Holiday Design Without Color

How I faced the Bermuda Triangle of Design and Lived to Tell About It

That happened to me last year when a client came to us wanting a better holiday experience than ever before. In every event design I have created in my career as Creative Director there has been an expectation of color; vibrancy and energy represented through dynamic hues that catch the eye and engulf guests in an experience that we create.

And then we heard the words “innovative black-and-white Christmas.” And it had to be festive. It took us a moment for the ask to set in. Holiday design without color. Working with my team at e=mc² – Event Producer Dwayne Maurer and Event Coordinator Josie Lunn – we went to work keeping this vision on course. But the journey wasn’t easy.

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The concept became “Black-and-White Christmas in the City” that yes, would have festive elements. Our team created a nameless black-and-white metropolis; a walking city that would enable all 2,500 guests to meander through the streets enjoying different cultures via food and entertainment, digital trains and black-and-white IMAG. 

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Funny enough, once our course was set for this Bermuda Triangle of no color, no matter how many times I closed my eyes to visualize this experience I never saw color or even a color partner that could team up to richen the experience.

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I did however see patterns. Our team went wild, adding bold, eye-catching patterns; stripes, chevron, dots, damask, checker boards. Each was site specific.

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We then added reflective surfaces and created two-dimensional elements such as a 140-foot, 3-section staggered custom city backdrop and an origami inspired centerpiece Christmas tree. All of which screamed for color.

But we still didn’t feel it.

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We were struggling. What was lost inside this design Bermuda Triangle was the ability to community the vision. The collaborative process between me, our décor partner and the lighting designer was stalled like a sail without wind. Finally it hit us – we didn’t need color. We needed “high-contrast.” Oy Matey! We finally found our language, the one thing that spoke to us all, the “aha moment”, the “Whiz Bang” if you will.

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Going forward with lighting – 15 patterns of gobos, 240 fixtures – with warm, white light superimposed over our black-and-white city brought it all into focus, even without color.

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The patterns and texture became what caught the guest attention, the starkness created energy, anticipatory because it was so uncommon, a little uncomfortable and yet so strikingly beautiful.  

This event vision challenged our design triangle, it created heated discussions and arguments over what can be achieved and what is possible. But in the end, when you stay the course you eventually find the language it takes to get everyone on board. And at that moment, you leave the triangle because no force of nature (or even the supernatural) can strip you of your vision.

Photos: Leblond Studio Inc.

Editor’s note: There was a twist to this event. Find out more about it at The Special Event when Keri Miller joins the panel of DesignDawgs in Nashville January 7, 4:30 – 6 p.m.for a discussion of design and trends.

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About Keri Miller

Keri Miller, CSEP is Partner and Creative Director of e=mc2 events. Founded in 2001, e=mc2 events has grown to be one of the leading event, production and conference management companies in Canada. With offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, the e=mc2 team has been honored with more than 31 national and international awards, including seven Special Event magazine Gala Awards.

Keri graduated from Mount Royal University with a certificate in Event Management and worked her way up the e=mc2 ranks from Contractor to Event Producer to Creative Director, eventually becoming a partner.  With more than 10 years of award winning event production experience she currently leads the national event team in the production of more than 85 events annually.

She is a proud member of ISES Calgary, and cheerleads feverishly as the ISES Brand Champion for Canada. She has spoken nationally and internationally on topics such as philanthropy, event safety and creative visualization.

Keri specializes in design and logistics with the belief that creativity is really about finding simple solutions through the use of observation, intuition and collaboration.

She also hugs people.

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Keri Miller, CSEP, is Partner and Creative Director of e=mc2 events. Founded in 2001, e=mc2 events has grown to be one of the leading event, production and conference management companies in Canada. With offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, the e=mc2 team has been honored with more than 33 international awards, including eight Special Events magazine Gala Awards.

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