Event Planning Series Part 7: Your Guide to Stunning Event Design

Read the Full OfficeNinjas Event Planning Series:
Experiential Events | Digital Tool Belt | Venue Checklist | F&B Planning | Photography & Photo Booths | Audio Visual | Event Design | Live Music | Corporate Gift-Giving

At OfficeNinjas HQ, we’ve always believed in the power of strong event design. In the past, we worked with multiple vendors for furniture rentals, signage, and floral elements all in an attempt to communicate a theme and express our Ninja identity. It was always A LOT of work—and we weren’t always thrilled with the results.

Then Blueprint Studios completely changed our game. The team not only designs gorgeous events, but they’re a one-stop event design and production shop. Nearly 200 talented pros handle everything from conceptualization to on-site installation—which is ideal for busy Ninjas.

When you’re scouting vendors, look for teams who offer add-ons. For example, Blueprint Studios also has a huge inventory of rental furniture, props, and decor, allowing a more cohesive look from start to finish.

Can you tell we’re huge fans?

We’re not the only ones. In addition to designing Admin Bash and our upcoming OfficeNinjas IRL, Blueprint Studios pulls off over 3,500 events every year. They’re clearly the best in the business, so we tapped their expertise to provide insight on Part 7 of the OfficeNinjas Event Series: Event Design.

Keep Up with Current Trends and Inspiration

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According to Blueprint Studios, the ‘Rustic Chic’ aesthetic (think twine and mason jars) has taken a backseat, and a more refined and sophisticated look is in. Designers embrace a modern feel, but they’re also looking to the rich details of natural elements like gold and precious metals for inspiration.

“We could be going through an underpass and see a beautiful concrete wall, which influences us to create a new concrete-style table. Or we might end up designing a structure based on the curved arches seen in the lounge at an airport waiting area,” said Lynsey Martin of Blueprint Studios.

The takeaway: keep your eyes and mind open, and don’t be afraid to make a big statement with design elements. The custom fabrication team at Blueprint Studios once constructed (and transported!) a 20-foot-tall wooden guitar for a conference in Nashville.

Before You Hire a Design Firm…

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There are plenty of design firms out there, but not all of them have the resources to deliver what you want within your budget.

For example, many companies will include impressive event shots in their online portfolio, but they won’t disclose that those designs required sub-rentals from other companies.

While this practice is not uncommon or necessarily bad, it can limit your options and add to your costs. Before signing the dotted line, get a clear understanding of what materials and services are provided in-house and what elements are outsourced to ensure it all fits within your total budget.

Map Out The Design Process

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Prior to immersing yourself in the details of the design, take some time to think through a few key questions about your event. Your answers will clarify your vision for the design team and help them bring your ideas to life.

WHO is your audience? What do your guests expect, and how many people will be in attendance?

WHAT type of event are you throwing? Is it a cocktail party? A festival-style event with multiple stations and activities? A traditional conference? The answer to this question will help determine the flow of the event.

WHERE will the event be held? Many design decisions are impacted by venue selection, so this information is crucial to your design team.

HOW much is your budget?

Once you’ve nailed down these important questions, you can start planning the overall design and concepts. Most firms will share a few options using style decks or mood boards. At this point, don’t be afraid to let your design team know about any elements you definitely do not want to explore.

If, for example, you’re sick of seeing succulents as centerpieces, let them know in advance so they don’t waste time on a desert motif.

Based on your agreed design direction, the firm will finalize more granular details, like floral arrangements and furniture design. Logistical planning and execution will follow.

Watch Out for Red Flags

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Blueprint Studios has been in business since 1999, so they’re more than familiar with what makes a successful event—and what can cause the design process to fly off the rails. We asked them for five things Ninjas should keep an eye on. Here’s what they said:

  1. Budget changes. There’s always a bottom line—make sure you’re monitoring it.
  2. Guest count changes. Anything over or under the original number can change the look and feel of an event.
  3. Reality. In other words, be creative, but not at the expense of your guests’ experience. For example, you may have your heart set on an outdoor picnic. But if the event is in February and your venue doesn’t offer a contingency plan for rain or cold temperatures, you need to adjust your expectations.
  4. Logistical challenges. Your design team may anticipate logistical challenges and ask you to alter or shift the original design. Do your best to stay flexible. Trust that they’re looking out for your best interest.
  5. Budget vs. actual cost. Sticker shock is not uncommon in the world of event planning. It’s important to know which elements are your must-haves, but be open to less expensive alternatives that could be just as effective.

It’s easy to let your mind run wild with possibilities, but event design requires a bit of internal taming from time to time. Approach the process methodically, using Blueprint Studios’ tips as guideposts, to guarantee your event is on point.

Have you worked with a one-stop-shop event design firm? Or do you typically choose multiple vendors to bring your events to life? Share your questions, tips, or advice in the comments!

OfficeNinjas

OfficeNinjas gives recognition to the administrative role by supporting and growing a community of executive assistants, office managers, and operations pros. OfficeNinjas brings these “Ninjas” tech resources, educational content, vetted vendor recommendations, and modern in-person events.

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