We have been creating transportation design solutions for more than 40 years. Our talented team of over 130 researchers, designers, engineers and modelmakers provides a unique integrated design, engineering and prototyping services. Here in the heart of England, we turn ideas into practical designs and transform concepts into fully detailed, working solutions.
DCA’s ISO 9001:2008 approved systems guarantee the quality of our design processes and project management procedures. So, you can be confident of receiving the highest quality results, every time, whatever your needs.
Our proven approach to transportation design puts people at the heart of our work.
Our researchers establish what people really value in their journey experiences, what works well, what frustrates them, and what excites them.
Our designers then use these insights to create concepts that respond to real passenger desires, while our human factors team ensures that these concepts align with industry standards, regulations and best practice.
Vision is worth little without execution. DCA’s experienced engineering team means we can drive our designs through to market without compromise - be it on functionality, fitness for purpose, robustness or aesthetic intent.
UNDERSTANDING THE JOURNEY EXPERIENCE
How can a transport system cope with the radically different usage patterns that it sees throughout the day? How can light weight seats be welcoming and comfortable? How can the same vehicle cater for the needs of a parent struggling with three small children or provide a productive work environment for the busy executive?
Our researchers use a variety of tools and techniques to study and understand people’s journey experiences. The resulting insights provide clarity and direction for the design team.
PUTTING PEOPLE CENTRE STAGE
Transportation projects are about people. Nowhere are the ergonomic demands more challenging or more diverse, ranging from the macro ergonomic issues of passenger flow and capacity to the detailing of individual touch points.
Our designs must delight, provide comfort and be intuitive in everyday operation. They must deliver safety and reassurance at moments of crisis. We need to cater for special needs groups, and help operating staff deliver excellent levels of service.
DCA’s human factors specialists combine theoretical tools and anthropometric data with practical techniques to make the human element a central part of our design process.
CREATING THE VISION
Vehicle and aircraft designs should be inspirational, exciting and memorable. Successful transport solutions have to capture the publics’ imagination as well as meeting passengers’ true needs.
Through our work with world-class brands, we have developed a deep understanding of visual identity and a strong appreciation of brand values. So our transport solutions convey the desired brand messages by design.
DCA employs innovation and creativity to align form and function to deliver a memorable travel experience that passengers will want to repeat time and time again.
DELIVERING THE EXPERIENCE
Visionary design concepts can only be embodied through engineering excellence and they can only be delivered if they take account of certification and approvals requirements.
On rail projects, our human factors team ensures that PRM TSI regulations are met, whilst for aircraft interiors we have forged close links with certification experts to address airworthiness and certification issues from the outset.
DCA’s engineers work side-by-side with our design team to ensure that while our designs remain true to the original creative intent, they are functional, durable and cost-effective. We continually research manufacturing processes, materials and technologies to support these aspirations and ensure we can deliver the experience as designed.
USER FOCUSED RESEARCH
Our researchers use a variety of techniques to understand what passenger journeys are really like, and to develop an in-depth knowledge of the working practices and needs of operating and maintenance staff.
Most importantly, research enables you to manage and reduce your development risk. Innovation effort and development investment can be focused in those areas that the research findings highlight as being most important to your primary stakeholders.
We carry out research to develop a detailed picture of your stakeholders and what they seek from your travel service.
This ranges from establishing basic functional requirements to identifying features that will act as delighters, creating an experience they look forward to repeating.
We combine this knowledge with trend studies inside and outside the transport arena to achieve a contemporary feel relevant to the local culture without relying on short term fashion cues.
UNDERSTANDING NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
Innovations like smartphone taxi payments, real time travel updates and ‘park-anywhere’ car shares are beginning to offer genuine alternatives to the spontaneity offered by private vehicle ownership.
These no-strings attached, instant access transport solutions offer consumers new levels of freedom and provide forward thinking companies the opportunities to totally change our transport landscape.
CREATING ICONIC DESIGNS
To create concepts for products, environments and infrastructure that go far beyond what is currently on offer, our project teams visualise, question, and refine ideas so that our designs represent a real step forward.
Innovative thinking needs to be embodied in a design that captivates people on a subjective and practical level. Our designers work hand in hand with our engineers to develop what lies behind the external surfaces and interfaces as the design evolves. This creates a fluid process where ideas can be interactively tested and built upon to create a unique vision for our clients.
COMMUNICATING THE BRAND EXPERIENCE
We work with brand owners to shift their expectations, push boundaries and help them break into new territories with the ultimate aim of improving brand engagement.
Creating a memorable brand image or service requires an integrated design approach that brings together all the different elements of the brand, from the initial proposition to its physical embodiment. We understand the role that design can play in transforming an idea into a dynamic reality that can help bring a new brand to life or revitalise an existing service.
VISUALISING THE DESIGN
Generating photorealistic renderings throughout the process allows all the project stakeholders to gain a realistic view of how a design is developing.
This means that everyone can be involved in the design decisions and can see where further effort and resource needs to be focused. At their best, photorealistic computer images and animations help convey the design intent in a way that is accessible to the widest possible audience without the need for specific technical knowledge or specialist insights.
