Your ROH :Opera & Ballet for everyone

Project in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, London, UK
Team: Nienting Chung, Sophia Lousia Grantl & Me  |    Lenght of the project: 5 weeks ( April - June 2017), Part-time
My contribution: Ethnographic Research | Service Safari |  Design concept & Strategy | Service video & storytelling


In collaboration with the Royal Opera House,

we were looking at how service design could help tie the separate threads of technology, people and process at the ROH together, to deliver a world-class customer experience worthy of the new building spaces in the ROH Open Up development project.


Our challenge was to orchestrate their already existing offerings and propose a new design strategy that incorporates the spirit of the Royal Opera House and address on increased visitor footfall, new audiences, engagement, and satisfaction.

Proposed development of Royal Opera House, Open Up by Stanton Williams

The Challenge

As the brief to create a design strategy for the Open Up project involves both online and offline experiences, the primary approach we were using to conduct the research was ethnographic and service safari.


We started the project by interviewing young people at the Covent Garden market - the area where the ROH is situated, of what are their views about opera and ballet. Then, try being the newcomer by ourselves. We follow the audience journey from booking the ticket on ROH’s website, joined the backstage tours, and see the performance for the first time by ourselves. We came back to create the customer journey, considering online and offline touchpoints, plotting the pain points found during the research. We, then, do the service safari again in National Theatre and Sound Unbound music festival in Barbican Center, to see what other venue are offering that could become an opportunity for the ROH. We, lastly, ideate and develop the service concept to present to the ROH design team.

The Process
Insights & Opportunities

For the first time audience, the decision to see an opera is less likely to happen unless they are an experience seeker who wants to try new things. Once decided to see one, it's hard to know which opera is for them. The synopsis on the website doesn't sound very engaging in daily life since Opera is the story from approximately 200 years ago and because their decision is mostly last minute - they wonder if there will be the last minute ticket with a good seat for them.

Insight#2: There are many untold stories hidden in the space

Without having been to the backstage tour and Velvet, Gilt and Glamour Tour, the space in which people walk pass by doesn't seem to allow audiences to learn about the rich history behind it. We found from attending these tours that there are many untold stories about many people which were important in the development of the Royal Opera House in the past. For example, the statue of Frederick Gye, the first business manager of the Royal Opera House in 1848, is the first thing that the audience will see when they walk into the entrance and many statues of famous opera actor and actress in the history, such as, Adeline Patti - the Italian-French 19th century opera singer, are situated in the hallway that people will walk pass to the theatre.

Insight#3: The performance isn't engaging enough for the second visit

Unlike contemporary theatre, opera and ballet at Royal Opera House are narrated classically. If the audience is not a classic novel fan, languages and plots in the performance might not relate to the audience. This decreases the chance for the re-visit at the Royal Opera House.


We translated all the research into systemic analyses such as the co-existence customer journey between the resident and the tourist, to understand how their path cross and affect each other. The journey visualises both parties’ emotions, tools that have been used, and how gentrification and overuse of public space have been triggered.


We, then, created a system map to see how mass tourism is invading the city on a systemic macro scale and then dive into the micro scale of people interaction and digital tools.

Visualization was the main tool we used to speculate on the future scenario the resident wish to see in the tourism of their city. In the ideation process, we created benchmarking in the big system of what our solution could fill in the gap.



We found that the different demands of services and products are transforming the city to be a place in favor of tourists more than to the local. This roots from the limited source of traveling information that direct the expectation of tourists to go to certain tourist attractions and to do some certain Barcelona's must do things. For example, visiting Sagrada Familia, walking in La Rambla, eating Paella, and drinking Sangria. These tourists demands don't go along with the local's and transform products in the markets and restaurants.

It also creates the influx of the public spaces in the tourist route and increases the housing price.



From the value network, there are the unmet demands from tourists, residents and local commerce that haven't been fulfilled due to the lack of tools to connect them.


1.) The tourist has a demand for a unique experience.


2.) The residents have a demand for quality tourism in their own neighborhood.


3.) The local commerce has a demand for better access to a new tourist group of customer.


Identifying the future scenario & Design strategy

We speculated future scenarios and asked residents what they want to see in the city’s tourism. Most of the answer is voted for scenario 3 - distributing the number of tourists to other neighborhoods.


Our next question is how to not let tourism invade the local way of life again if we distribute it ?

By starting in Poblenou neighborhood where mass tourism challenge has not yet been presented, we aimed to develop it as a model where other neighborhoods can adopt to protect the local well-being and culture from tourism in the future. We aimed to fill in the demands of stakeholders that haven’t been fulfilled yet with a platform that connects tourists to the rich of Barcelona local's culture and distribute the economic benefits of tourism to the local economy.

Creating low fedality protype and validate with tourists, local commerces
and the Barcelona Tourism Department
Rapid experiment : Live chat with the local

We created rapid prototypes in the Poblenou neighborhood to find out what tool could best connect tourists to local experiences and generate economic benefits for the local economy.


Live chat with the local is the third experiments we created. It derives from the insight that the information provided on the guidebook and internet, such as TripAdvisor and Google reviews, is limitedly generated by the tourism businesses.  


Our hypothesis is if the resident has a channel where they can generate their own neighborhood story, it will help set the new demand for local experience in tourists


We created experiments to test our hypothesis by 1.) ask tourists what they want to ask the residents. 2.) ask residents to answer those questions, and

3.) ask residents what they want tourists to know before visiting Barcelona.


We found that both the tourist and the resident enjoyed asking and answering questions. It came very naturally that we see the potential to ideate based on the idea of Live Chat experiments.






The Design


Bona City is a platform that enables connections for experiencing a richer city, from local cultural makers and residents to travelers. It is a platform for local culture makers - including local gastronomy producers, artists, shopkeepers, and artisans - to promote their work and services, enable collaboration and access to their customers to understand their expectations.


It is a tool for residents to create their own city's narrative which represents more of their local reality. It is also a guide for travelers exploring the city and its neighborhoods, by providing easy access and tips to enjoy a meaningful, authentic experience by connecting directly with the people who make the local culture.​




The biggest learning from the project is how to turn this massive city scale issue into an actionable solution in a short time and limited resource. I found that analyzing the research in the macro and micro level - from the problem landscape to the relationship between people, local government, and businesses helped massively to see the pattern and holistic view of the problem.


I also learned that in a wicked problem, there can be more than 1 leverage point. To discover the best solution, create some hypothesizes and let the people judge what works best by creating rapid prototypes and experimentation with them. The strong point of this project is we are trying to provide the tool where all stakeholders can participate in a short period of time and benefits everyone. The weak point would be we didn’t get a lot of collaboration from the local designers and developers in Barcelona. I would love to develop more skill in pivoting the service proposition faster in order to have more time to test prototype with users.

My reflections

© 2023 , Thanyawan Eamsonthi