TransparencyCamp is a two day ‘unconference’ about open government hosted by the Sunlight Foundation. For the past 3 years, I've been lucky enough to be the main designer and increasingly help to coordinate the event. This has allowed me to learn from mistakes, like not having enough signage, and to iterate on a visual theme. The first year, the design was handed to me 3 weeks before the event, and with a lot of stress, I pulled it off. Since then, I've set a timeline for the event, starting with a moodboard in January, and closing with a wrap up blog post after the event in early June.
Between all of that, I update the style of the TransparencyCamp website, design shirts for staff and volunteers, design and mail-merge over 500 name badges, deal with the graphics budget and vendors, train staff volunteers to shoot still photography, design and produce signage and wayfinding, supervise the design and production of a 6' robot named Wallace, and manage signage and photography volunteers at the event. Wheh.
One of the things I love about TransparencyCamp is that it is a large essentially unscheduled event. You can't plan what is going to happen when you have over 500 people and just a loose schedule of events. The branding has to be loud enough to guide people though the unconference format in an unfamiliar space and convey a sense of excitement and energy. The implementation has to be flexible and allow for things to change, like a picnic session in the park, or when lunch food trucks park in unexpected locations.
Moodboard for TransparencyCamp
It's important for the conference to have a moodboard to set the direction and style for the event. The moodboard is shared internally, so all departments can see the direction and have a consistent approach. Each year, the event has to feel similar to the previous year, but different enough to be unique.
Budget limited us to only printing in one color, but we sprung for softer fitted shirts, which made the staff less grumbly about wearing them. I chose kiwi green because it's a loud color that not many people wear, so the staff and volunteers would be easily identifiable. The shirts prominently display the name of the event, as well as the organization name, while still being a little fun and campy.
Tri-fold name badge design
In my third year of designing this unconference, I've learned a lot about optimizing badge design. Having brightly colored badges and lanyards helps organizers know who is part of the event, and who is not, at a glance. Single alligator clip badge lanyards flip. Therefore, it's important to put the participant's name on both sides of the badge. Some people in the open data community only know each other by twitter handle, this element is just as important as a name.
Our badges are tri-fold. Since it is an unconference, we do not have a set session schedule. However, we do have set time for sessions and provide a space for participants to write what sessions they end up choosing, which is why the inside has a white background. Providing maps of the venue, as well as key things like power outlet banks and restrooms, decreases the number of lost participants. The WiFi info is in the badges, as well as every other possible place that we can print or display it. Everywhere.
The entire conference was secretly and evenly sorted into 10 teams, each associated with a camp-y icon in a different color. Teams were used for a short icebreaker, and a friendly Lego competition I coordinated throughout the event.
We effectively use QR codes on badges. Yes, you read that correctly. It eases the crush of the check-in process, when you just have to scan the QR code on the badge in order to check someone in. For lunch, we scanned badges to figure out which lunch option was the most popular, and what vegetarians preferred. We also used the QR codes for participants who borrow computer dongles, and to track them down when they did not return the equipment.
Within the event, there are small groups of people that need to be called out and their significance denoted on their badges. For TransparencyCamp, press, sponsors, super-campers (awesome people who donate more than the ticket price) and participants in our networking ambassador program need special recognition. I created custom stickers, and printed them with moo.com so I could vary the quantity of each design.
Signage & Wayfinding
Another design challenge I faced was how to make the conference look and feel like a friendly camp. We used big bold swashes of color and made really large signs to help people find their way around. Velcro arrows allowed the signs to be flexible and relevant as the day progressed and unexpected events arose.
One of the design elements that changed over the years is the inclusion of a robot. I left it out of the branding in 2013, and it was missed. The event lost its mascot. So for 2014, I fought to bring him back in a new and more awesome way, a 6' tall standing robot that waved, talked and held the welcome sign. Putting him in the budget was not easy, but I pushed for it, and clever developers made the animation happen. And it paid off. Many photos were taken with him, which was great social promotion for the event, and he is a lasting creation that will make many returns to TransparencyCamp and beyond.
A TransparencyCamp tradition is to provide lunch from food trucks. It's more cost effective, and tastier than catering options. However, serving 500 people, from 3 food trucks in under an hour is a production. Learning from a disastrous line situation, signage helps make the process fun and efficient. Menu holder volunteers show you the options, answer questions about their particular food truck, and generally try to convince you theirs is the best option. Bold text and an actual human are the best way to get the message across. The last person in each line is passed an "end of line + name of truck" sign so participants know which line to stand in. And each truck is marked with a "TransparencyCamp ONLY" sign so a passerby won't clog the queue.
The TransparencyCamp website is simple and responsive. Bright colors and fun details, like ribbons and arrows bring the feel and branding into the design. Because WiFi and cellular service can be strained at the event, it's a lightweight site that features the schedule on the day of the event for mobile. transparencycamp.org
Infographics for wrap up blog post
Using data from the custom iPhone app, as well as our registration site, we pulled together some big numbers as well as a couple of charts of the data. We can use this data to inform how we run the event next year, as well publishing some fun graphics in our wrap up post.
Full blog post and more infographics at: Being Transparent about TransparencyCamp