When you think of design within events, it’s normal to assume it just covers what the delegate or attendee will see. In reality however, design stretches far beyond what you may initially think.

So, what exactly does design cover?

Of course, big factors of design are the visual elements; the beautifully decorated walls, logos, photography and overall ambience that all come together to paint a carefully orchestrated picture of what your brand is trying to portray. Design also impacts other touchpoints, such as advertising and the event app but it heavily influences the unseen parts too. Think behind the scenes, the zoning of areas, the flow of the delegates and the location of activations. Everything that’s experienced from start to finish at an event has been meticulously designed with a purpose in mind; to deliver a fantastic experience.

Chances are, the next time you are at an event and you walk through a security gate, see a bin in a certain place or follow a predetermined route, as simple as that may sound, someone has spent a long time designing it that way to create the best delegate experience.

Breaking down creative and design

When working on events, there are two words that are often used within the studio; creative and design.

When we talk about creative, this is not just the decoration but the underlying spark of inspiration, which can develop into a narrative or story and unfold in a visual theme throughout the event – a cohesive thread, visually embodied in the design.
The design however is the visual look and feel; the logo, branding, photography and textures used to visually identify the venue or collateral. It’s everything that the end user experiences consciously or subconsciously from the first instant they hear or see information about the event, to the lasting memories they are left with. The more cohesively design and creative work together, the stronger the impact.

For example, an event showcasing the future of the environment might feature creative centred around flowing nature and an organic theme. In turn the design would reflect this with large curved walls, an earthy colour palette and carpet cuttings made from sustainable sources and materials.

Identity Design

Designing for the senses

The main reason a delegate will attend a live event is for the experience. Having a delegate there in person allows us to cater for each of their senses and deliver an experience which genuinely amazes and adds value. When creating an environment, a lot of thought goes into areas that are often taken for granted. Lighting, carpets, wall textures and acoustics all help to create an experience that is not only memorable but will want people to talk about it. This applies to the digital world too, whether it’s how a button on an app behaves or the tone of voice in the communications, it all needs to excite the senses to take it to another level.

Designing a space

As we’ve mentioned before, a fundamental part of an events design is how the end user experiences the space. Quite often, with such a large amount of people in one area, a lot of thought needs to be put into how they will flow around a venue and experience all that’s on offer. This becomes increasingly more important when you consider VIP guests and even more so in the age of COVID-19.

As with a lot of good design, it shouldn’t necessarily be immediately obvious but it should feel right. An example might be a catering area, just before lunch. Let’s say 250 delegates have broken up into separate talks in five separate locations. As they all come piling out of their respective rooms, it’s important to visualise how these people will enter the catering area, how they will queue, how many will need to sit at tables and with what style tables. Then we will need to take into account if there should be multiple access points, how will they know how navigate the area and on a grander scale, facilities like toilets and smoking areas should be nearby. This area then needs to work in harmony with other areas, even areas that delegates are not going to see but those that play an important role in the functioning of the event. The venue becomes an organic behemoth with all parts working in harmony to deliver an overwhelmingly positive experience.

How to take control of the creature!

In short, good design stems from a good brief. The clearer the brief, the more effectively the design can evolve and cater for all the elements required though this is easier said than done and does not have to be in silo. Working closely with clients lets us share our knowledge and experience, factoring in requirements that may not have initially been thought of. It’s our role as creative and event experts to understand that as good as a brief may be, it cannot tell the future so we need to react accordingly. So much can change during the issuing of a brief and the event go live date, it’s important to be responsive and agile to any changes that may occur.

Design does not stop when the doors open, it continues to work as the event is live and beyond.

But what about the future?

At present we are living in a unique period within the events industry, brought about by COVID-19. With large and in-person gatherings extremely restricted, it’s digital that is facilitating the delivery of live events for the interim, which will undoubtedly impact the longer-term vision for events overall.

Humans by nature like to share experiences and to excite our senses – so it’s how we now develop that moving forward. Using techniques such as clever delegate flow, environments that allow safe social distancing, sustainable building materials and a mixture of live and digital engagement, it’s our challenge to use design to make live events both possible and safe.