An escalator ride

The same route, every day.

That is what commuting looks like for most people. Recently I was asked to help with a campaign for Sourcy Vitaminwater. My mission was to determine whether the colorful Sourcy Vitaminwater drinks could crush the rut of our daily commute.

This type of question is right up my alley. I like to examine human behavior and interact with it. I needed to figure out how to get commuters out of their groove and to connect them with their surroundings in a positive way

What is your commute like?

I like to travel, but every once in a while I feel like I’m just going through the motions. The world passes by and I have become disconnected to what happens around me. When I take a moment to look around, I see other commuters with a routine more or less similar to mine. The looks on their faces range from disinterest to frustration or general apathy. Checked out and unhappy pretty much sums it up.

How to change our daily commute?

Together with strategist Roen Roomberg I started taking a closer look at our daily commute. We mapped different routine-based commuting moments: rushed car drivers getting annoyed in traffic jams, bored train passengers gazing at their phones, et cetera.  At the same time, we made lists of nice things. Things that we really enjoyed in our daily lives; like meeting new people or being surprised. Then we went back to our boring-travel-moments list. Could we somehow use color to connect one moment on the first list with a moment on the second?

We zoomed in on escalators. Escalators are the glue between different transportation modes. If commuting is the connection between where you are and where you want to be, then escalators are the connectors of that connection. They are everywhere. Step on one and you don’t have to move, the environment just passes by.

There are all different types of people on escalators: those glued to their phones, those with music in their ears and a haze in their eyes, those trying to avoid eye contact with others. How could we transform that little mundane moment into something exciting and unusual?

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Making thoughts tangible

I made a sketch of it (not the one above, something much more rough). In theory this was perfect – it looked great in its simplicity. However, it wasn’t nearly as easy as we thought it would be to find an escalator owner willing to let us tinker with an escalator. These machines are not ornamental, they play an important role within buildings, and they tend to break very often. Painting them made most of the owners we reached out to very worried, as they were concerned that the paint might get stuck within the mechanics and break the machine.

In addition, we could not find a paint-shop in Europe that had any prior experience on a project like this. So we went online looking for some good advice. We found images of painted escalators, but most seemed to either be Photoshopped or done by contractors outside of Europe. We needed to create a real interaction with commuters using the resources at our disposal.

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Next Empire (our production company) continued calling around. Finally they found a paint-shop that was interested in the experiment. Imagine our joy after we saw the first test-step (image above) painted in all the colors. This test step also made the difference for the owners as we finally secured the go-ahead to rebuild an escalator. At long last, we were ready to get started!

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