Wayfinding in a Wireless World


So often, it is culture and not only function that drives design. When we partnered with Shockman to help users find their way in some of China’s biggest mega malls; our team in Shanghai plugged into the local culture to uproot digital solutions that would fit perfectly into Chinese consumers’ lifestyle.

The Challenge of Wayfinding

Mega-malls in China are growing even bigger. Many of them have multiple floors, asymmetric elements and often times distracting design elements that makes it challenging to find the way. Our team looked at interactive ways to implement a digital sign post that would offer directions to ease the problem of finding one's way – and at the same time – use it as an e-commerce platform that would help advertisers reach new consumers.

The Growth of China’s Digital advertising ecosystem

"The digital advertising ecosystem in China is high-tech, sophisticated and alluring for companies looking to jump on the bandwagon." Increasingly, advertisers are trying to reach new consumers during moments that they are most receptive to it. By focusing on shoppers that are looking for directional help, the digital sign post was ideated for these two interactive purposes.  

What’s Unique about Chinese Mobile Habits?

  • The average user spends more than 48 hours per month online playing games, shopping, or chatting with friends.
  • Online shopping is preferred on mobile phones; more than 77 percent use smart phones to buy products.
  • Chinese users like interaction, playing games, and being entertained through their mobile device.
  • The most successful products on the Chinese market are those that are designed to resemble mobile experiences because they are most familiar.


Wendy Chang, Interaction Designer, TEAMS Shanghai

"The most successful digital products in China right now are those that resemble a mobile experience. This is because users trust them the most – it’s what they are familiar with."

Signpost Sketches
Signpost Sketching-Board

Using UXD to Connect the Bigger Picture

Using some of the key insights above, we applied user experience design research to learn more about the way users navigate through spaces. This included looking at pain points, workarounds and preferences, leading us to the following key insights:

  • Looking up directions online is preferred to reading a map or guide. However, Chinese viewers do have problems processioning 2D floor plans into 3D space. 
  • Asking for directions is common.
  • Chinese users prefer an interactive screen due to the common mobile usage experience.

Our design team looked at friendly elements that would integrate well into busy shopping centers. Most people view street lamps and signs as friendly, familiar, and trustworthy. 

It blends in well to the architecture of supersized malls, but yet it is clearly recognizable as an information point in public areas. When it came to the styling, Chinese families tended to gather toward the “Big Hero Six Style,” catering toward a white and fluffy marshmallow-like style.

The digital sign post was created from the users’ perspective, with features that include moveable arms with LED screens that interact with users’ phone to move, label, and indicate the right direction. All of this fits back into the Chinese preference of asking where to go – and then receiving an intuitive and fun answer in the process. When the digital sign post is not busy showing the way, it can play advertisements or show information from different shops within the mall.

How a Human-Centered Design Reached over 2.8 Million Overnight

The Shockman JEEGO was installed in mega-malls in and around Nanjing in 2016. At the Nanjing De-ji Plaza alone, over 2.8 million people have already used the digital sign post. The success has already propelled Shockman to look at further installation in malls in other Chinese cities, including airports and trains tations.

The power of understanding culture can unlock stronger design in regional markets. At TEAMS, we make a difference through our internationally local approach with diverse teams that collaborate across disciplines to bring concepts from strategy to realization.

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