The story of a TEDx theme — from brainstorm to big day

(Photo: Thomas Suchanek / TEDxVienna)

(Photo: Thomas Suchanek / TEDxVienna)

For their sixth event, the team at TEDxVienna wanted a theme that was really special — and an event that incorporated it in every way. Below, TEDxVienna organizer Vlad Gozman shares how that happened, from start to finish:

When brainstorming themes for the event, we asked ourselves, “What if this event is about ‘What if…’?” Thus, the theme of the TEDxVienna 2015 was born.

TEDxVienna's 2015 theme logo

TEDxVienna’s 2015 theme logo (Photo: TEDxVienna)

Part I: The Logo

We started by creating a logo that felt like an open-ended question, to draw the viewer into the mindset of asking, “What if …?”

A question as deep and personal as that needs to feel human in order to be approachable, we thought, so the first step was to find a beautiful handwritten font. We chose Olympic Branding. Next, we worked on the ellipsis. The punctuation becomes more solid from left to right to imply that ideas become more solid over time, as you question and ponder them.



TEDxVienna drawing app (Photo: TEDxVienna)

Part II: Community interaction

Next, we continued fleshing out the  “What if…”  theme by creating a web app that let the community interact with the theme. Users could interpret “What if …” however they liked, by drawing pictures around the final circle in the logo. Our event landing page was transformed into a drawing board for these pictures, and users could name and submit them to be included in a gallery of user-created designs.

After a week of promotion within the community, mainly relying on Facebook ads, people started to respond. Over the course of the whole pre-event period and even a few weeks after the conference, the gallery collected over 240 drawings which you can browse through here.


TEDxVienna 2015 event app

TEDxVienna 2015 event app (Photo: TEDxVienna)

Part III: Event app and marketing visuals

In parallel, we released a mobile event app on both iOS and Android systems, featuring TEDxVienna’s upcoming events. Among logistics information like the event schedule and speaker background information, we also included a mobile version of the drawing app.

TEDxVienna 2015 speakers (Photo: TEDxVienna)

TEDxVienna 2015 speakers (Photo: TEDxVienna)

We created graphics for speaker announcements containing a speaker’s photo encompassed by a black circle and their name “handwritten” in the beautiful “What if…” font. Then we printed 160 shirts for our event volunteers with only a circle on the front. We got our creative team and everyone else willing to draw each one in a unique way. By hand!

Volunteers hold a TEDxVienna t-shirt (Photo: TEDxVienna)

Volunteers hold a TEDxVienna t-shirt (Photo: TEDxVienna)


Part IV: On-site visuals
For our attendees, our partner Das Viadukt offered us their screen-printing facility and we decided to print a goodie-bag for each of our 1,200 attendees by hand:

A video posted by TEDxVienna (@tedxvienna) on


TEDxVienna namebadge (Photo: TEDxVienna)

During the event, we had a dedicated room within the venue where attendees could personalize their bags with special markers. Attendees could even draw their “What if…”s on their name badges! As part of the concept we also printed TEDx-branded notepads with the by-now notorious circle in the middle, and gave them to graphic and visual artists in Vienna. We decided to integrate these in the printed version of the program booklet and even build the event and speaker introduction animations from them:

We were almost done, when one last spark of inspiration ignited. What if we extended the drawing action on one of the cars provided by our partner Zipcar to handle event logistics? So with one last push just one day before the conference we gathered illustrators from London-based group expanded eye and Viennese design studio adhocrates collective, while also getting Zipcar to sign off on the car-painting action and to deliver a white model from their fleet. Their output was stunning, to such a degree that we used it to drive our speakers to the conference venue. And they were blown away! Now, weeks after the event, the car is still being used with our branding as part of Zipcar’s car sharing service.

What if... car painting

It was the first time that we managed to do a cross-medium integration at this scale, but the effort definitely paid off, as it helped us to reach a new level of community engagement with ripple effects even after the conference.

For more information about TEDxVienna, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter and on the web.

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