26 April

Almost every conference, especially academic ones, provides badges for attendees. After many years of conference attendance and organizing, I have developed some rather strong opinions about that otherwise obscure topic. Here are my thoughts on good conference badging approaches.

Example Badge: why is the banner and date on the top taking up 1/3 of the badge? We already know why we are here.
Example Badge: why is the banner and date
on the top taking up 1/3 of the badge?
We already know why we are here.
(Click to expand)

First, let me make a couple of observations on why we have badges. The primary purpose of a conference badge is (1) to allow participants to recognize one another, (2) remember each otherís names to facilitate conversation, and (3) help remember people for subsequent follow-up. At least at academic conference, the function of (4) validating that somebody paid his or her registration fee, although important, is secondary. Lastly, the registration process (and sometimes the badge) also serves to (5) record payment and registration for additional optional events like a side workshop or meal.

Based on the idea that name-recognition is the primary function of the badge, the name needs to be large and prominent. After the name, what people care about is the institutional affiliation (university, company, etc). The rest hardly matters. Thus a badge with 8 lines of text including a restatement of the name of the conference, the the date and other useless crap is really sub-optimal (meaning it stinks).

Sample Badge
Sample Badge

Badges worn too low, basically saying

"I don't care about meeting you"

Let's just consider how little space the important stuff uses, and what could be done. The badge below is from an event we organized, but due to the rush and limitations of the layout process name name is a ridiculously small part of the area.

Sample Badge
Example annoying badge:
why is the name so small, and surrounded
by so much white space?
(Click to expand)

Sample Badge
Preferred badge layout

make the name big and clear.
(Click to expand)

Keep in mind that people need to read these things from a few feet away while standing and chatting. Moreover, you often need to do it while pretending they remember the person's name and as if you don't actually need to read the badge to know who you are talking to! Naturally, the person who wears the badge needs to put is someplace visible for this to work out. There are always these people who think it's cool to wear the badge on their hip or belt, as shown above. This seems like a singularly affected (as in pretentious) and it makes them hard to recognize or remember by name.

While we are on the issue of where to wear the badge, note that there are at least 3 common ways to affix a badge to a person: a clip, a pin or a lanyard. These days lanyards have become very popular for some reason. In fact, many places including my own university sell souvenir lanyards! Really? Are these the last resort for people who can find absolutely nothing useful to buy for $2? People presumably like lanyards because you don't need to make a hole in your fancy clothing, and you can carry an arbitrarily heavy little pouch of paperwork around your neck, which some conferences provide instead of a badge. Well, for most men's clothing the little hole is not much of an issue, and the clip (instead of a pin) solves the problem quite nicely. The big problem with lanyards is that the badge hangs so low that it is inconvenient, or even embarrassing, to look at it to determine the person's name or affiliation. Scroll down to the 2nd image on this page to see an example of the problem, and not how the author had to select clothing specifically to assure a lanyard look good. Of course, the problem becomes still worse if the badge is poorly designed. I prefer a clip since it which won't damage a T-shirt by making a hole, and it can go on almost anything.

Sample Badge
Sample Badge

Badges that are positioned to make it awkward for men to read them
without seeming politically incorrect.
Lanyards almost always assure this.

(Photos by Tendenci.org and from
www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/6427901531 licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike license).

If this too long an article about a silly minor issue? Maybe, but hundreds, or even thousands, of people can be inconvenienced at a single meeting by the wrong badge design, and their ability to network is degraded.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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