Hi, I’m Christina Xu, an independent design researcher & internet spelunker.

I’m currently looking for clients interested in China-based research projects* during starting from May 2017.

While in China, my personal project involves talking to young creatives about their lives and their work in defining contemporary Chinese culture. Along the way, I naturally learn about trends, tech, and cultural patterns, which rounds out the research work I do for my clients. If you’re interested in getting the real scoop on what people are doing in China so that you can make better decisions about your product, let’s talk!

* I’m also available for US-based projects for most of the year!


How I Work

Never heard of design research? Panthea Lee has written a great introduction here, and this is a pretty good explanation of the type of work and outputs involved.

First, I observe & interview people in their natural environments — including digital ones — to understand their habits, needs, and frustrations. My interviews are long, informal, open-ended conversations that aim to unpack how the participants really see the world. I work in short, iterative sprints so that I can adjust my methodology and focus as needed.

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

Then, I create compelling storytelling artifacts (or facilitate conversations) designed to help your team really internalize those perspectives. I believe that research is useless if not properly communicated to the people who need to hear it the most, so I’ll do whatever it takes to wrestle the material into something fun, compelling, and memorable.

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
“How can we adapt our cutting-edge social media strategies to the Chinese market?” — Award-winning marketing innovation team of a Fortune 10 company

After talking to young Chinese people in several 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 the company’s Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Marketing Officer.

“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?” —Daimler AG

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.

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

Partnering with my collaborators at Constellate Data, I project managed this 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.

As a recent client put it, “the highest value of what’s coming out of this research is surprising questions in addition to surprising answers.”

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. She is also faculty at School of Visual Arts’ MFA in Interaction Design program. 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.

Outside of client work, Christina produces 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.

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

Want to get in touch? Send me an email!

Published Writing

Recent Press