When it comes to keeping up with creative content and design at events getting to the good stuff can be like opening a Pandora’s Box.
No matter what area of expertise or circle they run in, I am constantly seeing people in this industry stepping out of that box and just constantly pushing the envelope.
So with that, I thought it was important to share this space and ask others in the industry about what they value with regards to the topic of creativity in events. Yes, some of these people I have worked with, yet some I haven’t even met! But collectively, their work speaks for itself and valuing others’ opinions will only help us all grow on the creative front.
Let’s start at the beginning – the event invitation process. Even though there is solid movement towards digital communication, Ange O’Dea from Watermarx Graphics confirms that clients are still pushing design boundaries with specialty print mediums to set the scene. Getting traction and interest is imperative and people are now making the printed invite in some sense even more worthwhile. For example, incorporating letterpress, foil and or embossing elements are all adding a tactile element from the beginning of the event process. This effort alone makes the guest feel special, and efforts like this are crucial.
When it comes to event catering, Emma MacMahon and head chef David O-Brien (Ivy Merivale Group) quickly noted a real trend towards even more interactive displays of actually preparing and cooking the food within the event itself. Inevitably, it creates an even more enticing spectacle and impression than the stock ‘set and forget’ display style food stations of the past.
One representation of this is a live BBQ installation, where large slabs of meat are cooked over coals right in front of guests. It’s a great talking point and allows people to talk to the chefs directly. They can learn where the meat is from, what cut of meat it is, and talk about the cooking process. For those non-BBQ lovers, fear not, the live dessert station lives on, but again it’s about exposing the ‘preparation’ component. For example, they can feature a variety of different desserts all prepared in the room such as churning ice cream and producing soufflés on the spot. The behind the scenes are now front and centre.
Brendan Lloyd from catering company The Food Society adds that people are putting a bullet in ‘fine dining’; it’s done (for now). There’s a shift towards more “approachable and familiar food that is heartfelt, shared and almost a new spin on seeking out ‘soul’ food”. Lloyd suggests they are seeing an even greater interest in different cultures and classic street food that has them seeking out those special recipes passed down through generations. He emphasizes that it is not about being fancy anymore but quirky and this movement is pretty damn tasty!
Another point he mentioned that I really liked was that even the wait-staff are now not just seen as service providers but they are becoming the personality of the food and beverage, story tellers and essentially in a small part actually playing the role of hosts that are making the events more unique by engaging more with guests.
On the technical production side of the event I talked to Brendan Sadgrove – co-director at Innovative Production Services. He makes note that BIG projections are now certainly prominent in creating a BIG impact! Projection technology has come a long way in recent years enabling huge high resolution images to be projected onto any shape or surface. Forget a boring old screen. Instead project onto a 3D set, building, or just about any object. But remember, the effect is only as good as the content that is projected, so find yourself a good video content creator. He added that there’s a shift to utilize new technology for presenters in delivering presentations by interacting directly with the screen. Rather than use a remote clicker, the screen surface can be converted into a huge touch screen enabling the presenter to interact with the giant presentation. It is a simple way to engage the audience on a greater level and cost wise is not as scary as some would think.
Delon Price – director at D-5 (Design and Production Agency) states: “The most interesting current development in event design is the integration of new technologies into the guest experience, particularly apps and augmented reality.
Traditionally designers have had to rely on AV design to get the message of an event across to guests. Particularly relevant in the corporate events space, custom app technology offers the opportunity to extend the reach of an event out of the event space, stretching from the invitation stage through to post event follow up. This presents excellent value for a client’s budget, is engaging for guests and is also a great way to collect statistics and feedback. As a designer this is exciting, and it expands our playing field significantly. Augmented reality also offers fascinating opportunities to expand the guest experience by integrating electronic and spatial content in real time”.
What about styling of an event? I asked Jane Frosh from Cool Edie’s and she summed it up brilliantly in saying, “Events and interactive experiences on a whole need to be smarter and more current. We are in a market where people have seen everything, experienced everything or know of someone who has… The age of social media”.
Frosh believes it’s time to shake things up a little. Clever use of space, material and design is more important than ever before. For example, “hang beautiful florals off massive branches in the ceiling of your space. Use greenery, moss and bright clashing colours if needs be. Or not. Let floral be organic. Spray paint vases. Dip dye tablecloths. Substitute stage drapes for beautiful drops of textural charcoal linen. Hang wallpaper. Use bespoke designers and craftsmen. Consider materials such as cardboard, plywood, and steel mesh as the starting point of a design”. She suggests creating different and unique events that are “more tangible. More honest. Create an anti-event. It’s the way forward”.
Lynleigh McPherson from Decorative Events adds there is the emerging move to design more intimate and personal spaces for smaller and targeted groups of attendees. In today’s fast paced society, companies are responding to the more general desire for people to come together in environments where there are fewer guests, where conversation and networking can be easier, less rushed and also more targeted.
McPherson adds that they are seeing a trend toward hiring a unique venue for a number of days and holding a rolling series of events for people to connect in a more personalised manner. From a styling perspective, the space needs to be designed to allow for an experience that is truly layered to the event brief, comfortable for both guest experience and service pathways, and that really hits its mark.
Romeo Sanuri, GM at Next Printing, throws weight in to support my own love of cardboard and print elements within events when it comes to installations of scale. He makes reference to re-board which is an incredibly versatile cardboard product that is changing design. Giant solid structures can be made of it, flat-packed and re-used time and time again. He believes this is definitely an exciting playground for event designers moving forward.
Another area which has grown significantly is ‘fabric’ use in conjunction with Frame (EXTN Frame). To date most framed print applications you see are rectangular. They now have the capability to make circular frames, cylindrical frames that use fabric as the facer of the structure. The possibilities are pretty much limited to your imagination.
Moving to the topic of live entertainment, Chad Davis – director at entertainment agency Music Land is seeing a movement with real time interaction by the guests within the event via their mobile devices and other simple but elegant technology; IE: truly redefining engagement and taking a risk on an outside the square theme but doing it brilliantly and convincingly.
He backs this excitedly by talking of creating and using closed network software in an event that allows guests to literally become a part of the entertainment. An example of this is done by creating a #hashtag for that event alone and people present being able to feed live content, images, video from around the room to a VJ (visual jockey) who then creates visual montages, compilations and throws it back out to guests on big screens. It allows literally everyone present a chance to communicate and for the entertainers themselves to react and connect with guests even further. This is essentially a two way street, and far more exciting than a classic three course meal followed by the good ole’ party band. Chad added that people are used to eccentric and esoteric experiences when they go out to bars and clubs, and that expectation is latent when they go to a special event now. #likeit!
There are so many more areas I wish to cover but hopefully you can agree that things are certainly moving on the creative front within the industry. Creative change is only a good thing and collectively it will always come from those around you. Sometimes it’s nice to stop, take a back seat, ask a question and more importantly learn from others in the same game. So with that in mind I must throw out a virtual high five to those who contributed when asked and also to those who read this and go out and do something creative with it. m