COLOUR, MATERIAL AND FINISH
We immerse ourselves in the journey experience while exploring current trends. This allows us to curate palettes of materials that bring experiences to life, building upon a brand’s qualities and aspirations.
We work with the world’s leading manufactures to develop, refine and implement certifiable materials that are fit for purpose and can translate into great experiences for both brands and end users.
To stay ahead of your competitors it’s imperative that you understand key trends and where they are leading.
New developments in fashion and arts, textiles and colour, culture and consumer behaviour, science and architecture, and everything in-between have an influence on your products and services.
We can help you handle this complexity through first hand research. We regularly attend trade shows, exhibitions and conferences, which allows us to map key trends in our clients’ main areas of interest.
Colour choice is one of the features of a design that can have a major impact on the success of an environment or brand.
It is often difficult to evaluate and understand this impact using small scale samples. Our in-house workshop facilities allow us to work with full sized parts when assembling colour palettes. This provides you with a true perspective of the chosen colour solution before the parts go to production.
We continually work with material suppliers to source interesting material samples for inspiration and implementation.
Combinations of materials are evaluated and refined in client workshops so that together we can establish what really creates the right visual impression. In parallel we work with material suppliers and processors, approvals bodies and test houses to ensure that whatever material combinations are selected are fit for purpose.
Design has the potential to influence a myriad of human emotions to create an environment that makes passengers happy, comfortable, productive and more secure. The same applies to staff operating within these environments.
Human factors tools and techniques are critical in helping us to optimise transport environments for the humans that inhabit them, while at the same time maximise the performance of the wider system. Close and continual collaboration with the design and engineering team ensures that opportunities for enhancing the design are identified early in the design process.
ERGONOMIC MOCK UPS
Ergonomic mock ups allow the wider project team, including end users and stakeholders, to experience the design physically and provide invaluable input into the design process.
Low fidelity mock ups are produced early in the process, often using paper or foam card. They allow the project team and target user groups to explore initial designs and confirm their compatibility with a wide range of predicted in-service activities. Later we construct more substantial and refined ergonomic rigs to provide greater confidence and allow a more naturalistic assessment to be made. Finally, highly representative mock ups provide the opportunity to conduct environmental assessments such as glare studies and offer stakeholders the chance to review the final design before committing to manufacture.
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
Each project is unique, requiring a bespoke approach to ergonomics and human factors and the application of a different set of tools and techniques.
However, we always ensure that the relevant regulations and standards are considered from the outset. These requirements are bolstered by our specialist team who incorporate best practice methodologies to create a comprehensive human factors specification. CAD assessments are used to ensure that even the earliest concepts take account of the physical environment and usability issues.
Human factors tools and techniques such as reach trials, task analysis and error analysis are used to assess design mock ups against the specification, frequently culminating in a report demonstrating regulatory and contractual compliance.
Our transportation team has developed in-depth technical knowledge across a wide range of mass transit and personal transport arenas.
Our experience embraces all aspects of transport design and development and covers most transportation modes. As a result we are able to create innovative technical solutions that push beyond the accepted industry norms, opening up new creative options for our clients.
ANALYSIS AND SIMULATION
We use virtual prototyping tools to gain early predictions of performance when defining efficient, light weight structures and optimising complex mechanisms.
This allows us to push the boundaries of what’s possible with the next generation of transport solutions. It also reduces the number of physical prototypes and test cycles required to achieve the desired product performance and certification.
We were involved right at the beginning of the Eurotunnel project, conceptualising how the ‘Le Shuttle’ trains would operate on this unique tunnel based rail system and be configured to carry people and vehicles from England to France.
We then won the contract to design the unique locomotive and vehicle carriers for a consortium of European manufacturers. This meant we had to develop a solution that would be driven and operated by French and British crews, each with their own particular expectations and working practices. It also had to meet the very stringent safety standards associated with tunnel operation.
This example from our heritage highlights that DCA has the knowledge, project management skills and perseverance needed to take complex ground breaking projects from concept into service.
We have an outstanding track record when it comes to innovation and the creation of valuable intellectual property.
DCA was responsible for the design of the first curved door Universal Access Toilet in the UK rail market, establishing a configuration that has become standard throughout the network. We implemented superformed aluminium technology to develop the first Cat 1 approved high backed rail passenger seat. For London Underground’s D-stock, we developed a light weight, fire compliant and comfortable seat construction solution that has been adopted across the board. Our recent work with a major aircraft interior supplier generated three patented designs.
It is this creativity that helps us to maintain our position as one of the most innovative transport design consultancies.
CREATIVE SPACE UTILISATION
As part of our interior design for Hitachi‘s Class 800/801 train, we created innovative design solutions to accommodate bikes, large luggage storage and trolley based catering within the compact areas at the tapered carriage ends.
Our solution used a space saving combination of sliding and hinged doors with dedicated bike hangers and folding shelf units. The same modular door configuration was used to accommodate the onboard catering trolley station. These design features were user tested and validated against the relevant UK standards and regulations by our HF team.
