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f8 Conference Badges

“Now who are you again?” Facebook designers stumbled upon a novel approach to the usual name tag problems.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Mar 23rd, 2011. Artwork published in 2010.

The conference badge is a challenging design conundrum. John D. Berry duly likens them to highway signs in this Font magazine article. How do we create a template for names which vary widely in length, while making each one legible enough to reduce the chances of an awkward chest gaze?

The in-house design team at Facebook, including Ben Barry and Everett Katigbak, engineered one of the more innovative solutions in their tags for last year’s f8, the Facebook developer conference.

“When we were first talking about the booklets and badges we had a bunch of Field Notes journals laying around that our friends at Gowalla had sent over. We immediately thought it would be a good booklet size and thought too it was a good size for a badge. Never wanting to take the easy way out we decided to go for it and make the badge and booklet one piece.” — Ben Barry






Very useful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrambled for a map or schedule at a conference. Making these part of your badge means you always have them with you. The designers drilled a hole in the corner of the booklet so it could be easily opened and flipped through while still attached to a lanyard. The serendipitous side-effect was that the badges hung at a novel angle, allowing a bit of extra space for larger type and longer names without feeling cramped. The design was a success:

“Logistically it was challenging to produce, but it worked really well in practice. The anecdotal feedback I heard from attendees was very positive.”

The typeface is the Narrow width of Facebook’s identity face, Vista Sans. Xavier Dupré’s informal design sets a friendly tone for the event, and its open aperture and extra large lowercase let names be read at a quick glance from a distance before resorting to the ol’ now who am I talking to here? stare at close range.

Be sure to check out the rest of Ben’s work. He does nice things with type.


11 Comments on “f8 Conference Badges”

  1. Mike Morris says:
    Mar 24th, 2011  9:47 am
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    Really nice work. I'd like to see what the other stickers represent.

  2. Laurie Fitzgerald says:
    Mar 24th, 2011  10:33 am
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    This is fantastic! Could you share how you produced this, how long it took and in what quantity?

  3. Josh says:
    Mar 24th, 2011  10:43 am
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    If they put the names on both sides of the booklet, then this would be absolutely perfect. In practice, conference badges seem to have a 50% chance of being reversed; putting the name on both sides makes them roughly twice as effective!

  4. Rachit says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  2:31 am
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    Whoa ... that's an uber cool guide. I agree with Josh that having the name on the back will make it double as useful.

    I wonder how much coordination it took to get photos from each participant, and how much the cost for production of these tags was. If it's not much, it would be so cool to have this at our next event too!

  5. Mar 25th, 2011  3:20 am
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    From Ben: “All attendees registered through Facebook connect, so we were able to pull their name and profile picture automatically.”

  6. Christoph says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  6:56 am
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    What I especially like about it is the little piece of metal that keep the booklet flat even after leafing through it a few times. Leaving that out would be the obvious mistake to make.

  7. David Magda says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  7:29 am
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    One tweak I would add would be to use one of the "highway" typefaces, which are designed to be read / scanned at a distance:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_(typeface)

    http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2007/04/building-a-better-conference-badge

  8. Yves says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  10:12 am
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    Cute. I feel a little proud-ish we did the "booklet/program/badge" thing for TEDxGeneva ’09.

  9. Fred Conference says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  10:19 am
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    Where is the dudes title? Where is his 'speaker' ribbon? What about different levels of ticket attendance (expo vs full conf)? If you put that on a 'spinner' lanyard, it is always backwards and no one knows the guys name. Who wants to carry around a heavy 'booklet' around their neck?

    A much better approach, are the neck walets that you can put booklets into...

  10. Roger Dooley says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  10:35 am
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    Great way to make the first name very readable. It really helps when you see someone you met at the last conference and can't quite come up with their name.

    If I have a criticism, it's that the company name is not only small but printed in a very light-colored text. That kind of defeats the whole idea of preventing conspicuous badge inspection.

