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With an attendance of 18,000+, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention is a whopper – filled with many opportunities to communicate to a vast audience. This year we had the privilege of branding the event and creating an array of helpful materials from Style Guides to the 350+ page Program Book.

The Deliverables

For an event of this scale, there are a lot of necessary materials, both leading up to the event (branding and advertising pieces) and at the actual event (reference guides, maps, signs and more). Each of these materials were branded to feel like a part of the same family, and at the same time were customized for a specific audience. While the program book was the general guide with all the necessary information for the average attendee, the exhibit guide was tailored to exhibitors and those looking to explore the Exhibit Hall.

The style guide (seen below) was a comprehensive document, featuring customized sections for different audiences. Over 100 individual brand assets were created – from logos to templates to color palette swatches for 3rd party vendors and advertisers to carry the brand throughout the year.

We dug into the details and drew, custom to ASHA, schematics of floor plans and illustrated maps of the event city, Boston. These maps were thoughtfully created with the user in mind, to quickly guide attendees to the correct rooms for sessions or to the nearest caffeine re-fueling location.

ASHA Convention Maps

All told, we delivered dozens of unique branded pieces, ranging from web graphics to postcards to illustrations to books.

The Takeaways

As I reflect back on the project, here were a few noteworthy takeaways.

Planning is key.

A well conceived solution starts 10 months before the convention. The visual concept, tying in ASHA’s theme needed to get done first, then the style guide, which then informed the brand moving forward. Next, a series of milestones were mapped out over the course of the upcoming year. As tasks were completed, we were continually evaluating ways to streamline the process. Of course, unforeseen challenges were bound to arise, but careful planning enabled us to mitigate these and stay on track.

It’s essential to keep the user in mind.

As the designs came together for the Program Book, we kept asking the question of how to make such a large piece more useful for a conference attendee. Seemingly small improvements, like a re-worked table of contents, the placement of colored section tabs, and the size and placement of main headings, helped to ensure a user could scan and quickly find what they needed. Good design is not just pretty, but brings functional benefits for the end user.

Even in 2018, there is still a place for large printed materials.

The Program Book we created for the conference was a beast. 350 pages of everything a conference attendee could need–schedules, sessions, maps, and more. Although there was also a website and an app, nothing quite replaces the feeling of leafing through a physical book.

ASHA Conference Printed Materials

GREP is cool.

GR… what? In order to translate a database of sessions into a printed format we used some tools to automate the process. GREP is essentially a fancy “Find and Replace” tool, just at a much more granular level. This enabled us, for example, to format all titles in a certain database to a specific style in a document. 1000 titles, formatted in one click. That’s pretty cool. Smarts tools like this one were essential in enabling our team to efficiently tackle a project this large.

You don’t need a huge team to complete a huge project.

Branding for such a big event was a sizable task. The physical size of the materials was larger, the number of elements to keep track of was greater, and the stakes were higher. You don’t want to make any mistakes when you’re printing tens of thousands of pieces at a time. Given the unique challenges, each member of team was involved in some way or another: planning and scheduling, sketching and prototyping, designing and producing, reviewing and reviewing and reviewing.

An event like this can appear overwhelming, but broken down into many parts, and split up by a talented group of designers and projects managers, it becomes possible. The hard work and planning paid off, and our team produced big results.

Josh Cutherell Photo
Josh Cutherell
Josh enjoys getting into the weeds of design - from small user interactions to the perfect font pairing - and strives to unite beauty and functionality.