Discover the design hotlist: Citymapper founder Gilbert Wedam
Gemma Milne on how Citymapper founder Gilbert Wedam is changing how we navigate city living
From architecture and interiors to art and engineering, Tempus has teamed up with a board of leading experts to unveil the eight innovators set to shake up the design world in Britain in 2018. Each day, Tempus Online puts the spotlight of one of these great eight pioneers to celebrate the launch of our new print issue.
City living is complex. With so many different options for what to buy, how to manage your household, where to exercise and who to meet, technology design that makes city living simpler is bound to take the market by storm. It’s no surprise, then, that travel app Citymapper tops the favourite lists, and the home screens, of many a Londoner.
Gilbert Wedam, an Austrian who grew up in Prague, was the company’s first designer in 2013, and has played a key role in turning Citymapper from a data-heavy routing application to Apple’s ‘App of the Year’ for five years running. It’s now even part of the London Design Museum’s permanent exhibition. Wedam is keen to make sure those using Citymapper feel like it’s more of a human product than a tech product: “When designing a digital product like an app, the human aspect sometimes can get lost.
But that's one of the most important opportunities for design – the human connection between the people who build the product and the people using it.” He’s keen to make sure people feel like they’re using something built by humans, not simply a heartless piece of digital tech: “The personality is hugely important. Humour plays a big role in that. We spend a lot of time thinking about how our product 'speaks'.
For example, when the app is loading data, it doesn't say 'loading', it says 'thinking'.” Wedam doesn’t come from a transport background, but having lived in cities of various shapes and sizes, he’s well placed to understand how city-dwellers like to live. He studied design in Pochlarn, then moved to Berlin to study fine art photography.
After a residence in Santiago de Chile, he co-founded a fashion start-up in Vienna – and which ultimately brought him to London. Wedam’s design has revolutionised travel, and opened up areas of cities previously rarely ventured. Simple touches such as routing you through the best station exits, and signposting which tube carriages will be less busy, can have huge positive effects on urban commuters and public transport system flow rates.
Citymapper essentially opened up and tied together the entire London transport system – making it both easier to use and much more desirable for those needing to get from A to B. Transport For London, and many othercitytransportdepartmentsaroundthe world, have worked directly with Citymapper, knowing that without the app, usage and positive sentiment would be hugely reduced. Citymapper, at its core, makes the unwieldy manageable, and aims to make the bits in- between each part of your life flow. If that’s not cracking design, what is?
Our tech consultant Gemma is a Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum, an advisor for the European Commission, and a SXSW innovation jury member. Read more from our experts and innovators in Tempus Design Issue, out now.