Enabling the capacity to act, by design.

Project Old Flower

Prototyping towards Growing Future Readership


Client: Media Organisation
Length of Project:
6 Weeks
Research, Prototyping, Singapore, Culture, Media, Future of

The Challenge

Against the backdrop of the declining use of Chinese language in Singapore and the rise of China, our client, a media organisation in Singapore, had conducted quantitative reader surveys to understand readers’ perceptions and consumption of Chinese news. Numbers showed that readership was in decline, yet readers still appeared to be satisfied with the news content they were receiving.

“What do our readers want? What can we do, or not do in terms of brand, content and channels? How do we balance our needs with the needs of current and future readership?”

AGENCY came on board to apply reader-centricity and the tools and methods of design thinking to help our client better understand and tackle their challenges, and grow in confidence to pursue future directions for their products and content across platforms.

Together, we asked the question:

How might we uncover what your readership truly values in order to shape more resonant content, relevant formats, and branding for the future?

In short:

In 6 weeks, AGENCY created a clear roadmap towards implementation for our client with a range of prototypes they could test with readers. These prototypes were weighted on a scale of time horizon against possible impact, and included directions that spanned current and future offerings across platforms.

To do this, we used a design-led approach to provoke, question and envision together with current and future readers. Eight high-fidelity, looks-like, feels-like concepts drove the conversations we had with readers, enabling the team to get to much deeper granularity and articulation of what readers valued. Conducting research in this way addressed many of our client’s unanswered questions that they had been circling for a long time.

Most importantly, AGENCY did not approach our client’s challenge as “product” or “brand” or “platform” for a start, nor lead with a revamp of their current offering. We simply asked the question, how future readership would like to be engaged, and used that as a starting point to design.

 “We have thought about this problem a lot, tried many initiatives and had many debates internally about that future. This work helped us learn something really new and valuable about our readers and our new readership. It has given us greater optimism about the future.”
Key client lead



The AGENCY team designed eight different versions of newspaper cover pages as vehicles to have a conversation about branding, tone and content. These were designed to be intentionally provocative, and were employed as well-designed, high fidelity tools that sparked conversation with readers. 

  • AGENCY and the client as 1 team

    Our team worked with a senior editor and layout designer from the client’s team to create these realistic concepts and provocations - repurposing older articles and laying them out in different ways. We designed tonalities, content, and expressions that varied across all 8 to give us a rich set of provocations we tested with readers, from international v.s. local, formal v.s. casual, to profile v.s. story.

  • Using tangibility to provoke great responses

    Instead of just asking a series of questions, these eight cover pages were designed to look like, and feel like real versions of newspapers. These jolted the interviewees to express what they otherwise would not be able to in a purely verbal interview or survey.

  • Range of research activity

    We spoke with more than 20 people, among them long-time readers, new immigrants, young Chinese “literati” plugged into Chinese culture, and a tuition teacher and her young student. We spoke to ex-readers and non-readers as well. Each had a different reason for wanting to consume Chinese content.

    We listened to what they valued in the paper, what excited them about what they were looking at, and why. In addition to the in-depth interviews, we also spent a morning at a newspaper stand at a large transport interchange to intercept the regular customers and get their reactions to the concepts.


When people saw our provocations, they reacted with surprise, delight, uncertainty. They were drawn in, put off, puzzled, and we got to ask why. We dug deeper into each of their reactions to understand what drove these reactions, and what boundaries our client could push and explore.


In 6 weeks,

We found that people were still reading the news.
They were also still reading Chinese.
This presented a big opportunity for our client to start engaging with their future readership differently.

 Our research answered the following questions:

  • What does Chinese mean to our client’s current and future readership?

  • What content is meaningful and resonant now, and in the future?

  • What helps readers navigate and connect with your stories?

 From this, we framed and answered questions that presented solutions across brand, content, channels, and presentation for the client. It is worth noting here that AGENCY did not approach our client’s challenge using “product” or “brand” or “platform” as a start, nor lead with a revamp of their current offering. We started by understanding what readers valued, and would engage most and best with, and let that inform our solutions.



These solutions - framed as prototypes - were plotted on a roadmap to implementation, which weighted them on a scale of time horizon v. impact. AGENCY presented a strong point of view that emphasised the concrete first steps that our client could take towards a confident future direction.

 Alongside this, AGENCY also delivered:

  • Key readership insights

  • Reader engagement strategies to explore

  • Prototyping projects that current teams could take on

  • A proposal for a future product platform for Chinese news that truly spoke to the needs of current and future leadership

Project references available upon request.
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