7 steps to great design

Mikkele Sonne

7 steps to create compelling experiences, environments and attractions


1. CLIENT BRIEF: Is it a roller coaster or a snack bar?
Desired capacity, budget and timeframe are observed and analyzed and a site visit is conducted. For larger investments it is advised to conduct a feasibility study which will reveal if the concept is in line with market needs. The feasibility study will also give an indication of the desired capacity and the financial aspects.
On larger projects a project manager is designated, whose role it is to liaison between the client, the creative team and outside suppliers.

Example of deliverables: Initial quotation and budget
Other informations such as suggestions for outside suppliers

2. BLUE SKY: Wouldn't it be fun if...
The team of creative talents get together for a brainstorm where ideas are tossed in the air. Industry trends and consumer behavior are carefully studied to advice clients of the best and most profitable solution.
On basis of these ideas a storyline, dealing with the overall story of the attraction, is written . Story boards which roughly describes the experience from start to finish are drawn. Mood boards, which visually communicates the overall 'look and feel' of the attraction using existing reference pictures, are designed.

Example of deliverables: Written document outlining storyline
Story board outlining experience
Mood boards presenting the visual style, theme, look and feel

3. CONCEPT DESIGN DEVELOPMENT: What is it going to look like?
Based on the approved storyline, story board and mood boards, the first drawings are made. Depending on the nature of the attraction elements such as floor plans, characters, ride and show, facade, etc are designed, incorporating the desired capacity and with the agreed budget in mind. The market is searched for suitable suppliers.

Example of deliverables: Renderings: Bird eye views, characters, attraction layout, etc

4. SCHEMATIC DESIGN: Designing the things you don't see
Schematic design is the back bone of the attraction such as buildings, power supply, structures, back of house facilities, etc.

Example of deliverables: Auto CAD drawings
SketchUp models

5. DETAIL DESIGN: How big is it really and what color is it?
When the concept design is approved by the client the detail design phase begins. Detail design describes describes the measurements, colors and materials of every themed show element.

Example of deliverables: Detailed colored elevation views with specifications of colours, materials and measurements
Detailed lay out of floor and ceiling
Marquette (model of the attraction)

6. CONSTRUCTION DESIGN: How is it going to be build?
The schematic design and the detail design is put together in AutoCAD or SketchUp, explaining in detail how it should be constructed, materials, measurements, etc. These documents are used to build the attraction and outlined in accordance with industry standard and local codes.

Example of deliverables: Auto CAD or Sketch Up models along with detail design documents
Production manual

7. PRODUCTION, BUILD AND INSTALLATION: Putting everything together for opening day
Production of all themed elements is supervised and on field art direction is carried out to make sure the important details are according to design intention. Ride elements, show controls and special effects are coordinated and installed on site. On-site staff are instructed in maintenance, safety and other issues. Invitations are send out for opening day.

Example of deliverables: The keys to your attraction!


Mikkel Sonne is owner of Hello!, an experience design studio based in Amsterdam, with more than 12 years in the themed attractions industry. Mikkel has been Head of Design and Development at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and now works for theme parks and attractions all over Europe, designing and advising on new attractions and developments. His clients includes Liseberg, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Faarup Sommerland, Compagnie des Alpes, Zierer and ACT Lighting Design.