Event Design Series, Day 3: Sustainability

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

A low-landfill sustainable event coordinated by Portland event planning company EJP Events. This 2,000-attendee company picnic was planned so that all dishware was compostable and only recyclable drink containers were used. The small trash bag at the front left shows the entirety of landfill trash generated by the event. Photo: EJP Events

Day 3: Sustainability: Special events can be wasteful. What steps can planners take to make sure they are producing a sustainable event? And how can you use alternative materials in your design work?

I think you have to look at the event’s purpose and make sure you can align it with sustainability before you proceed. If you want to be known for sustainable events, yet promote events like Black Friday, you’re getting off on the wrong foot.

That out of the way, then you should take the event apart critique each element for the following: 1. Is this element creating waste — and can this waste be diverted or recycled? 2. Is this element using resources in an ethical way? (Ethical labor, ethical apportionment of food, water, energy)

Also, looking at the event as a whole: 3. What is the environmental legacy of the event? 4. What is the moral and ethical legacy of the event?

Alternative materials are everywhere. The last ISES Art of the Party event showed some great examples. I saw everything from Home Depot yard cloth used as table covering (which could be used in gardens after the event) to upcycled books (that would have been recycled anyway) being used as design materials. Catering is part of event design. Much has been covered regarding local and sustainable food sources. Lighting is part of event design. We have wonderful, low wattage light treatments available to us now. Look at every aspect you possibly can.

Event materials that are sustainable 1) do not draw heavily on, or entirely avoid, virgin resources such as cut trees or mined metals; 2) divert waste from landfills; 3) or can be reused, thus staying out of landfills; and 4) do not promote toxic chemical buildup through their use (e.g. batteries going in the trash)

You have a responsibility as a planner and a designer to explore alternative, sustainable sources first when creating your designs.

Event Design Series: Day 2 – Trends

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 2: Trends: What are some new trends in event design and how can an event planner keep current? What new color combinations are requested by clients? What are the most popular themes for parties, galas, and corporate events? What themes are overused?

New Trends (2012-2013): The idea of un-themes is big. “Unconferences” with informal agenda-setting sessions and crowdplanning such as WordCamp are influencing the way even traditional corporate and sales events are being planned.  Rapid-fire presentation events such as Pecha-Kucha nights, Ignite, TED and TEDx talks; and storytelling events such The Moth, Backfence, and Portland Storytelling Theater have become wildly popular.

Photo by Kirby Urner via Flickr

These events’ success show that in either a corporate or social setting, attendees want to create the agenda, tell their own story, or have an upfront, personal connection to others’ stories. I’m seeing this reflected in the continued use of performance in special events, whether it’s having dancers from the bride’s culture during a wedding; or using a speaker with an incredible story to uplift and motivate a corporate event audience.

Photo: Craig Strong.

How can I stay current on trends? I think it’s more important for event planners to be creators of new designs, not necessarily followers of trends. At the same time “there is nothing new under the sun” – or is there? I love pop culture from every corner of the globe, and that keeps me on my toes. Online resources are always popping up with something fresh and inspiring all the time. Just a year ago, nobody was using Pinterest, now it’s everywhere. Tumblr seems to be under the radar for mainstream use, but is widely used by fashion brands and designers. Anyone can easily create a Tumblr blog (a mini-blogging platform) to follow and curate their own favorite content from around the web in a mini-blog format. I have several Tumblrs and my main one for event and design inspiration is here. Travel is the best for seeing firsthand what is hot in other places, and then you can bring that back to your home base and reinterpret it.

New color combinations: Fashion and retail are always pushing color in new directions, and of course there are always the color gods at Pantone. The good old-fashioned color wheel never hurt anyone. Right now I’m really loving multicolored event palettes. Take a look at online storefront Hello Holiday to see what I mean. Multicolor doesn’t have to mean garish or childish. You can have smaller swaths of multicolor paired up with a neutral like grey to keep the look balanced.

Photo by Aubrey Trinnaman for Anthology Magazine

Popular and most overused themes? The panel found straight-up “time era” themes to be the most overused. A Fifties sock-hop for example, feels dated right now, not retro in a fun way. But if you want to do an era event, change it up by focusing on something a very narrow topic from that time – maybe one celebrity – and go from there. Call me crazy, but when I think of the 50s I think of Che Guevara. Or  Marilyn Monroe. Social events are still using vintage and shabby-chic looks; bold and preppy graphics and stripes are still big.

Hope you’ve found “Day 2” of our Event Design Series helpful. For background on this series, go here. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Trying Out A New Resource for Canvas Prints, Car Magnets, and Promotional Materials { Sponsored }

canvas prints

I recently had the opportunity to sample Printcopia‘s online canvas prints service. I found the interface to be fairly straightforward and easy to use, and my print arrived within 7 days. While I’m not sure this would be the solution for personal items needing professional editing and cropping such as wedding portraits (please use your professional photographer for those!), I found the self-service canvas prints to be of excellent quality and more than adequate for my needs as an event planner. These would be great for display materials for tradeshows and decorative marketing of event photos around the office.

Printcopia also offers car magnets, custom banners, and inexpensive signs — items that all of us as event planners need to use at one time or another. I haven’t tried these items yet, but if they are the same quality as the canvas print I was able to sample, this would be a great resource to add to my list.

Disclosure: We received a complimentary 11×14 canvas print sample prior to writing this review.

Design Competition: ISES Portland’s Art of the Party

Photo by Paul Rich. L to R: Emee Pumarega, EJP Events; Cindy Thompson, Cindy Thompson Event Productions; Gene Dent, SCi3.2

Last week I had the pleasure of serving as a judge and participating on a panel discussion for the International Special Events Society – Portland Chapter‘s annual tabletop design competition, called “The Art of the Party”. Inspired by the likes of DIFFA‘s Dining By Design events, the event brings together florists, designers, and planners from all over the area to compete for three awards: Best Use of Theme, Best Use of Alternative Materials, and People’s Choice. Many thanks to the ISES Portland board for including me, and to Food in Bloom / Montgomery Park for hosting the event.

As a judge, alongside event planner Cindy Thompson of Cindy Thompson Event Productions and Gene Dent, of SCi3.2 (the company responsible for most of the floats in the Portland Grand Floral Parade during the Rose Festival), we were tasked with evaluating each of the ten entries according to the criteria given. In addition, we had to sit in the hot seat and answer questions about our own approaches to special event design. It was a great event and I learned so much from my co-panelists as well as the attendees who asked the hard questions!

I will be blogging more thoughts about event design over the coming weeks, as there were many questions we prepared for that we didn’t get to, due to time constraints.

Highlights of the panel: Unconferences and Un-Themes, Che Guevara as a touchstone for a “Fifties” event, what “modern” means when it comes to event themes, which themes are overused. If you missed the event, you missed some great discussions and you should participate next year!

More about ISES Portland and its upcoming educational events here at their website.

The winners:
Best Use of Theme: (a tie) Bird Dog Creative & Peter Corvallis Productions

Bird Dog Creative‘s “glamping”-themed table.
Peter Corvallis Productions‘s “superhero” themed table.

 

Best Use of Alternative Materials: “Time Machine” by East West Floral Arts/Barclay Event Rentals; was also the People’s Choice Award: East West Floral Arts/Barclay Event Rentals.

 

“Time Machine” steampunk-inspired table by East West Floral Arts and Barclay Event Rentals.

Full photo documentation of the event and all competition entries by Paul Rich available at his blog.