    Roger

  11. Ben Barry says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  10:58 am
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    @Laurie—The cover was a 4 over 1 offset litho for the map and branding elements. Then it was digitally printed for the attendee photo and information. Then it was die cut, folded, and collated with the book. The books themselves were just 4 color offset saddle stitched. It took a week or so to produce, and we made about 2000 pieces.

    @Josh—Yeah we discussed this at length. I felt really strongly about having the map easily accessible. We got non swivel hooks for the lanyards to try and minimize the flipping, but it still happened. Seeing them in practice I was probably wrong, and would move the map to the inside cover if I did it again.

    @Rachit—As Stephen said it was all done with Facebook Connect so we had photos for the vast majority. The cost was not much more than it would have been to do tags and booklets separately. The main cost in combining them was production time. We always seem to make more work for ourselves, but it's worth it.

  12. Mike says:
    Mar 25th, 2011  12:24 pm
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    Only problem is the lanyard. Can't stand having something around my neck (as a climber it always feels dangerous). Same applies to ties.

    Badge holders with space for maps, schedule, etc., at the back have been around for decades, incidentally.

  13. Linh says:
    Mar 27th, 2011  10:06 am
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    I love pieces that have multiple functions. Great work and thanks for sharing all the production information.

  14. Mark says:
    Mar 28th, 2011  12:09 pm
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    Wow, this is great.

    I see Barry has confirmed for Laurie that F8 had to printed these in advance. Does anyone know how walk-ins and last minute registrants got their badges?

  15. Ben Barry says:
    Mar 28th, 2011  1:23 pm
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    @Mark—We had some simple kiss cut sticker sheets made that fit in the front space without obscuring the branding or the hole for the lanyard. We had a couple designers at a special reg table to handle these special cases. They typeset the name of the person on the fly and printed a sticker and put it on the badge for them.

  16. Matt Steel says:
    Apr 4th, 2011  2:43 pm
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    Fantastic work. I love how they played with the grid of the notebook.

  17. Chad Hartin says:
    Apr 5th, 2011  5:16 pm
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    Can you guys tell us how long the production time took? Is it something that you did in-house or did you have it printed by a print house?

    The problem I see with this amazing design is the reality that most of the information is always finalized in the 11th hour.

    Also, were you able to produce/reproduce onsite for the actual event? Or did you have to revert to a traditional name badge?

    Thanks for sharing not only the product but the challenges and difficulties you had to overcome.

  18. Ben Barry says:
    Apr 12th, 2011  4:55 am
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    @Chad—It was printed by Oscar Printing Company in San Francisco. Print production time was ~1 week prior to the conference. We took delivery of the final pieces the day before the conference. Final content for the booklet was finalized 2 weeks out. We had to push pretty hard on the content providers to make sure we had everything locked down in advance, but we were able to do it. Basically we had our dates set with the printer on the drop dead for when we had to have stuff to them to make it, and we told everyone else it was a week ahead of that.

    We had extra books with blank covers made and had special die cut stickers on hand at registration to handle last minute issues. We would typeset the name, print the sticker on an off the shelf ink jet and hand apply it to the badge.

  19. Colin Teevan says:
    Jan 3rd, 2012  3:22 am
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    Fantastic! I love how much thought went into the design of these. I'm not a huge fan of some of the colours used throughout the design, but that's just down to my personal taste. If given one of these booklets I would definitely keep and treasure it after the conference was over.

  20. filip says:
    Jul 18th, 2013  8:26 am
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    Great idea! I know this is an old post, but maybe somebody is still around :) Could you share with the world the measurments of the badge (size)? Thanks!

  21. Ben Barry says:
    Jul 18th, 2013  10:42 pm
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    I’m travelling and don’t have the files on this computer so I can’t say for sure. We were inspired for the size by Field Notes journals, and I don’t think we modified the dimensions. The specs they have listed on their site are 3–1/2” wide by 5–1/2” tall.

    Also, we did another more complex version of this badge / booklet for the 2011 f8 event.

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