Two graduate students design new RIT buses

Student Spotlight
Rootwa Sagar and Trina Ray, visual communication design

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David J. Wivell

Rootwa Sagar and Trina Ray, visual communication design graduate students, teamed up to develop a safe and elegant design for the new RIT buses.

Rootwa Sagar and Trina Ray, visual communication design graduate students, are the creators behind the new orange buses driving around campus. Last spring, Sagar and Ray were a part of Professor Deborah Beardslee’s visual communication design class that was selected to come up with exterior designs for the buses. The design is composed of four tiger paw swooshes, the RIT logo and “Reducing Our Carbon Paw Print” slogan. Sagar is from Gujarat, India, and Ray is from Kolkata, India.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Rootwa Sagar: I chose RIT because the school has a lot of majors and I wanted to explore different fields relating to design. My undergraduate school in India only offered art and design programs.
Trina Ray: RIT was my call. I got accepted with a merit scholarship so I decided to join the university for my graduate program.

Question: What were your design goals for the buses?
Sagar: Randy Vercauteren, director of transportation services, asked my visual communication design class to come up with ideas for the buses. Our task was to encompass the RIT logo and the symbolism of the tiger in the design. He also wanted a simple design that could be used for 10 to 20 years.
Ray: The goal was to create a design that would build RIT identity and highlight the important role the buses have in students’ daily routines.

Q: What was your design process?
Sagar: My class learned and used the generative matrix process where you write down words that relate to the students and other qualities. The most important quality that came up was safety for students. To convey this, Trina and I took the four tiger marks from the RIT sports logo with the tiger paw and incorporated it in the design. After we presented our ideas and the design was selected, we made some alterations to the back of the bus and submitted the final design.
Ray: When I got the project brief, the first thing I thought about the RIT buses was it had to be very elegant, simple and professional. I started working with the university colors that had been given to us. We also thought black had to be in the design because it represents strength, power and authority. Once we decided the colors, we started working on the objects related to our college mascot and Rootwa thought of the tiger swoosh. Then I began exploring the fonts and I decided to go with Sans Serif font. The font is professional looking and easy to read.

Q: How would you describe your design?
Sagar: The swooshes from the tiger paw represent the meanings of security and elegance. The design is also economical and easy to maintain. If they want to put the design on another bus, it will not be expensive.
Ray: I would see our design as a professional, elegant, and serious type of design which depicts an assurance towards the students that they are safe and comfortable traveling on the college bus.

Q: What was it like to see your design on the buses for the first time?
Sagar: When I saw the buses for the first time, I was elated. I was doing a photography assignment and was carrying a DSLR camera but when I saw the bus I took out my phone and started taking pictures. I was so happy I forgot I had a DSLR camera that I could be taking better pictures with.
Ray: The first time I saw the bus on campus was near the Residential Halls buildings. I smiled and I couldn't believe this giant bus was actually roaming around on campus. While I was working on the project, I had only pictured the design on a screen. I couldn't imagine one day it would be on an actual bus.

Q: What reactions have you received from the RIT community?
Sagar: My employers at Saunders were happy to see the design and my professors have been asking to see my portfolio. Students have told me they really like the orange because it stands out. I got a lot of feedback on Reddit too.
Ray: Everyone was talking about the new bus design but no one was aware of the designers who made this new bus. I overheard a lot of positive comments from the students and two of my friends posted on Facebook about the bus design but all of them had one big question, who designed the buses? I didn't mention our names because I wanted the college to announce it and I didn’t want to inform every student I encountered that we made the design.

Q: Have you received feedback from employers in the design industry?
Sagar: I’ve been applying for a spring co-op and employers have been impressed with this qualification. I’m in the process of interviewing with two companies in New York and Boston.
Ray: I have not gotten any feedback on my design from employers yet. I will probably start getting response from the industry after I finish my portfolio and start applying for full-time jobs.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
Sagar: I will look for a job in user interface and experience design. I want to focus on this type of design because I think analytically and I want to know what people like and don’t like.
Ray: After graduation, I want to obtain a full-time job as a user interface designer and create something innovative for users.

Traci Turner compiles “Student Spotlight” for University News. Contact her at with suggestions.