Service Design in Shanghai


How might we make both new and existing residents feel welcome in the apartment community, and by the use of a social platform create a municipal in which the Shikumen values; knowing and trusting your neighbours, are embedded?

School project at Designskolen Kolding in collaboration with Tongji University.

Study how Service Design can be applied, innovatively, to different, specific urban communities of Shanghai, to develop and maintain so called ‘smart communities’, in an attempt to increase human well-being and happiness.

Video sketch and poster explaining the concept and app design.


Fewer and fewer places in Shanghai you will find the Shikumen, which is the old way of living, with narrow streets and low houses.

In the Shikumen there has traditionally been a very strong sense of community. But now they are being torn down and the inhabitants, often elderly people, are being moved into new tall apartment buildings.

︎ NB: Please read my personal comments regarding the true learnings from this project at the end of the page.  

Final Concept

(I am the blonde dude with the moustache)


This project was a collaboration between my school in Denmark and Tongji University in Shanghai, China. My group, as seen below, consisted of 4 Danish students and 3 Chinese students.

We all participated in the progression and concept development of the project.

However, we were the only ones who knew about design thinking and design methods. Since all our teachings is basically built on using our own design method cards, we had the opportunity to teach them to the Chinese students.

I did all the video production (shooting, editing, audio, color correction, vfx) and took the photos you see on this page. Using the collaboration method cards, I also often acted as the intermediary when miscommunications between us and the Chinese students had to be disentangled. It required a lot of patience, since their English was not as good as ours, and we had two different design processes.


In many ways it was essential for this project that part of our group could speak Chinese. Not many people in Shanghai are fluent in English, especially not the elderly.

We conducted interviews in the Shikumen community, to try and get to know the problem in depth. But some information got lost from the interviewed to what got translated to English.

The old Shanghai: a traditional Shikumen.

The new apartment buildings.

Note to Self: Remember Where You Are 

Let me be clear: I do not think that the concept we developed in this project is good, far from. It lacks depth and originality in every aspect of it. But I have realised since we did this project, that it is not so much about the concept. Of course, I wanted it to be good, I really did. But the biggest outcome was doing a piece of design in Shanghai. And doing it with Chinese students, who did not think of design the same way as I do. 

Shanghai was so vastly different from Denmark, I would not know where to begin. I see so much design that I think would never have existed in Denmark. But that taught me to keep in mind my geographical location.

We had to adjust to the Chinese culture and the Chinese way of designing. I would never have made an app interface the way our Chinese students made ours in this project. But what I could see was that it fit right in.

I also learned that when you don’t speak the same language fluently, the process of designing (and doing anything for that matter), is extended immensely.

I feel lucky that I have been taught in design thinking and using method cards at my school. I can rely on this structure to navigate through the design process and notice patterns.

Final note: all ended well, and we are all still friends.