We didn’t have to go very far to find an expert on event branding. Paula Johnson started her career in public relations for a small agency and then at a sporting goods company. She went solo as a copywriter, then took design courses to let her create websites, newsletters, ads, and other marketing projects from start to finish. \
A few years ago, I asked her to create a new look for DiMadeline & Company, and now the logo she created is on everything from this website to our Zoom background to our event uniforms.
Most people understand that a company or a product needs a logo. Why does an event need branding?
Branding lets you start building interest in your event weeks or even months in advance. Plus, the right graphic makes it easier to create invitations, signage, social media posts, and other components.
Branding is especially important during the pandemic when so many virtual events are competing for attention.
What is your creative process?
I’ve created logos for nonprofit fundraisers, in-store events, stage shows, community meetings, and even private parties. My first step is always understanding the audience.
I ask my client about the age range of the attendees and what might motivate them to attend. Then I can start brainstorming. If the client has a general theme in mind, like “summer garden” or “classic Hollywood,” I add that to the mix.
How do you come up with a name for an event?
I start by listing a lot of words related to the theme and the type of event. Then I start combining and recombine the words together until something clicks.
A great example of this when you asked me for help with a charity’s annual fundraiser. The event was to be held at a bowling alley with a 1950s theme. I came up with “Pins, fins and grins!” and suggested you park a vintage car (with fins!) at the venue so guests could take selfies.
One of my easiest projects was the logo for The Father ‘Hood, a stage show featuring three dads telling stories about parenting. The right combination of typefaces can communicate a lot.
However, not every event needs a catchy name. I designed a new logo each year for “The Ice House Anniversary Show to Benefit Hillsides.” That’s a mouthful, but this event sold out every year for decades. Comedy fans and Hillsides supporters were eager to buy tickets without even knowing who was performing. I developed a fun, bright graphic each year and used it on all print and digital layouts.
What’s the biggest mistake you see in event branding?
Clutter! I can always tell when a logo was “designed by committee” because there are too many graphic elements and typefaces. A complicated logo loses impact at a small size. With the rise of social media and smartphones, an event logo needs to work in various shapes and sizes.
The logo should be legible in black and white if you'll need to print it on raffle tickets or in a newspaper ad.
What’s your advice for people who need to create their own branding?
Keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to build a logo on a great stock illustration. I use iStock and have found design elements for as little as $11. Don’t settle for the typefaces that came with your computer. There are lots of resources for free or low-cost typefaces that can transform your event name.
Also, take the time to make a list of every place the logo will be used. That means printed items, web graphics, and even merchandise like tote bags or apparel. You might even want to project the logo on the venue wall.
One of my favorite projects was the temporary tattoo I designed for a clothing store’s first anniversary. Instead of using a discount coupon at the event, the customer needed to flash the tattoo. A few customers put the event tattoo on their babies! I just wish I had taken some photos!