CREATING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Our unique layout for the award winning M6 train for SNCB, manufactured by Bombardier, incorporates a novel staggered window and seat arrangement.
This design addresses a number of the space related issues that normally arise with double deck trains. It creates easy access to extra luggage storage between the seat backs, improves passenger flow by removing the aisle restrictions that usually occur between aligned seat backs and provides a greater overall sense of space as the offset window dead lights allow more natural light into the interior.
The success of this arrangement enabled Bombardier to win further contracts utilising the same design configuration.
Many of DCA’s innovations have really stood the test of time. Our design for the London Underground Central Line train featured step back seats to increase standing room for passengers and large windows for a greater sense of space and better sightlines when travelling over ground.
The design evolved from direct market research using three prototype trains, each fitted out with a different interior configuration to see which features passengers liked and valued. This data was collected and used to inform the design process right through to production.
ELECTRO MECHANICAL SYSTEMS
The integration of electronic hardware and software plays an increasingly important role in transportation solutions. Projects increasingly require close co-operation between multidisciplinary teams to incorporate robust, efficient hardware and software solutions.
Our software and electronics teams work alongside our mechanical engineers and designers to deliver complex electro mechanical systems.
The Mini instrument pack project demonstrates how we can support our clients by delivering complex multidisciplinary projects, often involving safety critical software systems.
WORKING IN EXTREME CONDITIONS
Our electronics and mechanical engineers worked together closely to design a reliable HVAC motor drive system that could cope with the extremes of heat and vibration that occur around an automotive combustion engine, fitting the solution into a very restricted and convoluted under bonnet space envelope.
The PCB layout and component placements had to be designed in parallel with the casework and electrical interconnections to isolate vibrations from the high inertia components and dissipate heat from the high power electronics. First prototypes of the complete electro-mechanical assembly were made and tested by DCA to prove that the concept was viable before we went on to develop the final production solution.
RUGGED USER INTERFACES
Forklift trucks, like all industrial vehicles, are complex electro-mechanical systems. Their design requires an intimate blend of mechanical, electronics, software, human factors and design skills.
All these skills were integrated in our development of the driver information unit for a range of reach trucks. These vehicles have no suspension so isolation mounting of the unit’s internal chassis was required in conjunction with vibration protection for the relatively large, high inertia TFT screen. We also had to incorporate active thermal control to prevent frosting or condensation on the screen as the trucks move rapidly between cold stores and ambient temperature environments.
The unit’s software takes video feeds from cameras mounted at different vantage points on the lifting mast and chassis, displaying them on the TFT screen in a range of driver selected configurations. Real time status information from the vehicle’s sensors and controls is overlaid on top of the video display to create a single uniformed source of driver information.
DCA has delivered a wide range of infrastructure projects for TfL, including the design of ticket machines, ticket barriers, information points, electronic signage and staff kiosks.
We also worked with Westinghouse to develop the award winning design for the platform screen doors installed on the deep tunnel section of the Jubilee Line in central London. A combination of bonded glass and stainless steel is used to create an architectural façade that separates the track from the platform and blends seamless with the striking Jubilee station designs.
IN-HOUSE MODELS AND MOCK UPS
We are rare amongst design consultancies in being able to build scale models, large ergonomic rigs and full size visual mock ups in-house using our own model making team.
This gives us unrivalled levels of flexibility, responsiveness and control during the production of your models, rigs, prototypes and mock ups. And this is backed up by the experience, skill and attention to detail of our dedicated workshop team.
RIGS & PROTOTYPES
Full validation of a design can only be achieved by extensive practical testing of representative rigs and prototypes.
Our comprehensive workshop facilities include 3 and 5-axis CNC machining centres and a range of rapid prototyping technologies as well as more traditional model making tools. This allows us to develop, test and refine models quickly and efficiently.
FULL SCALE MOCK UPS
Being able to build large scale mock ups in-house in our dedicated workshop facilities provides a deeper understanding of the manufacturing implications of our designs and allows us to continue to refine design details throughout the mock up build phase.
In the vast majority of cases design sign-off can be achieved against a full size physical mock-up, allowing a low-risk, smooth transition into manufacture. Working in-house means we can manage timescales and control quality and allows us to respond proactively to any stakeholder requests for changes that may arise during the build. It also gives us complete control over project confidentiality, further protecting your intellectual property investment.
We are working with the latest Oculus development platform, allowing project stakeholders to visualise rendered 3D CAD models in a personal virtual reality.
Users can explore the proposed design in 3D and gain a real sense of how they will interact with it, even during the relatively early stages of development. Incorporating VR technology intelligently into a development programme can improve the detailed understanding of the design before mock ups are built. This in turn can mean fewer physical mock ups and fewer mock up modifications are required.
In this is fast moving technology arena we are fortunate that many of the best immersive technology providers in the industry are located close to DCA’s Warwick premises.
We are working closely with several of them to demonstrate how these large scale virtual reality technologies can augment traditional transport design and development processes. We are continually monitoring how these technologies are evolving and how best they can add value to our design processes.