NYC Digital part of the mayor's office of media and entertainment

Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

NYC Digital and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, hosted the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge on March 6, 2013 at Quirky, a local startup that brings new product ideas to life through its online collaborative platform.

The Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge engaged hundreds of urban designers, planners, technologists and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of the City’s approximately 8,000 public pay telephones. The City received more than 125 submissions aimed at modernizing payphone infrastructure and optimizing the use of public space. Competition judges selected 11 semi-finalists to demo their prototypes and the top submissions were awarded for best connectivity, creativity, visual design, functionality, and community impact.

The panel of judges represented expertise in community development, design, entrepreneurship and technology policy and included:


The Reinvent Payphones prototypes were judged and awarded on the following criteria:

  1. Connectivity: Ability to connect New Yorkers and enable communication, including for safety and emergency purposes
  2. Creativity: Originality, innovation, and quality of idea
  3. Visual Design: Including visual appeal and user experience
  4. Functionality: Flexibility, versatility, scalability, accessibility, and sustainability
  5. Community Impact: Support of local residents, businesses and cultural institutions

Best in Connectivity: Team NYFi
Sage and Coombe Architects

Best in Creativity: Team NYC LOOP
FXFOWLE Architects

Best in Visual Design: Team Beacon
frog design

Best in Functionality: Team Smart Sidewalks
various: Parsons, Syracuse University, UC Davis, Cheng+Synder, Rama Chorpash Design LLC

Best in Community Impact: tie between Team NYC I/O: The Responsive City and Team Windchimes
various: The Control Group and Titan; NYU ITP, Cooper Union and Parsons (respectively)

The sixth prize category, Popular Choice, was decided by the public voting via the City of New York’s Facebook Page and Team NYFi won the award.

The Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge represents a new paradigm of civic participation in the urban development process, engaging fresh perspectives from technologists, architects and designers. The winning ideas may be used to shape the City’s ongoing efforts to assess the future of the 8,200 public pay telephones that exist today. Thank you to all of our partners and participants for a successful competition.