Reopening Harlaxton

Consulting project for Harlaxton Manor

June 2021
Team of five

Set in Lincolnshire, Harlaxton Manor is a dramatic & unforgettable country house that operates as both a study abroad campus & an events venue

As part of my UX master's course, our team of five worked as design consultants for Harlaxton in order to assess, explore and improve their post-covid experience launch plans for the events side of their business.

Current business model

The Manor is owned by the University of Evansville, US for which it operates as a study abroad campus for specialist courses during summer and autumn semesters.

When not in use by the students Harlaxton operates open house & garden events in addition to private hire for weddings in order to diversify revenue streams.

Due to covid, Harlaxton Manor had not operated any events for over 18 months and were looking to use the reopening as a way to improve the customer journey across both digital and physical touchpoints.

Extra details

In terms of specific brief, Harlaxton's team are muddled. They don't know what they want in terms of experience and looked to us to help them find it

‍Specifically the team at Harlaxton identified five key areas that they wanted us to explore and improve:

  • Customer journey for booking onto Manor events online.
  • Signage, wayfaring and access for visitors.
  • Gathering interaction and feedback from visitors for marketing data and review.
  • Creation of marketing materials that support the events and interactivity with the gardens and house in line with its new Manor brand. 
  • Review of storytelling and visitor experience in tours and gardens.

However when discussing with the client in initial talks it was clear they were directionless on how these areas should be improved.

Understanding the goal

Extra details

Team research was initiated through a variety of activities including primary interviews, literature reviews and competitior analysis.

My role in initial research focused around discovering and summarizing Harlaxtons full history, mapping their existing offerings/ experiences as well as planning out the future steps of our teamwork.

Our initial research was all aimed at exposing the key questions we had in order to allowed for a focused ethnographic visit. This was partially done through concluding initial insights for in-person validation with the Manor and Harlaxton team.

Delivering for Harlaxton meant being able to gain intimate knowledge of the current experience shortfalls while remaining unattached enough to decision key changes

One of the most important pieces to validate was how could we use the physical spaces & items in Harlaxton to enable storytelling in a historically personalised way while being non-permanant? As due to the Manor's multiple primary functions every solution would have to be dynamic to the current state of the space.

While we toured and mapped the Manor extensively we also conducted an interactive design session with the Harlaxton team

Here was where we validated our existing assumptions of the project as well as using design thinking ideation techniques with the team to initiate potential concepts of our vision.

This allowed us to finalised our guiding design sprint goal question.

Design sprinting

Unlike a typical design sprint, we engineered our design sprint to expand and focus on the design and development of our experience vision. A presentation and feedback session with the Harlaxton team was arranged for the end of the week, acting as our feedback stage.

No one besides myself had ever participated in or facilitated a design sprint before. It was therefore decided that in order to help each other academically grow one of our team members, Benhur would facilitate the sprint while I would assist him behind the scenes, essentially facilitate facilitating.

Prior to the sprint we had iterated on the findings from our ethnography and design session with the Harlaxton team to synthesize two personas that captured the wide customer audience Harlaxton's open days needed to cater towards.

Existing Customer

Prospective Customer

Sprint Goal / How can harlaxton provide an engaging open day customer journey for a diverse range of audiences?

From these established persona's we started the design sprint by mapping each of their current journeys and feelings at Harlaxton.

We chose to focus on the visiting and time spent in the manor experiences as these were the critical drivers of the user's journey.

From these identified journeys and focus we generated many potential How Might We questions to help us disect the core issues that needed addressing.

Through team voting key question themes began to emerge, these helped us establish an opportunity statement.

There is an opportunity for an engaging customer journey that leverages Harlaxton Manor’s unique spaces and appeals to a diverse audience without causing friction to the core experience

The combination of the opportunity statement as a guiding light and the critical How Might We questions as inspiration allowed us to ideate potential new experiences and interactions.

