• Renée Pittet - OneWest Events

Balancing Familiarity and Disruption During COVID

Updated: Jul 15

Across all creative industries terms like “think outside the box” are common goals we collectively strive for. People often associate event design with how decor can deliver wow-factor, but we will let you in on a little secret: without the right balance of familiarity, innovative ideas often fall flat. Good design is about finding that balance between disruption and familiarity.


Prior to COVID familiarity to us looked like: asking venues what room layouts worked well for their service teams; understanding what guest expectations were from previous years; and knowing where to place items like food stations, bars, and signage so guests could easily navigate the experience. Finding the right time to surprise people and the right times to make people feel at ease is part of our creative process - but during this crisis, things have changed.


Now we are having to look at both familiarity and disruption from very different perspectives. COVID has naturally disrupted much of what we familiarize with events, so we’ve shared a few tips here to help you start designing your COVID conscious experience.


Simple tips for starting your COVID Conscious Event Design:


  1. Familiarize yourself with good resources. The Arise Collective, professional associations, and local governments (to name just a few) are working hard to provide #eventprofs with as much information about this evolving situation as possible. Understanding the restrictions and challenges your project is facing is always a smart first step in the design process.

  2. Innovating from Disruption: Restrictions and regulations are examples of disruptions from COVID we will have to accept. With an innovative mindset you might be able to re- interpret these restrictions for positive impact: For example, meeting the challenge of spacing requirements by seating small guest groups outside in stylized, sanitized greenhouses. However it's also important to understand when something is no longer a good fit. Rather than trying to enforce distancing on a dance floor for instance, a more innovative approach might be to rethink the evenings entertainment altogether. Switching from a live band to incorporating live painters throughout the room may be the better choice for guest experience. During this time, consult your design partners to help you determine how to innovate effectively for your unique challenges.

  3. Find some familiarity by asking “where have I seen this before?”. Finding some familiarity among all the changes within your event will help make guests feel more comfortable. As you look to redesign things such as screening processes at your registration, ask yourself: where have I seen this before? Perhaps by thinking of an airport or a hospital you may be able to incorporate simple nuances from familiar systems to reduce confusion and make your guests more at ease.


COVID may have disrupted much of what we know about events, but #eventprofs know how to familiarize themselves with challenges. We would love to continue this conversation with you and discuss ways you can approach your upcoming designs with confidence. Find us on the Arise Event Collective partners page to set up a complimentary 60 minute design consultation!



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