Design Sets the Mood for an Event
While books are the primary focus of my work at illustrada design, I've often discussed “books” in the more generalized sense of “information systems.” A designer’s view of a book—the navigation system, hierarchy, stylistic rules, genre-appropriate mood, etc.—may be more general than what most readers think of. And while many books are designed to entertain, almost all are designed to inform—to convey some information, some idea, and some mood or emotion.
At first blush, an event directory may not seem like the sort of publication where one talks about mood and emotion. But in fact this directory has a character and a story in much the same way a novel does. And I believe its design should be made with as much care and consideration. The directory, and related event collateral, provides the subtext for how attendees, exhibitors, and the hosting organization, all relate to one another.
Extending the branding across the event
As a designer, I am often called on to balance the marketing needs of an organization with the informational needs of the users. The underlying rule for both is consistency. For the MNIFT, this meant developing a visual system which allowed all the elements to go together “intuitively,” incorporating their brand standards (font and visual style).
In this case, that meant the creation of a branded sponsor’s recognition poster, post-event drink tickets, refreshment table sponsor table tents, and the pre-printed name badges.
Developing the Directory Concept
Over the past several years I’ve helped the Institute of Food Technologists (both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sections) with the occasional event poster or other signage. But this was the first time they entrusted me to design all of the printed materials for their annual Suppliers Expo, the most important event of the programming year for the Minnesota Section.
The starting point for this project is a descriptive directory for event attendees, with vendor information and location, event map, and other MNIFT information. And the starting point for the directory, as with any book, booklet, or printed piece, is determining the page size. Well planned projects always take production into consideration from the beginning.
Larger page size means fewer pages, but higher cost per page. Smaller page size, lower cost per page but at a higher page count. Fine tuning this requires a preliminary layout to estimate the page count in each case, and then consultation with the printer who, based on their print page size, might be able to squeeze more in one way or another. As it turns out, using a parent sheet size of 13x19, the 6x9 booklet ended up at the best price—and a very comfortable size to hold while walking the event. However, as the expo committee had already announced ad sizes, we decided to stick with their traditional 8-1/2x11, at least for this year.
With the size determined, I created six concept covers, with two variations. These are based on the brand standard colors (green and yellow), the standard font (Linotype’s Compatil Fact). In the past, they have used a fairly traditional photographic cover, but I knew I wanted to push beyond the corporate report look to something a bit more designed. I also was advocating for an icon identifying system for the interior, and so I was pleased when they selected the icon-based cover design—although, as always with clients, I would have been happy with their choice of any of the design concepts I offered.
With the cover design selected, an indeed nearly finalized based on the concept, I was able to create the additional related elements shown earlier.
This system will also serve as the foundation for subsequent years, proving a solid platform to build from. The icons are just such an element, which could easily be expanded and integrated into their branding for future events.
Interior design: information & advertisements
In addition to the exhibitor information, for this year’s directory I wanted to better incorporate the logos and advertisements of the various event sponsors. Unlike year’s past where logos and ads were clumped in a separate section, direct logo placement in the body of the directory itself highlights the contributions of corporate sponsors.
Extending this idea of sponsor recognition, I also included sponsor logos in the directory map (using Illustrator to rework the provided pdf). Yellow highlights the ingredient brokers both in the map and in their own section of the directory, further aiding event attendees in quickly finding relevant information.
Behind the scenes workflow
Typically I receive content in the form of a manuscript, or edited but basically unformatted text. In the case of the directory and the name badges, this is easiest to collect into a spreadsheeet. Using a combination of scripts and import functions, this raw CSV spreadsheet can be read directly into a purpose-built template in InDesign, with paragraph and character styles automatically applied. Pretty slick!
I knew that timing would be critical—we needed to pre-approve as many design decisions as possible, and squeeze the directory production and printing as tight as possible, to allow exhibitors and advertising sponsors as much time for registration and preparation.
So, months before the event, in addition to developing the look and feel for the event printed matter, I was developing procedures and automation for importing the spreadsheet of vendor information (for the directory) and exhibitor and attendee information for the name badges.