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As part of a midterm project for my advanced graphic design course, two classmates and I re-designed assets for San Francisco’s iconic cable cars. While these cars may serve many functions in the city, the overarching purpose of these vintage, cutesy vehicles is transportation of tourists. While preserving the retro vibes of the transit system, we set out to make this experience more streamlined and optimal for its users by redesigning a few key features of the system: it’s car signage, map, street signs.




TOURIST (main)

  • Not familiar with area

  • Only in SF for short time period

  • Needs transportation to major tourist attractions

  • May have trouble speaking/reading English

  • May not have access to cellular data

COMMUTER (secondary)

  • Needs reliable, consistent transportation

  • Familiar with city and specific cable car route

LOCAL TOURIST (secondary)

  • Familiar with city but not specific cable car route

  • Needs transportation to major tourist attractions




One of the most iconic aspects of San Francisco’s cable car system is its classic, vintage feel, which is unique and allows it to transcend more conventional forms of public transportation. In order to preserve this experiential feeling in addition to functionality, we settled on a classic color palette that exemplifies both muted and bright colors. We use the four different color themes (red, gold, green and blue) to distinguish between the system’s different lines.





Although the original car design was relatively simple, we found it difficult to determine which line and direction each car corresponded to. For example, in the image directly to the right it would be difficult for users unfamiliar with the transit system to figure out that the car is on the California line heading from Van Ness Ave. to Market St.


Since tourists were our main stakeholder, we wanted to make the car designs as simple as possible in order eliminate any confusion caused by unfamiliarity with the area or potential language barriers. By incorporating principles of text hierarchy and separating the two street names into their own banner, we made both the front and back of the car much more legible.We created three versions of the car design, each of which correspond to an individual cable car line, in order to standardize the visual elements across mediums (car, map, etc). To maintain the vintage quality of the brand, we kept some of the original design elements, such as the classic typeface and ribbon motif.





The maps currently available online each lacked some aspect of general information necessary for using the cable car system. These aspects include delineated stops, marked street names, and landmarks for context within the city.



Our new map combines the current maps into a single asset, and provides additional information, such as BART lines and landmarks, for reference.

The cable car system, primarily used by tourists, is not simply a means of transportation, but also a means of sightseeing that encompasses its own sort of experience just like any other tourist attraction. In order to create the experience that comes with riding the cable cars, we added symbols and images for significant points of interest throughout the city. These landmarks add to the visual appeal and experience of using the map, but they also serve as indicators of orientation for the user.

These maps would be posted on the inside of the cable cars. Additionally, since many tourists are international, they may not have cellular data to pull up a map. Therefore paper copies would be available on the cable cars, as well as at various tourism offices so that users can reference them at any time. These paper copies would also serve as souvenirs that tourists can take with them as a way to remember their trip to San Francisco.




While the current street signs for the cable car system are not as confusing as some other visual aspects of the system, we still felt there were small modifications we could make that would increase clarity and usability.

The main modification we made to the sign was the addition of small bits of information that greatly improve its clarity. We changed “California” to “California line,” as most users are tourists unfamiliar with the system and its names. In addition to stating when the first and last cars would arrive at the stop, we added how frequently the cars would come. We also added an area code to the phone number to ensure that users dial the correct number regardless of where they are from.

Additionally, we swapped the original Muni logo for our own logo, and added gold accents to make different parts of the sign stand out.




Concept: Tara Hadipour, Madison Haymes, & Alison Heywood

Car Signage Design: Madison Haymes

Map Design: Tara Hadipour

Street Signage Design: Alison Heywood

*This San Francisco Cable Car re-design is a concept developed for a midterm project for the course Advanced Graphic Design at UC Berkeley, and is not a rebranding project with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency*