Hi, I’m Christina Xu and I’m an independent design researcher & strategist.

Observing goods & behaviors at a night market in Shangrao, Jiangxi, China

I help companies understand social interactions around technology and media in China and the US. My work builds on over 10 years of experience in observing and orchestrating social interactions on the internet and in offline subcultural spaces.

Using immersive research methods, I identify trends and phenomena as well as the underlying cultural forces that drive them. Then, I create artifacts and narratives that indelibly communicate this context to my clients so that they can go on to make more informed decisions and catch new opportunities.

Think of me as a field guide who can help you identify potential opportunities and pitfalls in a new landscape you’re navigating, whether that’s an emerging market or a new behavior. As a previous client put it: “the highest value of what’s coming out of this research is surprising questions in addition to surprising answers.”

I design and execute research projects as part of your team or my own, with customized outputs ranging from reports and workshops to guided experiences and public-facing content.

Want to get in touch? Send me an email!

An illustration by Nikki Sylianteng, commissioned to accompany a deliverable for a client

Recent Client Work

Synthesizing interviews for a project on how people learn technical skills; photo by Tricia Wang
General Electric: “How can we adapt our cutting-edge social media strategies to the Chinese market?”

After talking to dozens of Chinese millennials in a variety of cities, I mapped out China’s social media landscape in 2015, highlighting unique behaviors and formats as well as key differences from the American and European ecosystems. The results were presented to an audience including the company’s CMO and CIO.

Daimler AG: “How are young people all over the world really using digital and mobile services in their day-to-day lives, and what do these behaviors point toward?”

I contributed insights on cutting-edge technological behavior in China for a multisite study managed by an in-house research team at Daimler. In addition to designing my portion of the study and procuring photographs, videos, and interviews, I synthesized the data into major themes for a presentation to the team.

O’Reilly Media: “We need an updated understanding of how people learn technical skills.”

Partnering with my collaborators at Constellate Data, I project managed a study that challenged the company’s assumptions about their clientele, uncovered new market segments to reach out to, and provided a clear framework of the different stages of learning for the Executive Team. Our findings had an immediate impact on everything from product positioning to the website redesign.

About Me

Photo by Olia Lialina

Christina Xu is an independent design researcher and writer who focuses on social interactions around technology and subculture in China and the US. Raised as a 1.5th-generation Chinese-American fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English, Christina is practiced at culturally translating between American and Chinese contexts. She holds an A.B. with a concentration in History of Science from Harvard University, and is currently faculty at School of Visual Arts’ MFA in Interaction Design program.

Christina’s most recent creative project is Multi Entry, a multimedia exploration of life in contemporary China that includes photography and original design, written essays, curated collections of digital and physical objects, and a print zine. Her work has been profiled in BBC Worldwide, the Washington Post, NYT Magazine, the Atlantic, Paper Magazine, and CCTV America. She has spoken and facilitated sessions all over the world at events like Interaction, SXSW, NYU Shanghai, the Aspen Institute, and XOXO.

She is an advisor of Data & Society, Orbital, and the Fine Chocolate and Cacao Institute.

Published Writing

Recent Press