Hi! I'm shanshan
Nice to meet you.
Grew up in Chongqing
live in Wellington
work at Optimal Workshop

Let's pursue challenges that make people grow, communities flourish, lives happier.

Hi! I'm shanshan
Nice to meet you.
What I do

user research
product discovery
service & experience design
human-centered innovation
design education
algorithmical art

Product designer/
discovery facilitator/
user researcher

I create "playgrounds" that enable cross-functional teams to explore the best solutions to meaningful problems

A mission that matter

It is hard work turning words into valuable knowledge and insights at the pace needed: UX practitioners simply don't have the time to fully unpack the learnings from all the conversations with their customers, and this wasted empathy is a shame!

My team at Optimal Workshop is on a mission to build tools that help people who do qualitative research easily make sense of their data, and quickly derive insights that matter.

How exciting to be tackling a problem like this!

Shifting from the "designer" to the "discovery facilitator"

As a product designer, I was primarily responsible for designing -- websites, apps, solutions -- in my current role, I focus on enabling my cross-functional team to explore solutions together. We discover opportunities, understand people's needs, figuring out the best solutions, crafting the experiences as a team.

Working with my team to map a process

Dot voting with team

Embracing the unknown

The hardest thing about innovation is to be comfortable with the unknown, and accept that our assumptions could be wrong and our ideas may not work. An open-hearted curiosity towards the unknown is an essential quality, if we want to get anywhere that is interesting or new.

As a team, we are constantly practicing skills to get comfortable with refuting our own assumptions through experimentations, celebrating critical constructive feedback, as well reframing ideas that are "not working" as markers of learning and growth.

Working with a humanist team

At Optimal Workshop, I'm lucky to work among a group of talented and empathetic humans that knows how to enjoy life. It is a workplace where we celebrate our full-selves as people, care for each other deeply, and talk honestly and openly.

It is enjoyable, humbling and inspiring to be working among these great humans that I love!

Optimal Workshop office and coworkers

Optimal Workshop colleagues

Moments I'm most proud of

+ Talking to customers
+ Getting "brutal" feedback from customers
+ Learning our hypothesis or assumptions are wrong
+ Jamming ideas around a whiteboard
+ Bouncing off from a brilliant idea someone just shared
+ Getting honest critique and feedback from team members
+ Seeing my team grow new skills
+ Seeing developers conduct their own user interviews
+ Sharing lunch, playlist, gifs with my colleagues

I've been working on
Authentication system
Enterprise tier services
Sitewide brand & UI refresh
Insights management tool
Reporting tool
Qualitative analysis tool

Key responsibilities
Generative user research
Uncover user insights
Identify opportunities
Co-design solutions
Evaluate concepts/solutions
Feed into product strategy
Champion design thinking and discovery mindset

What I do
User interviews
Concept testing
Rapid prototyping
Participatory design
Ideation workshops
Design sprint
Journey mapping
Reporting findings

Future work & play

Areas of interests

1. design education: I want to share my skills in design, research and discovery with more people. I'd like to see what happens if the skills of problem solving, optimising, communication, intuition, collaboration, exploration is widely applied to other corners of life.

2. teach English or Chinese: I'm happy to teach anyone who wants to learn these two languages, or curious about what is life like China and New Zealand.

3. visit places I've not been, and see how humans from around the world live their lives. If you live outside of China, NZ, I'd like to visit you!

4. apply my skills in discovery, research, design, prototyping to solve meaningful problems, and explore opportunities that can contribute to human flourishing.

5. cross-pollinate social science discoveries with design thinking: using economics, psychology and anthropology knowledge to reframe challenges and create new solutions

A playful illustration of me being a cat

Do you have a daring quest, or share similar interests? Please get in touch and we can collaborate!

Topics to be explored
Participatory design methods
Digital ethnography
Design anthropology
Design for behavioural economics
Design for community living
Design for eco-living and sustainability
Design and tech ethics

Thoughts in progress on design, discovery and life

Get in touch

Who am I

A curious empath

A photo of me dancing my heart out

My mixed worlds

I grow up in one of China's biggest riverside port city, Chongqing. It is a mega industrial, hardy, blue-collar town that is known for spicy food, hot summers, fierce people.

In the past 11 years, I've been living in a tiiiny New Zealand city called Wellington, it is the cutest capital city with diverse culture, warm people, creative resourcefulness, eccentric fashion sense.

These two worlds have taught me a lot about diversity in human lives, differences in our mental models, how to not take our own version of "the world" for granted. The contrasting life styles and access to nature have also taught me about engaging with our land, living with scarcity/abundance, and finding citizenship and kinship in humanity.

This experience has shaped who I am as a person and what I do to enable and influence in the world as a designer.

Making art with code

Although most of the time I design systems and experiences to solve problems, I also make things that doesn't have a purpose but simply for an aesthetic experience or conceptual speculation.

I like to think computer programs are organisms, and I enjoy exploring the emotional qualities in human-computer interaction. I've built a few digital creatures across various medium, i.e. electronics, robotics, animation, wearable technology.

What if a robot just wants to be a real boy?

Music visualisation

Your body glows when touched

Other interests

Sewing and mending clothes
Coffee and conversation
Drawing, sketching
Writing & reading poetry
Making zines

Enough about me!

I'm always down to meet another human and hear your stories :)


My logo, that is supposed to be a ladder to people's heart

CV &
How I work

Shanshan Zhou

Product design, user research, design leadership, discovery coach

1. Grow together

For me a fulfilling career is one that enables continuous growth, learning, perspective-shifting and new connections -- not only for myself, but also the people I'm designing for, as well as the people that I work with, and the community we are all part of.

2. Strategic + pragmatic

In my practice, UX design & research is never done for its own sake, but to benefit the goals of the team. I help product teams explore solutions that are valuable and strategic, but also enable the team to deliver it in a way that is nimble, feasible and responsive to learning.

3. For real people

My role is all about understanding humans, and designing for humans. This means practicing human-centred approach to problem solving, design with psychological drivers in mind, adopting anthropological methods to user research, all within a keen awareness of social cultural context we operate in.

4. Empower the team

I love building and growing highly effective teams, where we enrich each other's experiences and boost our mana as individuals and as a team. Work is better (and more fun) when we are empowered and feel safe to be ourselves, claim ownership, communicate effectively, and build on each others ideas.

Senior UX designer, User researcher

Optimal Workshop 2018 - Current

Product design, user research, workshop facilitation, mentoring and coaching, design system, agile & scrum

Product manager (PO), Design lead

ThunderMaps / SaferMe 2017 - 2018

Product management, user research, product strategy & design, brand & marketing design

Freelance designer, Co-founder

Kope Studio 2015 - 2017

Client relations management, business ownership, product design, web design, brand design

Web designer

Salted Herring 2014 - 2015

Web design, brand design, collateral design

UI/UX designer

Alphero 2013 - 2014

Mobile application design

Interaction designer

Gecko Press 2012 - 2013

Interactive children's book design

Victoria University of Wellington 2010 - 2013

Bachelor of Design Innovation


  • Digital product user experience design
  • Product discovery and experimentation
  • Participatory design workshops
  • User research with mixed methods
  • Design system, vision, strategy & process
  • Web accessibility
  • Leadership, team building, coaching


Colleagues, collaborators, managers & clients on demand