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China Eastern Airlines Brand Showroom

Breathing life into solutions with design

The newly opened China Eastern Airlines Brand Showroom at the company headquarters located adjacent to
the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is the fruit of a collaborative effort by Professional Solutions
China’s joint task team involving Sony designers to create a one-of-a-kind branding experience for one of China’s prominent companies.
In order to offer visitors the experience of the state-run airline’s history and brand concept, the showroom, inspired by
the shape of an airplane wing, has on display a gigantic wooden globe that serves as an iconic symbol, as well as state-of-the-art Crystal LED display
system and a mock-up of the Hongqiao Airport, all of which are linked to separate AR contents. The key project members that
provided this total solution, from the initial concept to the space design and AR contents, convened to share their stories about the project.

Sony (China) Limited,
Shanghai Creative Center,
Kain Xiao

Sony (China) Limited,
Shanghai Creative Center,
Kain Xiao

Sony (China) Limited,
Network Business Division,
Chenyi Li

Sony (China) Limited,
Professional Solution China,
Raymond Leung

Sony (China) Limited,
Professional Solution China,
Raymond Leung

Sony (China) Limited,
Shanghai Creative Center,
Qi Zheng

Powerful visualization,
convincing design

The China Eastern Airlines (CEA) Brand Showroom is the first end-to-end solution project for Professional Solutions China where designers from the Shanghai Creative Center participated to design directly for clients outside of the Sony group. What led to this project and how did the designers contribute to this new endeavor?

Zheng Qi: Initially, China Eastern Airlines approached Sony China in search of a state-of-the-art display for their new brand lounge to be built in the entrance of the company’s new headquarters. But it appeared that CEA needed more than just equipment, so we decided to offer them an end-to-end solution. The business group invited the designers from Shanghai Creative Center to join the meetings and had them visualize the concepts and images that CEA had in mind so that everyone present would ultimately be able to share the goal image of the project.

Raymond Leung: Unlike projects in the past where we sold professional products or system integration, we tried to move up the value chain by taking up the challenge from the very early stages of offering an end-to-end solution through collaboration with the designers. The key to winning this project was understanding the client. Together with the designers, we conducted several rounds of discussions with CEA to share what we were able to offer while listening carefully to what they wanted with their branding experience and having the designers visualize the images. I believe CEA eventually came to understand Sony’s strength in offering this kind of all-in-one solution. We continued to work with our designers throughout the project, including system design, system integration, content production, and site construction, all the way to the after-sales service, making it our first time to complete an end-to-end solution.

Brand showroom meets living room

The CEA showroom offers a dual-layered user experience consisting of a tangible layer of physical object displays and an augmented layer of digital content using cutting-edge technology. What is the overall concept behind this design?

Kain Xiao: This brand experience space is the central part of CEA’s massive new complex, positioned at the crossroad in the main entrance and has a major daily traffic flow from employees.

Given the position and open nature of this space, we proposed an open and welcoming area not only for the most prestigious visitors and guests from other airlines, but also for all CEA employees. Instead of making a lot of symbolic displays like a typical brand showroom of a state-owned enterprise, we tried to create a very elegant and relaxing space in this fast-paced complex building where the visitors can just meet, relax, and enjoy, very much like a living room in your home.

The space is given a trapezoid shape by the architectural structures surrounding it. Inspired by the form of an airplane, we gave the room a character that subtly evokes the image of an airplane wing, with gentle curves draping from the ceiling and a wing tip visible from most angles of the hallway. Between the majestic Crystal LED display on one side and a line of airplane windows on the other, the augmented experience is divided into three sections that strongly link to the physical space element: the “Global Stage,” the “Story of Sky,” and the “Vibe of Hongqiao.” The gigantic wooden globe sitting in the entrance serves as an iconic symbol, while a 1:800 scale miniature mock-up of the Hongqiao Airport is embedded on the wooden floor at the far end of the room. The theater-like alcove is equipped with a 10-meter long 8K x 2K Crystal LED screen and 3D Sound Field solution that can virtually transport the visitors to anywhere in space and time. The space also conveys CEA’s messages of “ecology,” “sustainability” and “elegant service” by using a lot of wood and real plants in the installments. We kept the brand narrative confined to the augmented layer, so that first-time visitors can enjoy the informative experience without worrying about disrupting others who are relaxing. CEA understood this and gave us a lot of support, so we were able to bring our concept to life. We were lucky to have a client that gave us a lot of freedom.

