Empowering NYC Produce Street Vendors

Street Vendor Power

Scope  7 weeks  Advisor  Marshall Sitten            Categories  Service Design, Graphic Design

Tool  Research, prototype, graphic design.  Teammates Yumeng Ji, Angie Ngoc Tran, Mia Darling

Role  Concept ideation and field research, cooperate with teammates. Signage design. All graphic design.



Our Service Design project focused on a food produce vendor named Palash who is located on the corner of 22nd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. 

There are more than 20,000 street vendors in New York. Most of them are immigrants, 95% of the vendors speak 11 languages other than English. Within that population, there are about 10,000 to 12,000 produce vendors. They work very long hours and in harsh conditions.


Main types of vendors defined by the city. (Source)

Research + Findings

1. As for a fixed customer base, we find it is difficult for suppliers to get new customers.

2. Information about their prices and health regulations is not clear, which will reduce profits.

3. The interaction between the salesman and customer is difficult, because of the language barrier.

4. The fine and regulation of NYC government are harsh and difficult for salesmen to follow. 

5. The whole business transaction based on the monopoly system. They get their products from the Bronx terminal market, which controls the diversity and prices. Rising supply costs make salesmen in trouble. Because customer does not understand why the price change so quickly.









Blueprint & Stakeholders

Based on our field research, we drew the blueprint to go through the whole journey, from a different perspective to find problems.

Discover Risks

The vendors' salient attributes are convenient, cheap, quick, and sold via the exchange of personal relationships. We placed all the pain points discovered from the research onto the Risk Matrix and decided to tackle the ones at the top right corner as those imposed the highest risks to the business. They were categorized into three main problems.

Problem Definition

  • Unclear perception of value

  • Interrupted sales flow

  • Fines are so heavy

Our Goal

We want to help produce street vendor to improve profit.


Design Outcome 

Provide the vendors the tools, effective design solutions, and competitive edge to innovate in their market space and to thrive with their own superpowers.

1. Increase customer's WTP                        2. Improve Sale Logistics                     3. Cooperate with City Regulations


1 | Signage : Unclear perception of value by increasing Customer's WTP - Surfacing Hidden Values (WTP: Willing to pay)

There is a plethora of valuable information that is not communicated clearly for the customers.

Hidden Value

1. the supply channel is same as big supermarket

2. street vendors' fruits are same as supermarket

3. vendors restock products everyday

4.street vendors are inspected by government 

Design considerations   

1. Content 2. Presentation 3. Cost 4. Durability 5. Location 


2 | Interrupted sales flow by improving sales logistics - Vendor Presentation & Management

Only one seller per time - An occasional lack of attentive service since there is only one vendor at the grocery stand who has to strike an ongoing balance between restocking fresh produce from the air conditioned truck and attending customers during their shopping experience.

Price indicators - There is a level of frustration that does occur among customers as prices are not clearly displayed throughout the grocery stand. Furthermore, vendor does not have an efficient system of storing, reusing, updating and displaying their price tags. 

Stand presentation - Many essential items for sale are physically out of reach. The stand is not looked logically and arouse customer's purchasing desire. There isn’t a sign on the grocery stand that communicates that the produce is indeed organic.

Design considerations 

1. Picture & Information of Popular Items

2. Organic Sign

3. Price Format

4. Cost

5. Easy of Use


3 | Tool Kit    Fines - Cooperate With City Regulation - Understanding Regulation & Avoiding Fines

Language barriers - Communication is very important to collaborate with polices and health inspectors. However, vendors do not know how to stand their ground and defend themselves because of language barriers as most of them are immigrants and English is their second language.

Too busy to remember - Even though the sellers know all the regulations, they are too busy to take care of the business. Regulations are oftentimes simply forgotten. 

Existing good materials -  Vendor Power, a poster uses simple graphics and minimal text — in the five languages most commonly spoken among NYC’s vendors — to explain some of the most-often violated laws. But how to turn those valuable information into actions? 

 Design considerations

1. Help with Language Barriers
2. Risk Calculation
3. Leverage Existing Materials
4. Distribution Channel


We will continue to refine the prototypes, seek for partnership with The Street Vendor Project, as well as the New York city government, and we want to spread our project offering to big terminal market. In this way, the street vendor can gain the benefit from our project. If you are interested in either supporting or contributing to this project, don't hesitate to message us :) 

At the end of the day, we hope to see the vendors feeling welcomed, emotionally & financially secured, supported and empowered. Next time you plan to go buy fruits or veggies, check out your nearby vendors.