Re-imagining the NYC Phone Booth

Our design aims to change the public perception of the New York City payphone, and make use of the structure to create a sense of connection and refuge. This redesign enhances the total experience of the city by working with people’s personal mobile devices to enrich the New York experience, for locals and visitors alike.

The structure fosters connection through multiple touch points. A digital touch screen sits aside the traditional phone, allowing users to search for locations or contact information. Calls can be paid for via credit card swipe or coins. Free wifi and charging stations at each booth location, as well as a companion app allows mobile phone users to connect to the redesign. The app is connected to local businesses and history, allowing the user to explore their surroundings, as well as offering an opportunity for targeted and immediately relevant advertising messaging.

The outside walls of the structure are transparent so the user is always aware of their surroundings, but they can be customized by different digital artists to display data visualizations specific to each New York City neighborhood. These visualizations both augment the aesthetics of the streets as well as foster connection to the community.

We’ve focused on enhanced safety by making calls to emergency services easier and more immediate through a one-touch connection. The structure becomes a place of refuge by provides seating for rest and creates a quiet space to make phone calls. The outside walls of the structure are transparent so the user is always aware of their surroundings. This refreshed take on the New York City payphone is practical, technologically advanced and visually stimulating.

This project is in partnership with Mini Kim, Shelly Ni, and Willa Tracosas, for the Design of Systems class at SVA IxD and was refined and submitted to the NYC Reinvent Payphones competition.

NYConnect: Providing a place for connection and refuge in NYC from Minsun Mini Kim on Vimeo.






Location aware applications connect to the phone booths and expand the experience to a user’s personal device, offering a consistent experience across the city.



breezi_placeit-2 breezi_placeit pb-app-entertainment pb-app-history pb-app-mapview pb-app-restaurants

Research & Insights




We began by gathering our own experiences during Hurricane Sandy, capturing notes, evidence, sketches, images, tweets, photos of precautions that were in place and worked, in place but under-delivered or failed, or not taken at all, with detrimental consequences. Additionally we gathered things that became part of the public narrative of the storm, along with our own emotions and experiences.

We sorted these experiences around PLACE, POINTS IN TIME, PRODUCTS, and PEOPLE/ACTORS. In groups we began to analyze these experiences and start to build narratives and patterns.

As we began to focus on communications, and even more specifically phone booths, we went out and analyzed another proposed solution for putting touch screens in phone booths, currently in a pilot program around Union Square, asking a few users on the street to try it out for us to see what aspects worked and didn’t work.