2023 | Eesti LoodusmuuseumService DesignStrategicExperience DesignService DesignUser Research

Eesti Loodusmuuseum – Shifting the role of the museum with service design

An engaging and welcoming museum, co-created and driven by people and experiences

Eesti Loodusmuuseum

The Estonian Museum of Natural History (in Estonian: Eesti Loodusmuuseum or in short, ELM) is looking forward to an exciting future. In the coming years, the museum will open its new doors in the Noblessner district, in Tallinn, not only changing location but expanding to a much larger building that brings all kinds of new possibilities: services, interactions, spaces, experiences that take the essence and purpose of the current museum and take it to the next level.

Velvet worked together with a core team of the museum – passionate and open-minded humans, from management to curators. 

Our common goal was to design a concept for the services and the experience of the future ELM with a human-centered approach.

We focused on determining who the visitors are and what services we could offer to deliver a valuable experience in every visit and interaction, all in line with a shift in the museum’s role in society and a more welcoming approach for visitors, considering accessibility at its core.

The work

Our starting point was to get our feet in the field of museums and learn from current and potential users. Why are people visiting ELM or why are they not? What are they expecting from a museum in the future?” These were some of the questions that we got answered with an online survey that we launched in 3 languages, several interviews, focus groups and spontaneous chats.

Our team dived deep into what’s happening in the museum ecosystem and what trends will impact the museum in the future. We visited museums ourselves and also explored other community spots. Oh, we learned a lot!

We took our learnings and moved on to create tools for making our users memorable, describing their behaviours, needs, interests, concerns and goals. We defined what value the museum offers for each and for all.

In the design process several co-design workshops were held, where we created ideas for the future of ELM together with a wide range of people. We took those ideas and put them all together to describe and visualise what users would encounter or experience in the future. We validated our ideas and got feedback from people to refine and improve our work.

“The first co-creative workshops for creating the new exhibition have been truly eye-opening. We’ve applied the principles learned in cooperation with Velvet and the personas we’ve created together during the project. Thanks to the co-creation meetings we have started to understand how much we previously assumed we knew about our visitors and how little we actually know.”

Eesti Loodusmuuseum

The outcome

This project lays the foundation for the future experiences of visitors in the museum, by defining the main service categories, interactions and other elements shaping their visits. The main objective of the concept for the ELM experience is to shift the role of the museum in society, by offering transformative experiences in different levels. These are some of our guiding principles:

  • Educational, but fun and engaging: ELM offers scientific knowledge, but is not too traditional in its purpose to inspire people to become more aware of nature, change mindsets, spark new conversations and behaviours.
  • More than one visit: The concept supports people throughout their visitor journeys, from planning the visit; arriving to the museum; experiencing the physical spaces, from exhibitions to social areas; interacting with the personnel and continuing on their next visit and after.
  • Welcoming, inviting and accessible for all: We create connection points with each visitor and aim to build a relationship between the museum and the public audience. The concept is focused on making the experiences accessible for all, going beyond specific needs or capabilities to welcome and provide value for all kinds of visitors. ELM invites visitors to just ‘be’, inspiring people to enjoy the experience and be in the moment, just like in the nature.

Now it’s all about building the future

We can say that ELM is not only looking ahead, but working thoroughly towards building its future bit by bit. They have embedded an approach centered around people in their development plans, focused on visitors, their own current and future team, collaborators and partners; pushing forward its role and meaning as a museum. Taking inspiration and courage from our time together, the museum is now conducting workshops to co-create an upcoming exhibition, shaping the story and the content based on the input given by people that represent our user personas.

“The biggest value of the cooperation is that we learned the principles of service design and are already applying them in our activities . We think about to whom we offer the services and what would they like to receive. On the other hand we ourselves can also be demanding in creating the services.”

Eesti Loodusmuuseum

We are thrilled about the museum’s future, enthusiastic and excited to see the work become a reality and more importantly we are proud of how our collaboration broadened the horizons for our client, or again, in their words: “Now we are challenging everything – why has it always been like this?”

Now that you’ve read all the way down here, chop chop, go visit and explore the museum! Why wait?


  • Carolina Maia Groisman Design lead
  • Hanna-Stella Haaristo Design researcher
  • Elin-Harriet Helemäe Wayfinding designer
  • Kerttu Lumi Accessibility lead
  • Klarika Mäeots Uustal Service design
  • Kristiina Veerde-Toompalu Producer


  • Eesti Loodusmuuseum (Egle Hecht, Heidi Jõks, Lennart Lennuk, Evelin Pääsukene, Annemarie Rammo, Anu Vainu, Ulla Villem) Client team