There are certain things you can always expect from a SEQ event, like well-handled logistics, seamless budget management, engaging programming, and nitty-gritty details that all relate back to an event’s mission. But one of the biggies? A non-negotiable emphasis on creativity and design—that goes far beyond just choosing a color scheme and florals.
From our view, thinking about creativity and design is always worth the investment—if it’s done in an intentional way. “All events have parameters, whether that’s budget, timeline, brand, client preference, or even just gravity,” points out Elaine Tripoulas, a Creative Manager at SEQ. “It’s our job to understand those parameters, and then get creative on how we can work within those constraints—and where we can push and pull those boundaries to get creative outside of the box!”
To Elaine, incorporating creative elements effectively is all about being pragmatic. “Pie-in-the-sky style creatives certainly have their place and really inspire us all with some big ideas; however, when it comes down to actually producing a real, live event, pragmatic creativity and design is much more valuable to me,” she says.
To Julienne Bilker—one of SEQ’s Production Managers—creativity and design should be just as much a part of the conversation as logistical details. “Every piece of the event is connected, and the more holistic view you can have as you plan, the better,” she says. “We can't figure out what AV is needed if we have no design direction, and there are often great opportunities to integrate AV into design. Similarly, tying food and beverage in with design makes for a more cohesive event for guests, and often provides the kind of ‘surprise and delight’ moments that they'll remember well after the event.”
So, where do you start?
Step one? Nailing down “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” in the beginning stages of any project, notes Bailey Nielson, an Event Coordinator at SEQ. “From there, especially if the budget is tight, I love to work to bring in small or large ways to add creativity to the must-haves of the event, so that the event is not left without the fun and only left with the non-negotiables.”
The proportion of the budget dedicated to creative and design elements depends on a few different factors, adds Elaine. First, “Understanding your event goals and how they relate back to the event type will ultimately determine how much emphasis creative and design should have in your event,” she explains. Something like a brand activation, media event, or employee engagement event might be the right place for design elements that can encourage social posting, foster brand loyalty, and sell sponsorships, for example—while other events, like fundraisers, may not be the right place to spend lavishly on decor and photo ops.
Budget allotment can also be dictated by factors like the brand’s existing style. ”More bold, playful, and typically B2C brands usually value and even expect more creativity and design within their event environment,” notes Elaine, adding that venue choice can also be a determining factor.
“We’ve all had clients who want the biggest, most blown-out branded event, but realistically it’s not what they can pay for,” she adds. “Then you have to be smart and figure out where you get the most bang for your buck, such as a big statement wall for a photo opp rather than wrapping the entire venue in branding.”
Here are some more reasons why Team SEQ loves leaning into creativity and design.
- It can set the tone and help bring a client’s mission to life.
Jen Fleischer, a Senior Producer at SEQ, likes to approach her events with a strategic mindset, always thinking about the big picture and how each element will connect. “Design plays a large role in that and feeds into all aspects of the event—food and beverage, lighting, floorplan, etc.,” she points out. “It is important to remember that design can be so much more than just graphics and colors.”
Establishing a clear visual identity can also create a cohesive thread that brings the client's mission or goal to life, Jen adds. “Emphasizing creative elements allows attendees to connect with the event in a tangible way. Whether it is a large installation that tells the history of a nonprofit through the words of people they have helped, or something as small as an ‘Electric Sliders’ food cart at a disco-themed event, guests are more likely to have a positive experience.”
- It can create bonding opportunities and an emotional journey for the guests.
Let’s give ‘em something to talk about! “Creative elements give guests something to talk about with each other, allowing them to segue into new personal and professional connections,” points out Bailey. “The more guests are able to connect and bond with one another, is another reason for them to walk away with a positive outlook on the event and the brand hosting that event—making them want to come back for more.”
After all, as Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”—and event design can have a crucial impact on a guest’s emotional journey. “From immersive experiential builds to dramatic performance lighting, it's what ties everything together,” explains Julienne. “We are always taking in our environments, so the more you can curate that for your event and for the experience you want your guests to have, the more memorable it will be.”
- It can build lasting memories and positive associations.
Events with memorable creative moments can result in positive associations and increased brand loyalty. Elaine cites an example from SEQ’s own Camp Thumbtack event. “Branding, scenic, and activities were fully customized to the event theme, which created a sense of really being at camp,” she says. “Just like camps we attended in our youth, this created an enhanced sense of community and built loyalty to their employer who showed they were dedicated to ensuring their employees felt connected and valued.”
On a personal note, Elaine was particularly inspired when she attended the Tomorrowland music festival this summer. “Everything was designed to be on theme, down to custom waste receptacles which tied back to their commitment to sustainability,” she remembers. “By creating this unique, immersive world, they innately created a sense of community and belonging where everyone is present and dedicated to sharing this experience. This positive association in turn fosters a sense of loyalty over time. If I were to meet someone who had also attended Tomorrowland, we would immediately have a shared connection.”
- It can lead to very real ROI.
Beyond the emotional side, don’t forget the very real marketing angle that can come with memorable design moments. “In the world we live in where everything is ‘Instagrammable,’ it can be great for a client's marketing strategy to have their guests sharing photos from the event, and out-of-the-box creativity and design is how we get guests to do this,” points out Bailey.
Elaine agrees. “All events have a level of ‘marketing’ to them, hence the term experiential marketing. Thinking about what your event looks and feels like live, as well as event photography and video capture, will benefit not only your attendee’s sentiments but also your post-event marketing plan,” she notes. “Clients can use this content to drum up more excitement about future events or even their company as a whole.”