Event Design & Design Thinking

On Tuesday 11th September The EMA hosted its first event after the summer holidays at the wonderful London Edition Hotel. The topic of Discussion was Design Thinking presented by the one and only Kim Myhre from MCI Experience. Members (including some of our Scottish contingent) and a few other invited guests had a wonderful evening. The venue were very attentive, we were located in Studio 1 for our presentation and had drinks and canapes on the balcony. The food was a delight I especially liked the Mac and Cheese bowl! After Kim’s interesting and engaging talk, cocktails, conversation and canapes were a plenty.

Now I hear you asking, “What is Design Thinking?”. Rather than me offering up a rather clumsy summary the team at MCI Experience have given me a helping hand to make sure I get the explanation on point, so here we go…….

One of the challenges that seems to be consistently shared by nearly every event planner is finding a way to balance what is perceived to have worked in the past with what needs to change for the future.

Changing audiences ultimately mean that event formats must evolve. Relying on the traditional approaches and expertise that the events industry has been using for years to design event experiences will not be sufficient to create the next generation of event experiences.  A new interdisciplinary approach that engages a much wider range of skills and disciplines is the future of experience design.

How can we change the way we think and create new innovative solutions for event and experience delivery? Design thinking is a unique way of problem solving but with a solutions-focused and human-centric approach. The attendee or audience is very much at the centre of the design thinking process. By developing a deeper understanding of your target audience, you gain insight and empathy to come up with more strategic and creative event solutions.

Here we outline the key principles of Design Thinking and why it’s such an effective approach to developing attendee-focused solutions.

Action Phases of Design Thinking

These actions are not always sequential and instead, you should look at it as an overview of the phases that contribute to an innovative project and can happen in any order through the design thinking process.

  1. Empathise – with your audience

    A design-led approach looks at identifying with your target audience for through personas or empathy maps for example.

  2. Define – your audiences’ needs, their problem/s, and your insights

    Identify what your attendees’ needs and pain points are – this will help you to frame your solutions around your audience and the project/business objectives.

  3. Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions

    Come up with as many ideas as possible through brainstorming to go beyond the obvious solution routes.

  4. Prototype – to start creating solutions

    Build and visualise ideas through storyboarding and prototypes.

  5. Test – solutions

Review and refine – by testing concepts with a test group you can see what resonates and how concepts can be developed further.

Why Design Thinking is a unique way of thinking?

  1. Using both sides of the brain to solve problems
  2. Switching at will between rational and intuitive approach
  3. Iterating between analysis and creation
  4. Deal with ill-defined problems
  5. Target to improve user’s experience

In practice, design thinking is a set of planning principals that enables you to move from the traditional approach to event planning towards a more structured, attendee-centric, insights-driven and strategic way of planning events.

In design thinking, the focus is on the people and experience.  It is a human-centered approach to event planning that helps us to get a deep, empathetic understanding of our attendee’s wants and needs, whilst encouraging creative consideration of a wide array of innovative event experiences and solutions. We’re all designers and with design thinking we can revolutionise the event experience to engage deeper with our audiences.

If you are interested in finding out more of how to utilise design thinking or strategies for experience design and audience engagement, get in touch with MCI Experience!

Thank you to all who attended a big thank you to Jack & Ollie and the rest of the team at the London Edition Hotel, to Kim and the team at MCI Experience for a brilliant presentation and to JT from Aniseed Photo for taking great photos of the event.


Author – James Hitchen, EMA General Manager

Contribution from - MCI Experience