Breaking Through the Designer’s Block: A Designer’s View of Event Planning (part 3 of 3)

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Breaking Through the Designer’s Block: A Designer’s View of Event Planning (part 3 of 3)

By Ken Swyt, Creative Director, Wilsonwest

What is it that gives a corporate event its unique feeling? Certainly, the agenda, the speakers, and the other guests have a huge effect on the overall impression we’ll take away. But you’d be surprised at what a difference the smallest design elements can make.

That’s why we creative directors at event management firms tend to sweat the details. Those details can be the difference between a one-size-fits-all gathering and a truly thoughtful event that sends a message and reinforces a theme.

When we planned the Leerink Healthcare Leadership Summit at Quintessa Estate in Rutherford, California, our challenge was to CM1_5069-2819943677-Ofind design elements that would speak to both the theme of healthcare innovation and the setting in the beautiful Napa Valley.

We settled on the bee as an image to carry through the design. As I’ve said before, the key is not to splash a central image everywhere, but rather, to weave it in gracefully. If every guest notices it and comments on it, then it’s probably overdone. But if it’s something the eye notices without the brain really stopping to think about it, then that’s about right.

Here’s a menu with the bee…


 And a special “bee cup” that displayed local flowers…


Now, here’s where the real sense of fun comes into event design. I always like to look for those unique little elements that support the overall event marketing strategy and fit the look, but also have the potential to spark an unusual experience for the guests. In fact, I typically create three different design suggestions for each event and then give clients the chance to mix and match the elements they like best.

For the Quintessa event, I located some antique French hair clips that had bees on them and we included them in the table These were simple metal clips connected with thin leather straps.

Because the guest list included many bankers, I wasn’t expecting anything really outlandish to happen. My mental image was of middle-aged men in gray suits, possibly loosening their ties a bit, late in the evening, if things got really rowdy.

Boy was I wrong! Much to my surprise, many of the bankers not only noticed the bee clips, but also began wearing them as bolo ties or fastening them to the front of their pants as makeshift belt buckles. These unusual pieces triggered a sense of fun and spontaneity for a traditionally serious-minded crowd.

It just goes to show you: when it comes to event planning, good things can happen when you focus on supporting your theme with subtle visual cues….and great things can happen when you throw in an occasional element that challenges your guests to step out of themselves and be truly inspired by the event in which they’re immersed.

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