OC Transpo

A New Design Strategy for a New Service

Back To Projects
OC Transpo

A New Line, A New System

Ottawa’s OC Transpo recently replaced many of its bus routes with the new O-Train Line 1, a light rail line that promises to improve mobility city-wide. Integrating into the larger network, the O-Train strengthens connections between the city’s core and boundaries to better serve Ottawa’s nearly one million people. With six trains and over 900 buses, the improved system offers more reliable access to the city’s landmarks and businesses, spurring economic activity and further enriching the urban experience. Entro, in collaboration with Terry Heard Designers, designed a place brand and wayfinding program that helped people understand and navigate this new multi-modal and multi-carrier system. To make it easier for passengers to learn the new routes, infrastructure and nomenclature, we created and deployed a clear, consistent and easily understood service and brand hierarchy.
  • Client

    OC Transpo

  • Location

    Ottawa, Ontario

  • Sector


  • Discipline

    Wayfinding, Place Branding

  • Photography

    Ben Rahn/A-Frame

  • Awards

    Graphic Design USA Graphis Design Annual Silver

Riding the Rails

We began the project with a system-wide audit. We travelled through the new infrastructure and paid close attention to how, where, and when riders expected to get information. This allowed us to design a system that matched and complemented existing rider behaviours, while making adjustments to improve clarity and eliminate any risk of confusion. Our goal was to make the transition from the old to the new system as seamless and natural as possible.

Looking upward at sign topped with the system identifier, a brightly shining sun in the background.
A Bold Identifier

Our design philosophy was to make the system easy to understand, which begins with identifying the system itself. We made “OC Transpo” the primary brand and used the iconic red “O” as the identifier that encompassed the entire system. The “O” is a bold and easily recognizable symbol, clearly visible from almost any angle or distance. It easily became a beacon we could use to direct riders’ attention to important places and information. We further used the “O” as a playful and familiar element which could highlight different station amenities, system types, and points of interest.

Systems Inside Systems

To create a more intuitive journey through OC Transpo, Entro reorganized and redeveloped several aspects of the system’s visual communications. All the other services – bus and train lines, specialty services, connecting systems, and other sub-brands – took secondary roles in the environmental communications. This gave the system a recognizable and unified identity, as well as an easily understood message structure and hierarchy.


We simplified service hierarchies, grouping the services in a way that prioritized how riders interact with them. We also renumbered the routes, creating a consistent framework that flows logically throughout the city.

Finally, we redesigned the route map to be easier to understand for both new and experienced riders, while also including additional system information that is relevant to riders during their journey.
“Entro’s work has really put us on a solid footing ensuring we have high quality signage and wayfinding and information for our customers for years to come.”

Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Systems and Planning, OC Transpo

OC Transpo's Lyon Station at night, with illuminated station identifier and branding.

By establishing clear and concise rules, we were able to eliminate complexities and communicate important information to riders in a framework that they intuitively understand. The look and feel unifies the entire architectural and wayfinding system, yet takes advantage of the individual brand and service elements that form the system.

Visit OC Transpo to find out more about their services.

Share project