10 New Takes on Name Badges

Creative suppliers and event hosts are reinventing the standard name badge.

By Martha C. White July 11, 2013, 12:14 PM EDT

For its first New York conference, Etsy created compact booklet-style programs that doubled as badges.

Photo: The Photo Booth Party

Colored lights
Make It Urz will laser-etch just about anything—including acrylic name badges embedded with LED lights in different colors for speakers, sponsors, and so on. At $25 each, the badges aren’t cheap, but they’re undeniably eye-catching. The company can also laser-etch colored anodized aluminum, starting at a more budget-friendly $5 per badge.

Radar Wizard acts as a matchmaker between attendees. The R.F.I.D.-equipped, business-card-size gadget attaches by Velcro to the back of a conventional badge holder and can communicate with other badges. Based on the answers guests give in a pre-event questionnaire, the badge will light up when it identifies another attendee in close range who gave a similar response. The daily cost to rent the gadgets is $12 per unit, or $20 for a three-day rental, plus $500 for an on-site technician.

Program replacement
For Hello Etsy, the retail site’s first New York City conference held in March, organizers wanted a multifunctional badge that would reflect the no-waste theme. The result was a compact booklet that gave the 500 attendees information about schedules, speakers, and getting around the city, along with attendees’ names, in lieu of a traditional conference program.

Kleertech’s “Bio-D” sleeves are made from a biodegradable polymer compliant with the American Society for Testing and Materials’ standards. The material needs to be exposed to the elements to activate decomposition (for example, in a landfill), so storing a box in the office closet won’t render the items unusable. For badges, the cost starts from 22 cents per unit; biodegradable lanyards start from 43 cents each.

For Funconf, a gathering of 120 Web developers and designers, organizers designed the name badges as keepsakes. Designer Kilian McMahon wanted to pay homage to the seafaring history of the event’s location—an island off the coast of Galway, Ireland—so he lasered attendees’ names in a stylized Celtic font onto sanded pieces of Irish oak and hung them from nautical-style cotton rope.

QR codes
The U.S. Professional Tennis Association uses QR codes on its name badges to track members’ continuing education credits. Following each education session, a QR code unique to that session is placed outside the door. To receive credit, users scan their badge, then the session’s QR code.

Attendees at the 2012 Vimeo Festival used their N.F.C.-enabled access badges to check in to screenings and workshops, play games on a giant video wall, and even link to one another’s Vimeo accounts at designated “friending kiosks.” Developed by MadSci Labs, a division of ad agency Havas Worldwide New York, the passes identified attendees in ­writing as well as via digital communication, bringing a real-time social media element to the 2,000-person festival.

Meal cards
At the recent North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, attendees were able to pay for their on-site meals with a simple wave of their N.F.C.-enabled name badges. Manufactured by ITN International, the badges were preloaded with each attendee’s meal per diem. ITN International has also tested turning N.F.C.-enabled badges into public-transit passes at the Smart Card Alliance Payments Summit in Salt Lake City.

Mighty Badge badge covers are attached by magnets, so attendees can choose where to put the IDs and not worry about them twisting around or ruining clothing. The printed name tags easily slip into the covers, and they’re available for ink-jet or laser printers. The cost is about $100 for a 10-unit package.

Icebreaker questions
TEDx Naperville, Illinois, organizers added a trio of icebreaker questions to the online registration form (“Before I die, I want to___”; “Favorite song?”) and included the answers on the badges in the hopes that offbeat responses and shared interests would spark dialogue. “It’s important to get people to talk about passions, dreams, and desires,” said curator Arthur Zards.

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