Monday, February 22, 2010

Are you a planner or designer? And what's the difference?

On a daily basis I receive phone calls from brides looking for a "wedding planner" or Bar Mitzvah moms looking for a "party planner" or companies looking for an "event planner." About three times a year, though, I get a call looking for a designer. What I find most interesting is that almost no one who contacts me is actually 100% sure of what they are looking for and what a planner of any sort will do for them. So, to help you (and a little bit to help me) I thought I'd do my best to break through the barrier of confusion.

The super-mega-star in the event world, Preston Bailey, just posted an amazing article on his blog addressing the difference between event/wedding planning, design and production and as I too have been wanting to address this for so long, I thought I'd take his lead and help spread the word. So, let me start by defining the three major roles in the independent event biz (meaning not relevant to in-house or corporate event jobs): Design, Production and Planning.

Design: Related to all visual decor elements including, but not limited to, lighting, linens, flowers, table settings, staging, fabric, food presentation and printed materials. This is sometimes called styling (I am a fan of this word as I feel that is has a more accessible tone to it).

Production: After the design is developed, it needs to be produced. This entails everything from arranging the flowers to purchasing the candles and hanging fabric to building backdrops. It is the labor element related to events and what takes them from fantasy to reality.

Planning: The logistical and organizational aspects of events are all planning tasks. Selecting vendors, negotiating contracts, making timelines, setting appointments, etc. Great planning is what makes a party tick because it doesn't matter how beautiful it looks if it is disorganized or lacks flow.

Now, you may be wondering, what do you do, Lindsay? Well... thanks for asking. I am a designer. I dream up all of the ideas for the flowers, colors, lighting effects, charger plates, napkin folds and invitation motifs. I specialize in what I call complete environmental design - so, unlike a traditional retail florist or decorator, I focus on the complete picture of the event starting from save the dates and bridesmaid dresses right through to favor packaging and hotel gifts.

Why this may be confusing for some of you reading this who are thinking... "gosh, I always thought Lindsay was a planner," is because I did, in fact, start my business in 2001 as a planning company. For the first 4 years I was in business, I did planning almost exclusively, but toward the end of 2005/beginning of 2006 I began to transform my planning-only business to include design services as well. At that point, though, there were so few event designers and the term was rarely used, so I stuck with planner and just told people that I also worked on decor once they were in my office!

Now, however, Lindsay Landman Events is a full-service design shop with our own amazing team of artists who support my visions and who lead my production. The great benefit, though, of my many years of experience as a planner, is that I have trained my team to plan events as I always have so that our clients can benefit from having both planning and design services under one roof.

Thanks, Preston, for helping me get this blog post started (oh, and also for being the pioneer of the event design world - smile, wink!). I would love to hear from any readers out there about what you think I can do to eliminate the planner/designer confusion. Ideas?

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's on Deck

I have been totally MIA from the blog for 10 days now... sorry. I have been knee-deep in two different designs and several written proposals for the past week and I have realized that my creative juices run only so far. Seems that I can't think of clever things to write about on the blog when I am simultaneously using my clever-ness to create event designs and woo new clients! So, I figured the most interesting thing I can do is share with you what I'm working on so you can have a window into what goes on at Lindsay Landman Events in between parties.

Both design projects I am working on now are part of my new Design Consulting service offerings. This is the first year I am offering the consultations and I LOVE it! It makes great design so much more accessible to everyone by allowing my consulting clients to take the "Style File" that I create for them to their local vendors wherever they live and have the designs produced.

In any case, the first project is for a summer wedding in a hotel ballroom. The bride gave me limited guidance from the outset, but after I poked and prodded a bit, I was able to discover some of the design elements and colors that turn her on. At this first phase of the process, I am developing her "Style Book" to explore three different color palettes (three shades of blue, each with different accent colors) and overall themes (garden elegance or old Hollywood glamour). Now I am looking forward to the bride's selection of color palette and concept so that I can take that more specific information to create the exact elements of the design.

My second design consulting project is for a Bar Mitzvah taking place in an event venue that I know well having worked there many times. My client originally came to me 100% certain that her son wanted a baseball theme, but after our conversations about the true essence of what he had in mind for the look and feel of his party, she soon came back to me saying that he was open to my ideas. Yippee! I am working on a vintage feeling that is much more earthy and textural. Something that always bugs me about Bar/Bat Mitzvah decor is that it often feels so synthetic... the same furniture slip-covered in a million different stretch fabrics, foam-core out the wazoo, goofy props popping out of flower arrangements and way, way too much glitter. In the New York area, most teens are exposed to so many of these parties and I think adults under-estimate their ability to appreciate something a little more subtle and a little less shiny.

So, in case you were interested, that's what's been going on in my head. Since design is best done in collaboration, I welcome your thoughts and ideas on these conundrums that I am still sorting out:

1.) For the summer wedding design, is there anything you would implement to translate a garden feel into a formal ballroom?
2.) For the Bar Mitzvah, what would you want to see on the dinner tables that is neither floral nor foam core (or the like) that still says (quietly) "baseball?"

