Our final installment in the Event Design Series on the Portland Event Planner blog. Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…
Part 6: Case Studies: Of all the designs and/or event decor you’ve come up with, what has been the most successful and why? …And what was the biggest ‘bust’?
I’m not going to post any client pictures as that would probably be a shock to the client that I thought their design was “a bust“. I will tell you that my weakness is sometimes being TOO accommodating to the client’s wishes.
In this example, I had a client who told me she cared absolutely nothing for decor and just wanted to make sure that the chairs in the room didn’t squeak against the floor. She had attended an event in the same venue for a fundraiser, and was horrified at the constant squeaking and grating noise the venue’s wooden chairs made against the bare concrete floor.
Obliging as always, I agreed to rent some very basic (and in my opinion, unattractive) hotel banquet chairs with little rubber tips on the chair legs. This way, my dear client would not have to endure that squeaking sound.
However, the rest of the event decor was compelling – she worked with a wonderful florist, we printed individual menus, and her guests received an adorable favor; one per place setting. Those details, coupled with the wonderful catering and simple, chic linens she had chosen meant that her choice of chair, which I had gone along with, was glaringly out of sync with the rest of the clean, classic decor. Looking back, I wish I had just suggested we purchase soft-felt furniture sliders and offered to attach them to all 800 chair legs. It would only have taken a few hours, the venue probably would have loved it, and the overall look would have been much more appealing. (Of course, this is all in my head – not a single guest, nor the bride, said anything about the ugly chairs!)
As far as a successful design? Again it seems that it came from taking a client’s wish and running with it wholly. In this event, the only direction my client gave was that she wanted “a big red party”. Working with Portland Art Museum, Vibrant Table, Royce’s Prop Shop, and Geranium Lake, we did just that. It is still one of my favorite designs of all time.
|Photos: Robert McNary for Melissa Jill Photography|
What are your thoughts about successful design — what constitutes a blowout or a bust? Any great event design stories to tell? Please share in the comments below.
You might also like to look back at the previous parts of this series:
Part 1- It’s an Event Design Series on The Portland Event Planner Blog!
Part 2 – Event Design Trends
Part 3 – Sustainable Event Design
Part 4 – Event Budget and Design
Part 5 – Event Theme and Design
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Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…
Day 4: Budget: What tips do you have for a client that has a very small budget but wants a big impact?
|Inexpensive table centerpiece of glitter paper, shadowbox frame, and candles
Materials available at most craft stores for around $15USD. Design concept by EJP Events.
I will try not to write a novel here, although it’s very tempting. Budget is always a concern, even for so-called “big budget” events – no one wants waste or to go over. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Manage your and your guests’ expectations. Remember that your target budget needs to reflect real life. For example, whatever your target event budget is, take about half of that for food and drinks and set your style/formality level from there. So a $30/per person event has a roughly $15/per person meal (including drinks and service!), so keep it casual!
2. Focus your efforts. If there’s no budget for an item like decor or party favors, remove it from the program rather than trying to do it halfway. If you design what you do have carefully, attendees often won’t notice what you didn’t include.
2. Cut your guest list. The number one element that affects the budget is the scale. Each additional guest means an additional chair, spot a table, place setting, invitation, print suite, meal or food, drinks, and rental items. Also – carefully manage your invitations and RSVPs so you don’t purchase for guests who don’t show up. You will get fewer guests than you expect more often than not.
3. If you are doing any event functions in-house or DIY in order to save money, start early. There’s nothing more morale-killing at an organization than giving a job like registration/nametags, decor, or setup to your employees (or, in the case of a wedding/social event, to your relatives and friends) and leaving things until the last minute. Your hoped-for “big impact” will wither and die as people sense the stress of your DIY staff or volunteers.
4. Choose a venue wisely. For example, if there’s no budget for decor, avoid sites with little built-in appeal that cry out for flowers or lighting. And if a speaker is an important component of the event, look for a venue with a great sound system included in the rental (and test it!).
5. Support “lean” events with customer service. If you are having to cut back on food or decor, chances are these are less noticeable if your guests are treated well and with personal service from the time they register to the time the exit the event.
Have a tip on event budgets you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below!
Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…
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.
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!