AR technology:
Seamlessly weaving the physical and virtual

The showroom has one of the largest number of AR devices being deployed in one location currently in China. What is the main concept of the AR content and what difficulties did you face in implementing the devices?

Chenyi Li: The concept of the AR content was to break through the traditional static exhibits to display real-time content in a very intuitive and interactive manner. The augmented layer offers nine stories under three themes, and the visitors can opt to use the latest AR devices to experience futuristic and dynamic content in real-time. The content “Global Stage” allows visitors to witness CEA’s rapid growth and operation, “Story of Sky” explores major milestones and critical events in CEA development, and “Vibes of Hongqiao” allows the viewers to feel the ever-changing energy of CEA and the entire aviation industry with a bird’s-eye view of the Hongqiao Airport, Great Hongqiao Area, and the new CEA Headquarters.

Kain Xiao: In terms of design, we needed to express CEA’s brand value such as rapid growth and their global operations, and make all that fit into an integral experience We wanted to create something that visitors can only have at that space, so we took a data-driven approach using information only accessible from CEA’s internal network, such as real-time data of the individual flights that would be reflected in the virtual airplanes flying around the globe or landing and departing the airport mock-up. The biggest challenge was aligning the augmented content with the physical objects, because we could only be 100% sure the devices would work after the space, lighting and the entire physical layout were finalized.

Qi Zheng: For example, when we completed the physical airport mock-up, we initially included a lot of details of the airport. But we later found out that the mock-up was too detailed, which made it too difficult to align the digital contents. So we made a lot of revisions and deleted details in order to make it easier to match the AR content with the physical.

Chenyi Li: As the product leader of the AR part of this program, one of my biggest challenges was to coordinate the in-house designers, engineers and outside vendors in order to deliver the product on schedule with the best quality. Since a certain portion of the AR development and adjustment work can only be done after the site is complete, predicting the workload in advance, and thinking of how to allocate the work wisely in the limited time was very important. I remember well the first time we brought all 16 AR glasses and 20 AR mobile phones together on site. We had done some tests before, but to see all those devices work simultaneously on site was just so exciting.

Kain Xiao: When we started to bring in all the devices to the site for calibration, some CEA employees appeared and became very interested. We let them wear the devices briefly, and explained what we were doing. Seeing their faces light up was evidence to me that we were doing it right. We’ve been working on the project for so long that we were getting too used to the content, but the expression on their faces was proof to me that we would be successful.

From top left: Global Stage, Story of Sky, Vibes of Hongqiao

Creative solutions for real-world situations

Reflecting on the project, what significance does design have in the new end-to-end solution business sought by Professional Solutions China (PSC)? How do you plan to build on this experience?

Qi Zheng: For a project like this, close communication from the very early stages is very, very important. In order to figure out what the client really wants, we used the strongest power design has—visualization. With the designers present at the discussions, we are able to provide visualizations every step of the way so the clients can actually see what they are imagining, and all parties can all share the same vision and goal of the project. This kind of communication builds a relationship of trust. In the end, we were able to provide the whole story, complete with a clear concept, unique content, and of course, cutting-edge devices and technology from Sony. It was a total solution, and I believe that was our advantage.

Raymond Leung: As a sales unit selling professional devices, in the past we didn’t give much attention to design, or give much thought to “the experience.” But now, experience is of utmost importance to us, not just selling Crystal LED display system. If the clients say they want to have a stunning experience, we show them how to combine different technologies to create the experience they are looking for. The designers complement us by visualizing and delivering this experience in an accessible manner. We’re already working together with Chenyi and Kain on other solutions to find new experiences to deliver. I’m really looking forward to another big project in the future.