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Design Sprint Saved the Summer Season

The Jutland Aquarium (Jyllandsakvariet) in Thyborøn is a family attraction centered around marine life and the water. Radical corona regulations threatened to cost this small business its entire high season in 2020. A digital design sprint helped the aquarium find a digital and physical solution – and one which ultimately helped save their 2020-season and a new ice sculpture exhibition

In an old cold-store warehouse by the harbor in Thyborøn, visitors and tourists alike can experience Iskunsten. This ice sculpture exhibition changes regularly and is open all year round. 

Iskunsten is the latest addition to the many attractions that owner Michael Madsen has brought to the north-Danish town of Thyborøn since he first opened the Jutland Aquarium 25 years ago. 

“The Jutland Aquarium is for families and kids. It’s a world of adventure and discovery which attracts many families and invites you to dip your fingers, get sand on your knees, and touch the things around you. Since our opening, we have expanded to offer outdoor tours and activities, and so today we make use of the entire area around us,” explains Michael Madsen.

His business has grown over time, and he currently has 30 employees. 

Iskunsten and its ice sculptures represented a new area of growth for Michael Madsen. The idea was to create an attraction that would appeal to a more adult and cultured crowd and draw them to Thyborøn. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck, with the risk of losing out on the entire summer season. 

“Ours is an industry which was hit hard by lockdowns. We had to close our doors, and when we reopened, it was only for a short time before we had to close again, and then came a whole host of new restrictions in terms of social distancing, hygiene, and visitor numbers,” explains Michael Madsen. For obvious reasons, moving the ice sculpture exhibition outside was impossible to comply with the restrictions in place.

The Digital Design Sprint

Over the last three years, DDC – Danish Design Center has worked with several leading design agencies in the Sprint:Digital project to help more than 100 Danish SMEs future-proof their businesses by developing new digital services or products.

The process is known as a design sprint and involves mapping out, developing, and testing a brand-new digital solution over just five days. The magic formula behind this ultra-compact program is design methods that shorten the distance between thought and action, ensure effective collaboration, and maintain focus on the user throughout the process.

Download the book, Overhal Fremtiden / Overtaking the Future, about the project, in Danish or in English.

“The solution meant that we were able to bring in the revenue from summer 2020 that we really needed”

Michael Madsen

Time was of the essence

Michael Madsen was also in need of a graphic identity for his new attraction. “We needed to find a name and create an entire graphic identity around Iskunsten. In addition, we also needed to spread out our visitors both over time and the square footage we had available. And we had to do all this at breakneck speed if we were to be ready in time for the summer season,” explains Michael Madsen, who participated in the digital sprint alongside a handful of employees and the design agency Flying October. 

During the sprint, they worked actively to combine physical and digital user experiences with controls in the form of lights, sounds, and screens that could guide guests through the exhibition in a single flow and thus avoid agglomerations along the way. 

“Working in another form, it would no doubt have taken us half a year to develop the solution we ended up with, but all focus was placed on making a concerted effort and that helped us to quickly deliver on the coronavirus requirements in place. When you’re working in my sector, it just doesn’t do to have attractions that won’t be ready to open until October. So time truly was of the essence,” explains Michael Madsen as he goes on to add that:

 “The solution meant that we were able to bring in the revenue from summer 2020 that we really needed.”

New skills

For Michael Madsen, this will not be the last time that he undertakes a digital sprint. 

“We will definitely use this method to develop other areas and products within our business. Initially, it was a little difficult to hand over control and trust external consultants to deliver something which is so fundamental to a business that I know so well and which I started myself. But you have to trust in the process in much the same way you have to trust in a plumber, a banker, or an IT technician who possesses specialist knowledge that you don’t. I believe that many small and medium-sized companies could benefit from hiring an agency to help with this kind of development process,” says the founder of Jutland Aquarium and Iskunsten in summarising his experience.

About Jyllandsakvariet

Founded: 1996
Number of employees: 30

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