During the mid-1990s, the iconic London black cab was re-designed by a team of experts, including leading multidisciplinary design consultancy Pentagram. Across the Atlantic, the firm was recently invited by a non-profit organization, the Design Trust for Public Space, in cooperation with Parsons School of Design, to join a workshop of leading designers proposing improvements to New York's own emblem, the ubiquitous yellow cab, in celebration of its upcoming 100th anniversary in the year 2007.
Pentagram's design team, led by industrial designer Robert Brunner and graphic designer Michael Beirut, devised a solution that not only addresses functionality issues, ranging from hailing the vehicle to exiting it but also created a new form and identity for the cab consistent with the spirit of New York. An exhibition of all designs for the "Designing the Taxi" project will be held at Parsons School of Design in November 2005; the exhibit will be accompanied by an illustrated findings document, to be published by the Design Trust for Public Space. Pentagram will design both the exhibition and the publication.
The genesis of the firm's solution began with a Design Trust for Public Space workshop held at Parsons School of Design, attended by designers, the taxi industry, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, New York City's taxi regulators, who shared expertise and experience. The group discussed trends in taxi design and the role of the taxi as a New York public space, and defined the ideal taxi and taxi system of the future, from the passenger's point of view.
Pentagram's proposal takes cues from the classic Checker A8 Cab, which was introduced in 1956 and continued production until 1982. Inspired by its big, muscular and graceful silhouette, and its romantic notion of urban taxi transport, the new Pentagram Checker proposal fuses the emotion of the classic cab with modern design and technology. The proposed re-design of the vehicle would replace the standard Ford Crown Victoria and return the New York taxi into an icon for this century.
Regarding the vehicle itself, Brunner set out to create an instantly recognizable shape, slightly reminiscent of the classic taxi but featuring much-needed improvements including large, sliding doors, a flat floor and low curb height for ease of entry and exit. Wheelchair passengers can access the taxi via a retractable ramp through sliding doors on the right sides of the vehicle.
Pentagram's proposed vehicle takes the experience of riding a taxi to new levels. Passengers can enjoy broader views of the city with vistas from a glass-ceiling window. The seats, made of durable rubberized vinyl, are raised to place the passenger's eye-line above that of the driver's, also increasing the view.
The proposed taxi includes many advanced features. Sightseeing information, stock market updates, etc. are now at passengers' fingertips with a touch screen monitor inside the taxi, which also allows cab fares to be paid with a credit card or remote taxi "FastPass".
For the driver, checking the rear and side-view mirrors are now a necessity of the past, all of which are replaced by monitors integrated into the driver's console, which display real-time rear and side views of the vehicle.
For curbside access, the design includes an ultra bright LED bar on the top of the vehicle to signal availability. This green light would be visible from several blocks in broad daylight. Additionally, an integrated, bright OLED display at the rear of the vehicle doubles for advertising and safety warnings as passengers exit.
Pentagram has played up the old Checker visual metaphor by highlighting the black and yellow checker motif, which is used in the logo. The words "New Checker New York" further reinforces the firm's overarching strategy to make a link with the romantic era of the 1950s.
The "New Checker New York" logo would be carried throughout the taxi system and the street signage, as well as decals on the vehicle itself and a range of merchandise, to further reinforce the cab's iconic status.