event badge design

Your Event Needs Name Tags – 5 Event Badge Design Rules To Facilitate Community

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graphic design rules to create personalized badges, backstage passes, and trade show and conference name tags for onsite attendees
graphic design rules to create personalized badges, backstage passes, and trade show and conference name tags for onsite attendees

Let’s talk about event badge design. What’s the primary function of the event badge? What do you want your badge to represent?

Great Event Badges:

  1. Identify Attendees To One Another
  2. Facilitate Check-In and Checkout
  3. Become Great Event Memorabilia 
  4. Facilitate Conversation Among Attendees
  5. Provide Consistent Branding Year Over Year

Your name tag should include the event logo, name, and role (sponsor, speaker, attendee, etc). If you have space for a QR code, that’s great for the backside – especially for lead capture and attendance tracking.

Here are a few tried and true rules that will help your event badges represent your awesome conference! But first, let’s get on the same page about design. 

What is Design? 

Design isn’t about appearance as much as it is about function. Good design is rarely noticed. Bad design brings frustration. 

Case in point, the industrial designer who made the snap-back lid on the Coffee Mate container should get a Nobel Prize. Why? Because that solution solves the problem of the lid interrupting the flow of creamer as it flips back and forth.  

When we talk about design, it is more than colors and fonts, it’s about the use case. Why do we print event badges for in-person events? To facilitate conversation, connection, and community. 

“You had one job,” is the last thing you want to hear said about your event badges. So, to stay on the same page with regard to these rules, let’s keep in mind that design equals function. 

Rule 1: Event Badges Should be Legible from Across The Room

There is nothing more frustrating than forgetting someone’s name. Especially after they just told you. Alas, we are human and it’s pretty normal to forget in the excitement of the moment. Quite possibly the event may be a little on the loud side as well. This is why the name on a name tag should be the most prominent element.

Design your conference name badges the same way you would speaker slides – less is more. Speaker slides should have a font size of 35. Attendee names on conference name badges should be at a minimum of 40 points with a sans-serif font. 

The function of a name tag is to eliminate the question, “What’s your name?” The proper font size solves that problem.

“Choose a font for your name tag that is clear, simple and large enough for people to read from across a room. 40 to 45 point font should be big enough.” Canva 

Rule 2: Event Badges Should Be Worn at the Lapel Level

This is a controversial event badge rule but stay with me. Sure, lanyards are cool and many event sponsors love giving them out as swag. But how awkward is it to read someone’s name when it’s over their belly (or lower)? Many attendees don’t try – we just ask awkwardly, “Hey, what’s your name again?” Then the other attendee lifts their lanyard and holds it up at – you guessed it – lapel level. 

Though popular, wearing conference badges on a lanyard is neither ideal nor a successful way to encourage connection. Event veterans often bring a safety pin to affix their event badges at the lapel level for this reason.

To facilitate an inclusive event, think about how people wear name badges and how attendees will read them. You want all attendees to feel safe. Alex Chan describes a use case well. 

“I met somebody recently who always ties a knot or two in their conference lanyard before wearing it. They’re quite short, and the default lanyard length leaves the badge hanging near their crotch, which is just awkward and unpleasant. Adding the knots shortens the lanyard, and pulls it up a bit.” Alex Chan 

When people feel safe, they’ll enter into dialogue. Feeling awkward about conference badge placement is an important part. After all, at your event you want shy people to talk to extroverted people and vice versa. You want buyers to meet vendors. You want volunteers and staff to be easily recognizable. You want people to feel inspired. You put on the event to build community. The badge is the first step – and the most important one.

Rule 3: Event Badges are Keepsakes – Design Them Well

Take a look around Twitter or Instagram or ask some of your peers and you’re sure to find out that people love taking selfies and photos of their event badges. This is free advertising! 

How many event badges do you have in your collection? Our CEO is always attending Meetups and conferences throughout the year. Some people go to as many as 50 events a year! Much like a fridge magnet for a local pizza shop, event badges keep your event top-of-mind – especially when attendees and speakers display their badges behind them on Zoom calls. 

People collect badges and those keepsakes last decades – not everyone is on the Marie Kondo train. Plus, it’s a free way to decorate your home office, as we mentioned.

So what is good design? What badges will be kept? 

A clear version of the conference logo should be selected. Ensure your creative team has the largest size resolution available. You can always scale down but you can’t scale up. 

