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How We Design Events: from Concept to Experience
This year was our fourth annual Transition conference – Percolate’s largest event focused on how technology is shaping our future. This year’s theme, The Path to Digital Change, communicates Percolate’s vision of the marketing landscape. Marketing itself is a product of how digital and cultural transformations directly impact society. Instead of trying to predict the future, marketers should focus on building a flexible organization that can adapt to new technology and successfully respond to the resulting shifts in consumer behavior. As designers, our goal is to bring these themes to life in ways that people can see, touch, and interact with.
“Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.” –Beth Comstock, 2017 Transition speaker
Our first step in shaping this year’s experience was to evaluate what “change” means to us. Ultimately, we believe that change is constant, in the best possible way. Transition inspires and challenges you to observe the world with fresh eyes, imagine the future you would like to see, and take inventive steps toward it. The Path to Digital Change is not our prescription, it’s our call to action.
From concept to execution
My job as a brand designer is to successfully communicate the Transition story through both visuals and language. In my research, I discovered that organizational change can sometimes be outlined in three stages. On one end of the spectrum, Transactional Change is about taking constructive steps to update your existing procedures. On the other extreme, Transformational Change radically reshapes how you work through major strategic restructuring. Centered between the two is the aptly named Transitional Change which is about a purposeful but significant shift in your current state toward a better, more stable goal. This can be executed through improving existing processes with new strategy, developing new products and services, or implementing new technology.
After a wide variety of concept explorations, we discovered that the abstract shapes that form the Transition logo can be arranged and rearranged like building blocks to symbolize the 3-stage progression of Transitional Change. First is the initial current state. The shapes are balanced and steady, but not quite right. As the shapes shift and move to find their place, everything feels uneasy and off-kilter. This is the change state. Each piece finally rests into a stable, balanced, and improved final position – ultimately forming each letter of the logo.
Building a system
With the initial concept solidified, the next step was to form a visual language that is thoughtful, consistent, and flexible enough to apply to every touchpoint. To do this, we first had to craft our system’s rules. At the most fundamental level, we exist in the change state. This is where we make the important decisions and take action toward a better future. It made sense to primarily highlight that uncomfortable (but also exciting!) middle ground. From there, we developed multiple patterns to show all 3 stages of change.
After many rounds of exploration and refinement, we made our final decisions and applied our new rules to every execution. From the event website down to the t-shirts and totes, the result was a fun, cohesive family of branded collateral that retained Transition’s optimistic view on change.
Designing the experience
Building the brand visuals is just the beginning. Transition’s shining moment is the event itself, and we wanted to ensure that when attendees walked into the building, they were completely immersed in the Transition narrative.
We worked with a copywriter, Lauren Demarest, to develop language for directional signage, inspirational messaging, and experiential hotspots within the venue. “Take steps toward change” lined the stairs leading up to the Percolate Solutions Lab, which served as a networking lounge, allowing marketers to connect over coffee and learn about our product. We built an interactive pin wall that encouraged people to evaluate their own relationship with change and literally wear it on their shirts. On stage, Beth Comstock reminded us that building brands and changing lives are not mutually exclusive. And finally, “Step up to the challenge” flanked the doors so it was the last call to action people took with them on the way home.
“As an industry, our challenge is to keep painting the picture in a constantly shifting frame.” –Keith Weed, 2016 Transition speaker
From what sometimes felt like playing with shapes on my computer (not complaining), to illustrating branded emoji reactions (😜 ), to seeing my work displayed on a 60-foot wall (best job ever), it has been an incredible learning experience. While creating a brand system is extremely important to ensure visual consistency, the event experience is what truly makes a difference to your audience. In focusing on the human elements, how people are going to interact with the space and ultimately how they’re going to feel when they leave, we find the opportunity to make something both memorable and impactful. As we approach 2018, I am excited for the opportunity to grow the foundation we have built this year and help shape the future of Transition.