Start with Design

Event Design | A Brief History

The history of event design is brief but revealing. Let me begin by saying that event design is not event planning. Event planners are producers while event designers are set decorators. The first event designers were floral arrangers who competed for weddings and nonprofit fundraising banquets by designing unusual, thematic floral centerpieces that became all the rage. Floral themes began with seasonal themes: “Fall Colors” – “Winter Wonderland” – “A Burst of Spring” – etc. Florists became Floral Designers and event design was born.

A Profession Emerges

Floral seasonal themes soon gave way to integrated design themes that encompassed table settings, chair coverings, draperies, and artwork. Designers developed themes around food, drink, entertainment, holiday celebrations, historic places and events. They began to incorporate background music, lighting, costumes, modes of transportation (like boats and horse drawn carriages), and carried the theme through on invitations and printed publicity materials. Event design evolved beyond artistic floral arranging into a full-blown, stand-alone profession. The event designer became an indispensable member of the event planner’s team.


Many of today’s event designers studied architecture, learning how people move through space and time. The main objective of current event design goes beyond simply making event space beautiful to creating an experience by combining shape, color, flow, lighting, sound, and motion into a unified, purposeful happening.

The first question we now ask clients when planning an event is, what do you want your guests to know about you when they walk away from your event? In other words, what is your message? We then reduce their answer to one sentence: e.g.

• Our new product is revolutionary.
• Our mission is to feed the poor of rural America.
• We really care about our constituents.
• We are grateful for your participation in our mission.
• Etc. Etc. Etc.


The alchemy used by event designers is a sort of magic that transforms purpose into message – message into environmental impression – impression into experience – experience into takeaway. Their magic potion mixes color, shape, sound and motion into a new compound that communicates the event owner’s message to attendees on a subconscious sensory level. Great event designers are masters of human dynamics that utilize the artistic insight of master painters who used color, brushstroke, depth of field, and perspective to impact the viewer on an emotional level.

Start With Design

When planning your next event be sure to begin with message and design. Be clear about your purpose for holding the event and analyze your audience carefully. When you know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, your event planner can complete your event team by selecting the designer most qualified to tell your story. All successful events are the result of an event planner, designer, and client working together to create a pointed experience the guests will not forget.

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