Every team member would present each of their ideas which would be followed by rounds of team discussion, feedback and iteration.

By the end of the sprint we had agreed and drafted a new harlaxton exprience that took elements from many different output areas produced over the week. This initial vision was then pitched to the Harlaxton team from which it was refined and worked up into an actionable presentation.

Our Vision for Harlaxton

The reimagined Harlaxton experience provides an innovative journey, connecting visitors with the stories of Harlaxton via new interactions and events, encapsulated and facilitated by the Harlaxton Passport

This framework encompasses the main categories that make up a Harlaxton open day experience, as well as connecting the experience of these days into more special, focused event days.

Lets look at the user story that this framework facilitates from the perspective of one of our personas, Lee

Lee initially visits the harlaxton website where she books a ticket to one of the upcoming open days.

Once visiting Harlaxton Lee shows staff her booking barcode and is introduced to her ticket and her Harlaxton Passport.

The Harlaxton Passport

The Harlaxton passport serves as the touchpoint for the new experience framework. Each passport has a unique number that is linked to a visitor's booking details. This reduces friction when re-booking for future Harlaxton events as well as loyalty recognition & discounts.

The passport acts as a core information and wayfinding tool that visitors can easily carry throughout their day.

Through use of open stamping pages, which allow for flexibility, the passport enables visitors to receive bookings for mini-events, collect beautifully designed stamps for participation, and save event specific keepsakes such as photos. These allow the passport to evolve into a unique, tactile memento of a users visit.

Delivery of information levels

The core Harlaxton exploration experience of the manor and gardens is faciliated through multiple levels of information, this allows visitor's to tailor their speed and focus.

During Lee's exploration she can choose to take part in integrated extra activities & book onto Mini-Events

These experiences and bookings are recorded in Lee's Harlaxton Passport. Here we can see she takes part in an integrated activity (a photo challenge) as well as booking onto a Mini-Event (Yoga on the green).

These two levels, Mini events and Extra Activities represent what elevates a Harlaxton open day from other competitors. Visitors can use and interact with the space on top of exploring the expected historical story experiences.

Potential Extra Activities

Time independent activities which visitors can choose to do while exploring the manor and gardens. Below are certain examples we detailed to the Harlaxton team.

Photo Challenges

Riddle Trail

Garden Games

Poetry Walks

Meditation Spots

Reading Room

Potential Mini-Events

Time dependent and staff initiated events. Mini-Events aim to give visitors a taste of what Harlaxton can offer in a condensed period to encourage booking full event days.

Creative Workshops

Specialised Tours

Afternoon Tea


Wedding Guides

Fireworks Displays

After her day of events and exploration Lee fills out one of the perforated feedback forms found at the back of her passport. Providing feedback gives Lee an extra discount at the onsite boutique shop.

Before she leaves a professional photographer takes her photo and prints it for her to complete her passport.

Lee's Harlaxton passport is now a tactile memento that connects to the unique stories of Harlaxton.

Harlaxton Passport Advantages


Personalised Communication

Visitor Passport Advantages



The new Harlaxton experience framework and passport both help upsell visitors like Lee to booking onto a special full event day at Harlaxton as well as enabling repeated visits to Harlaxton open days.

Repeat Visit Opportunities

Changing Mini-Events

Themed special event days

Special event days are selected from the most popular mini events. They are separate full days which can cater for one key target group.

Further details to user test

Format of Passport & Information required

Type of Events that work well for different seasons

Why is this vision valuable to Harlaxton?

Balances investment and growth with staggered rollout
Encourages further engagement and repeat visit opportunities
The passport invokes the uniquely international, cultural experience offered by Harlaxton
Allows easy testing, learning and adapting thanks to flexible delivery methods

The other team of five worked with Harlaxton on innovating the student experience.

This involved the design of a merchandise boutique shop which is integrated as a stamp & loyalty location for the Harlaxton passport.