See... this design thing ain't as easy as it looks! :-) Drop me a comment if you want to be a part of my process.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Inspired by.... mixed media

When I think back to my own wedding (October 2001), one of the things I regret the most about my design is the lack of depth. Once I selected my color palette, I became so inextricably tied to it that I was unable to consider the broader spectrum of design elements that would have enhanced the basic palette. Now, hundreds of weddings and design projects later, one of the things I am most proud of is the development of my understanding of and inclination to bring together unexpected elements, colors and textures that broaden the horizons of my designs.

I see, again and again, my clients looking for ways for everything to "match" and I feel their frustration when exact colors aren't available across varied media (blush flower to blush ink to blush fabric). I believe that it is a product of experience to find the line between what I call "matchy-matchy" and "cohesive" and sometimes it takes a lot of guts to step away from the ease and simplicity of just matching to the bold complexity of coordinating.

What I describe as "mixed media" is one of the more evolved design decisions within the context of events: putting together materials and textures that may not ordinarily or organically be found together. For example, a black laquer vase on an unfinished wood table or a candleholder with antique finish on a graphic patterned table runner. These choices are definitely out of the box, but when done well, are so sophisticated that they elevate your decor out of the realm of Brides Magazine and into the pages of Architectural Digest. Oooh... it gives me chills!

What embracing this concept does is let you feel free from the age old party-planning concern... do I have to match the existing decor in the room? No, no and no! Imagine the excitement of approaching a home in the country with a rustic exterior and then walking in to find an amazing modern kitchen with stainless appliances and polished concrete counters. Or, think of the woman on the street who makes you look twice because she is wearing a classic black suit and killer lime green, croc print stilettos. What better place for an element of pleasant surprise than a party?

Let your classic, ornate ballroom disappear behind your bold, vibrant color palette or mirrored plexiglass tabletops. Not being tied to one matchy-matchy "theme" (oooh, do I h*te that word!) gives you the flexibility to let your personality shine through your decor. What person, after all, has such limited dimension?

Now, I don't necessarily suggest you brave this alone unless you have a pretty good eye because the line between a hot look and a hot mess is paper thin, but the reward that comes with a little bit of risk is far greater than that of the simple satisfaction of playing it safe. Good luck!

James Burrows' Bel-Air home mixed contemporary art (stack on left wall) with English furnishings and soft lines (as in window arch).

Interior designer Craig Wright made a bold statement with a polished coal coffee table in this traditional study.

Photos courtesy of Architectural Digest

Fellow event designer David Beahm styled this amazing event at the Angel Orensanz Foundation using not only contrasting textures, but also colors, which gives the event life separate from the space which houses it.

Photo by Fred Marcus

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rustic Tuscan Feast

Ok - 5 things I loved about designing this Tuscan-themed birthday celebration dinner:

1. I only had about 10 days to put it together - I probably shouldn't admit this, but nothing turns me on like a race to the finish.
2. This was a surprise party, so we only had about 2 hours to completely remove all existing furnishings from the loft, arrange the flowers, tie the napkins, set the table, set the buffets... well, everything! Reference point #1.
3. I adore using non-floral decor elements to make a statement and while we had 5 flower arrangements on this table, the bulk of the decor was created with green-market produce.
4. Rattan chargers, burlap runner and raffia ties... in other words: texture, texture and more texture!
5. The venue. Sharon Schuster's unbelievable photo studio is the most perfect place for an intimate dinner party because it has the "wow factor" of a beautiful City loft combined with the warmth of a chic private home.

Thanks to Sharon Schuster for these beautiful photos and for inviting me to style this special event.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So I threw my hat in the ring...

In November, the International Special Events Society sponsored their first Tabletop Design Competition in conjunction with the fabulously huge Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. foodie event held at La Venue in Chelsea. I did not come away a winner, but I loved every minute of designing this graphic, edgy tabletop and was very proud to compete in the company of the other stellar designers. I learned so much about building a design for competition and would relish the opportunity to do it again.

The design was built around my nagging desire to create an acrylic tower which would elevate candles above the tabletop. So, the structure was made of the open-topped acrylic box attached to a mirrored acrylic base with only a very thin acrylic tube which would be the core for the pillar of pave'd white flowers.

When I was wandering around the garment district to find fabric to make this tablecloth and chair caps, I wasn't sure what I wanted, but when I saw this black and white pattern I knew I had to have it. Whenever possible, I love to work with garment fabrics (rather than tabletop or upholstery) because they are so soft and drape so beautifully.

Since aqua was my must-have color for 2009, it was the natural choice for the accent color. I covered a styrofoam box with the fabric to elevate the centerpiece and then made dupioni silk napkins backed in black cotton to continue with the pop of color. We created the menus in-house by layering a black patterned translucent sheet of scrapbooking paper onto aqua card stock and then mounted the printed menu card on top.

Finally, I set the scene with a black fabric back drop and framed the table with mini-vignettes made up of an aqua vase with white dendrobium orchids, black vase with white branches and some of my fave black votives atop a white acrylic column.

Photos by Sharon Schuster