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Event Design and the Human/Planet Interface

March 9, 2012

Last night, after returning from Vancouver from my presentation at the Arts Institute, I went to my MBA New Venture Marketing class.  The guest speaker was an Industrial Designer who described what they do as

“people who do for objects what architects do for buildings”.

Industrial design is “the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specs that optimize the function, value, appearance and life-cycle of objects”.

I guess we could say that event professionals are “people who do for human face-to-face communication through meetings and events what industrial designers do for things”.  And that is, we try to optimize the function, value, appearance and life-cycle of meetings and events.

Or do we?

I’d argue that many event professionals don’t view this as part of what they do.  I’d say that, at most, many event professionals try to optimize the appearance and possibly the function of their event.  Value and life-cycle are secondary, and yet when looking at the list, shouldn’t value outrank aesthetics?  Shouldn’t lifecycle be at least equal to function?

The guest speaker went on to argue that design is the process of being thoughtful about something.  How many event professionals are thoughtful about what they are doing? Oh, sure, they might think about how many people can fit in that room and what kind of audiovisual would work.  But do they think about the economics, technology, aesthetics, and the sustainability (notably defined by the speaker as the “human/planet interface”) of the event in more than logistic terms?

Take life-cycle, for example.  The concept of reverse logistics, or planning for the end use of meeting components (for example, leftover food, registration bags, etc.) is still taking hold in the meetings industry.  Return on Investment (ROI) is one way of measuring value, but what about SROI (Social Return on Investment)? These are all ways of taking the current concept of sustainable events up a few levels.

Meetings and events are not only about the person-to-person interface, they are about the human/planet interface.  It has to be this way; we don’t live in vacuums.  We interact not only with other people, but also with cultures, the environment and the economy. You can’t – or shouldn’t – view them in isolation.

As Isaac Newton told us, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Elegance is how mathematicians describe a solution that is simple.  It is also one of our values at Meeting Change (see our home page).  Of course, as our speaker reminded us, simplicity takes a lot of work. But we should all try to optimize the function, value, appearance and life-cycle of our meetings and events.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 10, 2012 7:46 am

    Here are some quotes on design from some of my favorite designers. It’s interesting to see how these ideas apply to meetings…

    Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose. Charles Eames

    To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function. Otherwise it’s just planning. Ayse Birsel

    Designing a product is designing a relationship. Steve Rogers

    Meeting Design has much to offer the meeting professionals who is challenged to do more with less (yet another design principle).

    john nawn
    the perfect meeting

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