Environmental Design

How To Turn A Venue Into A Brand Expression

Using space to tell a story and communicate feeling.

A brand expression is the way in which a corporate identity is communicated beyond the logo. It is the mission, the vision, and the values rolled up into a feeling and delivered via multiple mediums of messaging, one of which can be a physical event space—a venue.

These are they key factors to consider when turning a venue into a brand expression.

The Two Types of Venues

When it comes to event venues, there are two types in which you can host your brand experience.

One being an event space that is not a hotel, in which the options may be endless from outdoor promenades and roomy interior blank walls for your metaphorical blank canvas. Then there are the hotel spaces in which, depending on the architecture, your goal is to blend into the existing design aesthetic of the hotel itself rather than just adding something in that doesn’t feel like it fits the space.

You should always be trying to make the venue look as if the client owns the space, treating it like it’s an extension of that brand's headquarters.

Easy Ways To Make A Big Impact

When you’re in a hotel space, the hotel branding is usually pretty prevalent. To try and blend in to that, you have to get creative with either color palette or material. For instance, for a recent show we put on in Brooklyn, NY, the hotel had a very natural design feel with a lot of wood aesthetics, so we carved the client’s logo icon out of weathered wood to blend into the space, creating an object of art that fit naturally within the hotel space.

The trick is to design elements that will blend in seamlessly, but yet pop. This is a matter of bridging the gap between tactile, texture, and technology to match the brand.

Designing something for Target may mean glossy and smooth, bright, red and white. Whereas branding for the Sierra Club may mean textured wood or stone with greenery, and natural warm lighting. You have to be designing for a balance of tactile and high-tech textures that when the client’s logo, colors, and messages are layered on top of, feel cohesive.

The entrance is really the first opportunity you have to make an impact. By transforming the entryway, you can change the perspective of your attendees as soon as they pass through. The point where you own the space is the point where you have to make your biggest statement and really have that transformational gateway experience.

An effective and low-cost way to make a big visual impact right from the start are with branded window clings, and also low-tech vinyl on the walls like cut vinyl lettering or murals. These are easy and inexpensive ways to make a big statement. Lighting is also a hugely important element of creating a brand expression. Put some serious thought and effort into lighting the walls, the ceilings, and the graphics in a smart and meaningful way.

Three Types of Brand Messages To Fill Your Space

Once your attendee is inside the brand owned space, there 3 types of visual messaging elements to implement.

  1. Passive Messaging – These are branded elements that you walk by that remind you that you are in this company’s space.
  2. Destination Messaging – When you place a brand focal point or beacon in a space, whether a rotunda or at the end of a long hallways, to act as a guide for your audience's attention or as a way to direct traffic in the show flow.
  3. Lounge Messaging – These are areas where an attendee will sit to take in content apart from the ballroom or breakout sessions, where they jot down notes, network, or recharge. The key is to think bigger than a bunch of white rental furniture and to deliver subtle yet powerful touches like the logo on the pillow or charging stations and tabletops reinforced with brand messaging they may be hearing or seeing in other aspects of the experience.

Environmental Design-Thinking Best Pratice

Just as you would if you were designing a web page or layout for a magazine ad, think white space for your venue design. See the room as positive and negative space, positive space being what’s branded and negative space being what’s not. You have to give your eyes enough white (negative) space to relax.

If you have something very clean and very focused, that’s more powerful than a mess of logos everywhere. It’s a matter of design and composition that is fairly universal and incredibly impactful.


Written by

Doug Randall

Creative Director, Event Innovations / Cramer

Additional contributions by: Jonathan Ronzio

Story Tips for Transforming Venues

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