Making of POLW using Design Thinking

October 2012, by So-Young Kang

What do you get when you combine connection, curiosity, simplicity, and independence?

We got the Port of Lost Wonder—a family experience.


Our journey started with a pirate ship and the desire to create a customer-centric experience. We went off and spoke to parents, children, and partners, to understand what they really cared about. By talking and drawing pictures with them we found that people wanted an experience that was much more than a themed water park. They wanted a place of connection, and a place to make memories. They wanted a place where fathers could spend time with their children, where mothers could rest, and a place where kids could actually exercise their independence.

This lead our diverse team of designers and Creative Collaborative partners at Ong&Ong to put our heads, hearts and hands together to create what we now see as the Port of Lost Wonder.

We we sat down with the Sentosa and project team to provide the ins and outs to making the Port of Lost Wonder.


 Q: As lead designer, how did you come up with the story of POLW?

Ken Yuktasevi, Lead Designer:

“As we interviewed parents and children, we realized a strong sense of time as a family being lost or a family with memories that had long since past. As I went for a walk at a bookstore, I was inspired by several books, one including a bestseller called The Lost Thing, to build a port by the beach where families would go and redeem the time they had lost together.”

Q: Why did you use design thinking to develop the concept for POLW?

Sam Lee, Leisure Operations Director:

“It all started with user needs. What we really did was interview our guest using the design thinking approach. We were able to [determine] what exactly didn’t meet their needs, and from there on we created a different Port of Lost Wonder for them. It was more than just a survey. We really listened to kids and parents to see what they cared about.

Q: What has your experience been working at POLW?

Dylise Ng, Lead Host POLW:

“Working here is like being a child. This is what this place is about. There is magic in that. We just want everybody to leave this place with a smile. We want everybody to think back and remember all the good memories they had here. Definitely a happy experience, I get to be a child!”


Q: What is your favorite part of POLW?

Children visiting POLW:

“My favorite part is going on the slide.”

“Running and playing with my daddy.”

“I want to come 3 times a week – no, maybe 4.”

Q: What results have you seen since the opening in April?

Sam Lee:

“The impact was something we never imagined to be. Within the span of five months, Sentosa and POLW had 54,000 children visiting. That doesn’t even include the parents, which would make it about 150,000 guests. We have doubled our revenue targets. In terms of annual membership, we hit our target of 1000 within first 3 weeks since opening. Because of that, we had  no choice to stop accepting new membership. Of course we will restart again soon this November.”

Q: What was the most challenging part of bringing this together?

Sam Lee:

“Changing mindsets and convincing people internally that this was the right approach. That’s the hardest part. It is different from how other teams will approach a project. I look at this as a challenge to get [the project team] to create an experience using a story through the use of design thinking. I would say that the team has definitely achieved that, if not, you would not see this product here.”

As designers, it’s always our dream to have our clients adopt and implement our solutions and concepts. We are so incredibly proud of the Sentosa team and the Project Team that executed the ideas into creating POLW. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the top attractions on the island. They have done a phenomenal job of taking it and actually executing into what you see today.

At the end of the day we care about designing experiences that transform and bring people together. We care about designing things that are memorable.

What do you care about in designing?

This project was done in Creative Collaboration with our partners at OXD from Ong&Ong.

Project Team: Ken Yuktasevi, Antonia Nicols, Trina Tay, Eirini Theodoru, Jan Lim, Natalie Louey, Sang Wook Park, Mark Wee, So-Young Kang