The Industrial Design Society of America’s 2010 conference, themed “Do It Yourself,” was held in Portland, Ore. Tasked with creating environmental graphics for the event, industrial design firm Ziba Design (Portland) was up against an almost nonexistent budget ($4,000), an uninspiring venue (a traditional Hilton hotel), and a client with a reputation for fragmented conferences with poor theming and environmental design.
The Ziba Design team embraced the challenges and set out to make sure that every component of the graphics program was unexpected, disruptive, and hackable through interactive elements. The scope included all environmental graphics: stage décor, podium wrap, informational signage, and attendee experience graphics such as magnets, static clings, and an interactive registration area.
The Ziba team chose simple, cost-effective materials and reinforced the DIY theme by making most of the elements themselves, just blocks away from the conference site.
Wayfinding and branding elements included large-scale DIY letters and arrows cut from cardboard. Tabletops and signage were made from large sheets of corrugated shipping cardboard. Behind the registration desk, a huge “pixel wall,” featuring colorful pixel icons, was constructed of laser-cut foamboard. Quick-release mounts called Autopoles, often used by photographers, were modified to display graphics due to the hotel’s rules against affixing anything to the walls. To mask generic hotel art and provide a purposeful interruption of the venue aesthetics, the team created static cling versions of the pixel icon art that fit perfectly to cover the existing artwork.
The results were overwhelmingly positive: the more than 500 attendees enjoyed the theme, speakers, environmental graphics, social events, collateral, swag bag, and other elements, all rendered consistently and effectively reinforcing the DIY spirit.
All elements were designed to be recycled or reused. An unrelated organization that toured the venue during the conference offered to purchase the pixel wall for their own conference, and IDSA was able to sell the piece and recover the entire budget spent on environmental graphics.
“With a $4,000 fabrication budget, this project has incredible bang for the buck. Beautifully designed, innovative solutions that clearly communicate the message of the conference with both graphics and materials.”
“The sheer creative will to pull this off in such a sophisticated, amusing and touching way, with so very little, harkens of greatness.”
Paul Backett, Andy Davidhazy (creative directors); Jessica Vollendorf (art director); Heather Cummings, Jeremy Webber, AJ Austinson (designers); Carl Alviani (writer); CJ DeWaal, Paul Petri (producers); Julia Carpenter (project manager)
Oregon Screen Impressions (T-shirt printer); Pinball Publishing (conference schedule, PDX Guide, Sketchbook); Image Press Works (nametag, auto-fold map); Flip & Tumble (bags); Ford Graphics (static cling, magnets)