speculative design
product design
thesis project

When & Where?

February 2021
Beijing, China


Spark AR, soldering, 3D modeling
3D printing pen, leaf gilding

About Solo Spring Festival

Solo Spring Festival is the second project in my thesis trilogy. (also see Copycat, CopyRight? CopyLeft!, Translucent Privacy) Taking advantage of the potential attention-seeking behaviors in social media, I designed a piece of headphone combined with a rattle drum (a traditional Chinese toy) that facilitates social media expression. The new design proposed a new way of interaction with the headphone featuring an AR effect that generate a hybrid performing stage, turning the listening experience into a dance performance/watching experience in digital world. This project was developed during Spring Festival in pandemic time. It took product design as the entry point, to rethink and reimagine design in this special transforming time. 


My M.F.A. thesis explores globalizing design, technology and culture through the lens of postcolonial studies. The history of Anglocentric and Eurocentric design practices and design education can date back to Industrial Revolution and its production, leaving the rest of the world as manufacturing labor, material source, exotic inspiration, etc. Aligning with the trend of decolonizing design, my thesis challenge standardized design practices from studio to factory, and reimagined another realm of design and technology rooted in Chinese culture heritage and its rapid-changing present by proposing alternative design approach, aesthetics and interactions to current design discourse.

Spring Festival in Pandemic Time

COVID-19 has greatly affected all aspects of our lives. it brought us catastrophic pain, but also brought people a lot to think. With the drastic change of lifestyle, I started to question and reimagine things around my life that I once took for granted. It was Chinese New Year at the time when I developed this project. The original crowded lively festival had also undergone a lot of changes due to the pandemic with nearly all physical gathering events were canceled. On the other hand, the situation had push our life into digital spaces where we celebrate the festival with family through social media, video calls and internet events.

How can we transfer a traditional festive expirience into digital platform?

How to utilize the digital media to even enhance our festival experience?

Attention, Performance, Expression

As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available on the internet, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information. the previous social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, has changed form a communication aspect to an attention aspect, forming an so-called attention economy. Technology, aesthetics, selfie culture and business purposes has shaped a unique marketplace where our attention has become both currency and scarce commodity. The motivation to seek for attention in digital world has altered our daily mundane life, turning our surroundings into a performing stage for self-expression, and eventually realizes aestheticization of daily life.

Attention economy also provide a space that allows and even encourages people to behave differently. People on social media do weird or even stupid things to catch attention. Normal has become social media weird. With digital social platforms opening up new possibilities for new behaviors, new aesthetics and new purpose, I started to wonder  How can we redesign in physical world that facilitate our expression in digital world?

Grassroot Inventors on Chinese Social Media TikTok, Kuaishou.

Physical Design for Digital Attention

Based on my previous research and questions, I designed a rattle drum-headphone hybrid piece that create dramatic effects for social media expression. There were two main reasons for choosing a headphone as my redesign subject: 1. mundane object; 2. easy to capture from an selfie angle. The goal of my design is to create something that facilitate festival celebration and get attention in social media.

01. Rattle Drum Headphone

Rattle drum is a traditional Chinese toy instrument. In China there is a saying “head shaking like a rattle drum” describing a lively body movement. I mixed the rattle drum with a piece of headphone. Instead of simply offering a Chinese aesthetics over the headphone, the rattle drum contains certain functions of producing sound effects and body movements that fit into the headphone interaction scenario. The hybridized form offered a chance for strange and hilarious behavior by shaking your head while listening to the music. I also used a mix of material including 3d printing ABS, gold leave, plastic, leather and metal to provide an eye-catching aesthetics to the object . 

02. The Lion Mask

To fit into the context of social media, I designed an AR mask that would be triggered while using the headphone. The mask is hidden under user’s face by default. Once it has been triggered by head shaking, the face mesh will split exposing the mask underneath. It seeks to create a dramatic “Peekaboo!” effect that catch viewers’ attention. I applied bold colors and Chinese motif on the 3D model for a loud aesthetic that fit into the festival ambience.


I took my design to a very Instagramable place in Beijing and shot a video of me performing a Chinese lion dance wearing the headphone I designed.  The head shaking based on the rhythm from the headphone triggers the sound of the drum beats as well as the AR effect of a lion mask, overlapping with the lion dance movement. In this physical-digital hybrid stage, the dancer the drummer and the viewer become one person, which turns a generally collectively- celebrated hustle and bustle dance into a solo self-entertaining performance ready for social media.

During the performance in public, I also got attentions from people passing by, which made me a little bit embarrassed in physical space. But once I finished it and post it on my social media, I no longer feel the same and started to looking for attention. The same content transferring from physical to digital world could convey total different feelings and emotions.