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Service Design (MA)

Huayun Hu

Sober Lab is an on-site alcohol-free social experience in partnership with a group of flat chains, founded by three students from RCA Service Design.

Since 2021, the trend for non-alcoholic beverage consumption in China has been on the rise. The way people socialise and the drinking scene is starting to change, with staying sober-curious being seen as a cooler way to drink than indulging in alcohol. From 2022 to 2028, non-alcoholic consumption in Asia Pacific is expected to grow at a maximum annual rate of 6.2%.

At the same time, drifting youth in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, have the anxiety of settling down in a new city under the pressure of life.

The Disappearance of the neighbourhood makes them not build relationships and connections with people around them, but instead build a deep, emotional dependence on online social networks. The Double embedding also makes them feel that they neither belong to the big new city, also out of place in their small hometown. These new types of Urban diseases are making the young people experience a kind of Urban loneliness of the era.

Thus, drifting youth seek out social gatherings to drink. They attempt to pursue a kind of disorientation and indulgence through drinking, in an attempt to escape the worries of real life. But they don't really think that the friends they meet at a drinking party can really have a genuine conversation with them. They still have to try to create a lot of "opportunities" to talk to people when they are tired of work.

This makes them feel even more helpless in their new city.

After researching and interviewing users to come up with a user profile, we learned that the ideal state for the drifting youth is to achieve sober drinking in a relaxed environment for social purposes and to relieve their urban isolation, but at the same time, they want to be able to not have a hangover that could affect their work life the next day.

With this opportunity, we are seeing that apartments in first tier cities are mostly occupied by 25-30 year olds.

Group housing has helped them to sort out their stratosphere, but without an opportunity for them to connect. The community and infrastructure ecosystem of apartment not only has the great advantage of convenience, but also very secure.

Ultimately, we established a pop-up bar social experience service, with Ziroom Apartment as the representative brand flat partner, building a collaboration between apartments and non-alcoholic drinks.

We believe that a sense of belonging in the neighbourhood is always more tangible than a big new city. We hope that our service will help our users to maximise their limited energy in the spare time of working, and to feel the happiness outside of the struggles and stresses.

At present, Sober lab is working on further refining its business model and is trying to reach out for cooperation.

Let’s get involved and Start to meet the fit within reach. 

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Since 2017, Huayun has been exploring in experience design and interaction design. Her undergraduate background in business has helped her to translate design into consumer value and market opportunities through viable business strategies.

During her time at RCA, she has been exploring how to find a delicate balance between design and business, intuition and logic, concept and execution, constraint and empowerment.

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