David Sonntag
15 Dec 2014

Better Conference Badges: Best Practices for Usability

There’s a lot of chit-chat about website usability online today – “usability” essentially meaning “best practices for smooth usage by the largest number of people”. But websites and applications aren’t the only places the principles of usability are important. We stumbled across a super interesting post by Mike Davidson, head of design at Twitter, discussing some of his thoughts on the usability of conference name badge design. Mike isn’t alone in this assessment – the Wall Street Journal published a 2013 article about “badge snobs” – conference name tag aficionados that sneer at “Microsoft Word-produced name badges”. This sent us down a rabbit hole of nametag “best practice” articles, and we’ve collected some expert opinions on which little details matter when you’re designing badges for your next conference.

Badge size: bigger is better

Mike notes that at the conference, he couldn’t read anyone’s names on a card size as mall as 2×3. Make the card at least 4×6, he says, for optimum readability. But readability isn’t the only reason: in the WSJ piece, a badge manufacture is quoted as saying that big badges make people “feel like a rockstar”.

Say my name, say my name

“The S.O.B. treats the conference badge like a highway sign, complete with a typeface modeled from U.S. highway signs: Interstate. Highway signs are designed to be read from as far away as possible and always present the most important information biggest and boldest. The S.O.B. allows you not only to minimize the awkward glances down while you’re talking to someone whose name you don’t remember, but also makes spotting people across the room a lot easier. The typical conference badge loses its readability at about 10 feet but from my own crack-testing, the S.O.B. appears readable from up to 30 feet away.”

Event Production Company DC: Name Tag Design

Use readable font sizes and families

Scott McKain, designer and badge connoisseur, says badges “should detail the attendee’s first name in at least 36-point type, which is a half-inch tall, followed below in 24-point type by full name, title, company, city and state.” He also “prefers serif fonts because they are easier to read from a distance. He likes ribbon cloth lanyards because, he says, they feel rich.”


In his article, Mike also provides a link to an Illustrator file for usability-optimized name tags – go get it!

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