the best way to intervene. We also met a few staff at the library and discussed with NYPL service designers, to learn their process and get a sense of how our solution might be a fit to their work.

Observation of current service system



• We noticed that current signs, devices and brochures were complicated. 
• While there was a nice aesthetic to the signs, they were difficult to use. 
• They were either too busy or too small to understand. 


When exploring the library, we tried both the audio tour device and the guided tour. While both had a lot to offer, they were difficult to use. The guided tour was hard to hear and the device lacked clarity.


When exiting the library, the last touchpoint is the security line to check your bag. While we understand the need, we questioned how the experience could be improved.


Interviews & Findings

We interviewed about 20 people. Most of the people were tourists and a few residents. Through our conversations, we found they were mainly complaining: 

  • The information desk is difficult to locate.

  • Not enough international-friendly tools.

  • Wayfinding is difficult.

  • Resources are limited.



We believe our solution should reach all first time visitors whether they are residents or tourists. And we set our goals to: 

  • Create a clear centralized point of contact

  • Provide an accessible tool for navigating through the library

  • Complement the visitors' journeys with an improved exit experience


NYPL Wayfinding app

We decided to tackle the most significant problems around way finding and accessibility. We thought of many ways to solve for it with signage, but we wanted to preserve the architecture and physical space of the library as best as possible. And we found the app to be the most discreet, yet useful solution. The app would also solve the problem of not having enough devices or multiple language devices.

User flow


Initial concept


Usability Test #1

Before we went further with this idea, we quickly developed a prototype and we tested it with several visitors at the library.

Positive feedback: 
The visitors we tested with can understand how this app works.

Future improvements:

  1. Add floor labels

  2. Text legibility

  3. More identifiable icons


Final UI Design


Prototype on Xcode


Entry Signage Design

We propose a simple sign at all entries. They will indicate what the library offers for visitors. At quick glance, they can see how they can explore the library. In addition, there will still be library staff to assist people in immediate searches and emergencies.


Exit Kiosk

We wanted people to feel like they could help the library and at the same time, keep a memory of their experience. We did several design iterations, but we thought that inside the app would be the most seamless integration. 


The exit kiosk would be located where people enter. Behind the entry sign, there would be a screen where you can print a souvenir postcard to take home. 

The postcard would be a simple souvenir that people can take home.


Current NYPL

NYPL improved the signage with combining our design proposal .