Design Thinking for Event Producers: Takeaways from the Adobe XD Design Week 2016 Branding

Design Thinking for Event Producers: Takeaways from the Adobe XD Design Week 2016 Branding

If anyone was gonna knock their event branding out of the park, it was gonna be the people who invented Photoshop. But the Adobe XD Design Week branding is a special case of above and beyond.


What is XD Design Week?

The Adobe XD Group is a global design organization responsible for the user experience of most of Adobe’s products. Once a year or so, we gather all of our designers, researchers, engineers, and other team members together in San Francisco for a week-long event where we share our work, build our relationships, and plan for the next year.

Crafted by rock star designers Anny Chen and Shawn Cheris, the branding for this event isn’t just an example of pretty colors well-worked. This is design thinking at its finest: a rock-solid core concept – in the case, the event theme – supported by visuals that are both appropriate to that theme and lovely to look upon. Yeah, yeah, Adobe’s got one up on the rest of us, in the sense that they have access to some of the best visual artists in the world. But it isn’t just artistic skill that carried this branding forward: it was the strategic creative process that underpins the art. So how do we get a little closer to achieving similarly beautiful results in our own events? Well, we learn to think like a designer.

Isolate the Core Concept

Bad design says, “Ooh, these color are pretty.” Good design says, “What are we trying to communicate?” If your event isn’t centered around a core concept, you’re hamstrung right out of the gate. The theme for this year’s XD Design Week was “convergence”, and that was the anchoring idea from which the rest of the festival flowed.

Decide on Means of Visual Expression

Time to dig deeper. We’ve got a concept. Now, how are we going to choose to express it?

We explored the ways in which the idea of “convergence” could be expressed visually—forms literally converging on the page, shapes being overlaid on top of one another, and juxtaposition of subject matter (e.g. human versus machine). As we delved deeper, we became more interested in the notion of the Venn diagram, and exploring what happens in the areas where two objects intersect and create a new “third space.”

Event Production Blog: Spotlight on Adobe Design Week

Exploring the concept of “convergence”

Build a Visual System

Festival collateral is extremely diverse, and the imagery you settle on will have to extend across multiple mediums. Your system should be cohesive, meaning that all the parts look like they go together. It should be scalable, meaning that a conference badge and a t-shirt and a stage backdrop and a website can be designed under the guidelines of the system without breaking the system. It should be a little flexible, because life throws curveballs sometimes. How’d Adobe do it?

We chose the circle as the consistent, anchoring element with which other shapes would converge on the page. The circle can embody multiple metaphors—a lens, a different world, or a unifed whole. We also explored typographic treatments that would integrate well with the visual system. We chose Futura PT (Heavy 700) for its clean, geometric lines, and played with slicing the type along the axis of when two shapes intersected. The color palette and use of gradients were a direct nod to the Adobe XD brand.

Oh, right, and it should be on brand, if at all possible.

Apply holistically

Creating a single piece of collateral at a time, printing it, putting it into use, and then creating the next piece leaves the door open for a scattered and incoherent brand. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and logistics, that’s usually what happens. Yes, deadlines are looming. Yes, you need the invitations first, and then posters later, and the speaker schedule booklets last of all. But best case scenario, your event design gets done all at once. At the very least, if you can’t have everything designed at the same time, it’s important to sketch out a design outline of each piece as a general roadmap so you don’t go off course.

Event Production Blog: Design thinking for Event Planners


Wanna see more stuff from Adobe XD Design Week? Check out the project on Behance.

David Sonntag
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