A good badge design uses event colors in its design. However, when it comes to people’s names, be aware of red-green color blindness and accessibility issues with low-contrast color combinations. WebAIM has a free contrast checker that checks two colors (hex codes). Don’t forget in your color choices that the design function of the event badge is so that other people can easily read another attendee’s name.

Pinterest has a great board to get you excited, but some of those event badges may not live up to these rules. Buyer beware and all that. :) 

Rule 4: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

It’s so tempting to cram as much information on an event badge as possible in the hopes that it functions as a mini-website. This is a mistake. The more you add to a badge the less it functions as a name tag. (Remember, “you had one job?”) 

Just because you can put the event and company logos on your event badge doesn't mean you should. Just because you can use a script doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can put job titles and companies doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Think about the function (design) that matters most – name clarity, QR code access, and role Identification (speaker / sponsor / attendee / organizer / volunteer). 

If you print everything on the event name badge, what will people have to talk about? Asking for the name and role is a natural first question and an excellent icebreaker. The purpose of the conference is to build community; people need to enter into dialog for that to happen. 

Putting job titles on badges for industry-specific conferences (HR, for example) is also a bit redundant. So if you want people to chat each other up, why not offer an icebreaker instead?

Rule 5: Keep Event Badge Designs Consistent Year Over Year

Your annual conference may change themes year over year. That’s great! Be on the lookout for overdesigning. This rule is about staying consistent with event badges. What you don’t want to do is reinvent the wheel every year. That’s a waste of your committee’s time and budget. (But that’s another blog post). This is part of why our all-in-one solution is the last event software you’ll ever need. 

Design the badge. Replicate it for next year or next month’s conference. Rinse and repeat. This allows your team to focus their attention on marketing to past attendees and outreach to new attendees. 

Aside from budgetary considerations, consistent event badge design originates from consistent branding. If you go offsite for lunch or dinner, you’ll recognize others wearing their name tags, too. This is another opportunity to find commonality and connection through a spontaneous conversation.

“I see you’re at the Excellence in HR Conference, I am too!” You never know, you may meet your next employee, vendor, or best friend.

Bonus Rule: Icebreakers Make Use of those Event Badges

So, how do you get people to walk up to one another, now that you have an expertly designed conference badge? Icebreakers. But some icebreakers are awkward at best. So you need good ones. 

Do you remember the last icebreaker question you were asked? (Can we retire two truths and a lie yet?) Many popular icebreaker questions seem either too personal or outright intrusive. What is your dream job? (Are you going to tell my boss it isn’t the job I have now?) What’s your proudest accomplishment? (Is this a job interview?) Pass. 

The welcome message at your conference is the perfect opportunity to facilitate icebreaking. Assign people a ridiculous question that will make them smile when they ask and answer it. Then you’re accomplishing a few goals at the same time. 

How about these fun questions? “What’s your favorite dinosaur?” “Would you eat pizza for breakfast?” “What was your favorite television show as a kid?” It’s even better if the assigned event icebreaker relates to the conference theme somehow. Think big picture.

Once the icebreaker question is assigned at the get-go, everyone will be eager to ask and compare answers and won’t feel awkward or shy. Let’s role-play this for a minute. You walk up to Linda and greet her because you have awesome event badges of course.  

Old Way:

You: “Hi Linda, I see you’re the HR lead at Baker Insurance.” (What question comes after that? You can’t ask what she does there? After all, the whole conference is for HR People.) 

Linda: stares waiting for your question, “Hi. Nice to meet you,” she replies awkwardly.

You both walk away.

New Way:

You: “Hi Linda, what’s your favorite dinosaur?

Linda: “I always loved the tyrannosaurus rex because they’re ferocious but also hilarious with their short arms.”

You: “I love the pterodactyl because it flies and the p is silent.”

Linda: “Isn’t language fascinating?”

You: “I love it!”

Linda: “Want to sit together in the next session?”

You: “Sure. I am going to the diversity and inclusion session in 15 minutes.”

Linda: “I was too!”

Feeling Inspired To Create Your First Event Badge?

Now that you’re ready to create your first badge, what platform will you use to design and print it? Accelevents is an end-to-end event management software that comes with a badge printing and design and module as well as comprehensive check-in features. Contact us to see these and other features in action!

Request a demo today!
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