Port of San Diego Interactive Kiosks


Designing a better experience for visitors of the downtown San Diego waterfront, based on user research and human centered design.

The challenge

The Unified Port of San Diego approached FreshForm wanting to enhance the visitor experience of the popular waterfront area in downtown San Diego by introducing digital advertising, wayfinding and public service announcements via interactive kiosks.

How might we design a physical/digital structure that can enhance the experience for people visiting the North Embarcadero?


I was responsible for developing and carrying out the user research plan. I spent four days on site at the 30 proposed kiosks locations, photographing the area and interviewing people about their experiences. I synthesized and presented the findings, which were used to create a user journey map and inform our design development.

  • Most visitors go there to browse and wander, with no specific plan in mind.
  • People that work on the Embarcadero are often asked about directions and attractions in the area. There is no clear tourist information center or signage.
  • The scenery and natural beauty of the area was one of the biggest draws, especially for people who visit regularly.


After lots of research and sketching, we came up with a final design concept inspired by San Diego's maritime history. The design is meant to fit in with the surrounding environment, but also serves as a recognizable information site at the numerous kiosk locations. There is a full sized screen on either side - one will be used for digital advertising while the other is an interactive touchscreen that visitors can use to learn about happenings in the area or find their way around. The small front panel features a static map, emergency button and phone charging outlet. The very top of the sails light up at night and the side of the panels are numbered to serve as wayfinding markers. 


  • The kiosks are sized for both adults and children and will comply with ADA guidelines.
  • The kiosks are modular for ease of manufacturing and portability.
  • The mesh paneling helps to combat wind resistance and overheating of the electronics inside the panels. Materials will be treated for graffiti protection and weather resistance.

We put together recommendations for materials, features, and manufacturing methodologies as well as ideas for further enhancing the experience, such as syncing the displays for special events or designing a mobile app to interact with the kiosks. The proposal was used to send out bid requests to third party manufacturers. The project was approved for funding and is set to go into production in 2018.


Following human centered design methodologies, we first established and executed the research plan, which included user and materials/technology research. Once the findings were synthesized and presented, we went through an ideation exercise with the clients. After narrowing down our best and most feasible ideas, we began to sketch and formalize our design concept. Sketches were turned into a CAD model and then the final renderings.

See the FreshForm press release for more details.