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The Data in Design

As originally featured on the Design Dawgs and The Simplifiers Blogs

Event designers are arguably some of the most creative people on the planet, hands down.  The ability to create something majestic and beautiful, or quaint and subdued from just the embers of an idea is nothing short of amazing, and a skill that is to be celebrated.  I’m by no means an event designer, and each time I see one come together, I am in awe of the way that it does.  One of the things that’s always struck me about the power of event design is where the ideas come from.  What and who shapes what ends up in a ballroom, on a stage, or in a space is as intriguing to me as the actual end product itself.  Being a self professed Event Nerd, I started to wonder what would happen if a little bit of technology were involved in that creative process, and one word kept popping into my head- data.  I know- not a sexy or exciting word, but I really think that using data effectively can make event design that much more powerful.  Let me explain.

Data is defined asindividual facts, statistics, or items of information.”  Now, I know that might be the most boring series of words to have ever graced these design dawg-y pages, but stay with me.  Usually when you think about data, you think of spreadsheets and calculations, tables and pocket protectors, or glasses and comparisons; but what if we thought about it differently?  What if we found a way to make data help us design?  To be clear, we use data every day.  We ask our clients for their desired color palette, get to know them via their websites to understand their tastes and desires, and dig into their past events to understand what has worked and what has flopped for them in the past.  All of this is data.  It’s what we do with it that makes the greatest impact.  Data is something that we can use as event professionals before an event to shape the event, but it’s also something we can use during the event to make the experience unique and intimate for everyone who walks through the doors.  Here are a few tools using data in new and sexy ways and some tips for how you can use data to make your next event shine.

1.    Pinterest- I was recently honored to be a sponsor for ISES’ brand new conference, ISES Live.  While there, I sat in on a session hosted by lead Dawg himself, Dave Merrell, where he talked about some of the ways he designs his events.  One of the tools he mentioned using was Pinterest..  Each time he works with a client, he has them create an account and pin everything they can possibly think of to a board that they share with him and his team.  Using this information, he and his designers are able to get in the mind of the client and deliver them a design that seems as if it came right from their own creativity- mainly because it did.  As much as I love that idea, let’s take it a step further.  If we, in addition to using the boards our clients share with us, do a little more research and see what other boards they, speakers, and guests (if you can find out who they are) are liking and looking at, you can add a little bit of that flair into your design. Often, clients aren’t going to know everything to put on a board or think that something that they see or like is going to help shape an experience.  They may see a flower or a video clip that they like, but can’t quite explain why.  Figure out a way to incorporate those elements into your design and seem like the rock star you truly are.

2.    Facebook- Using Facebook is fairly commonplace for most of us these days.  What most of us don’t realize is the virtual treasure trove of information available just beyond someone’s profile picture.  Think about it for a second- how much have you shared with the world?  Your name, place of birth, where you live, gender, and age (or the age you want people to think you are) are just a few of the gems inside your profile.  Imagine if, as event professionals, we were able to get access to that info- what could we do with it?  Thankfully, there are companies like SocialPoint who are making it easier to get that access.  Before or even during your event, they can work with you to create incentives for guests to login and share information by giving them everything from exclusive content, to VIP passes, to unique experiences reserved for only your friends and followers.  The SocialPoint team then gives you insight into who your attendees are based on those interactions and you can use that information to help create design elements that speak to them specifically.  Again- personalizing the event experience based on who’s in attendance.

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3.   Scanalytics- This Wisconsin company is helping events track what’s making their attendees stop and take notice.  Using thin (and brandable) mats positioned throughout a venue, Scanalytics is able to tell you what elements of your event are getting the most traffic, and for how long that traffic is staying put.  In addition (and perhaps most importantly to designers), the software is able to trigger different things based on how long or how frequently people are standing in a particular spot.  Imagine being able to play a video in an area only after people have been standing still for five minutes or more, or being able to change the color of the lighting around a silent auction table if it’s been getting a lot of traffic, letting people know it’s a hot item.  Take it a step further and pair the Scanalytics tools with things like Imerser interactive projection, and see a dance floor, entryway, or wall change based entirely on what people in attendance are doing and where they’re going.

These are just a few of the many #nerdapproved tools out there right now for incorporating data into your design.  By combining them together, you can let your guests and their tastes shape your event, allow your spaces to evolve as the event progresses, and leave your client in awe of the way you continually seem to capture the essence of their desires, and impact the guests in ways they never thought possible.