Back to top

IMEX interviews Ruud Janssen & Roel Frissen of the Event Design Collective

original article

What the International Olympic Committee now knows about event design – and why that matters to your next event

“Events can be demanding for the event owner and the team responsible for delivery. But we firmly believe event design should be fun, democratic and engaging for everyone involved. That way, the result is always a noticeably higher quality event!”

This is the belief that drove Roel Frissen and Ruud Janssen to create #EventCanvas, an event design methodology set to feature strongly at IMEX and later at IMEX America.

At IMEX they, together with colleagues Gerrit Jessen and Angeles Moreno, will be giving many buyers not just a taste of how to use the #EventCanvas but a complete starter course in event design. During EduMonday, as a result of a new three-year partnership agreement with IMEX, they’ll be delivering, in both English and German, their Event Design Certificate programme level 1 of Mastery. This full day workshop will equip teams or individuals with a proven event design methodology – a qualification and an experience that both IMEX and the Event Design Collective have chosen to provide completely free of charge.

What both Roel and Ruud have that shapes their thinking and ideas is around 25 years’ experience in the events industry at the highest level as congress organisers and industry leaders.

We started our conversation with them by asking a fundamental question; what are the essential elements of event design? Ruud answers: “There are three; first, the ability to articulate the behavioural change you want the event to help to achieve; then a way to frame the problem effectively, prototyping multiple solutions and involving multiple contributors, and finally to design the solution.”

Democratic design delivers on two fronts: external audiences, internal stakeholders

Roel says: “Design is now truly mainstream – well, in my view it always was – and organisations want event design to be increasingly democratic. Taking a collaborative approach to event design does not just help to engage and gain the ‘buy-in’ of more people to the final result, the process itself can be unifying. For instance, we’ve been working with the International Olympic Committee, which is obviously a global organisation but one with local organising committees too. The IOC Events team has been trained to use the Event Canvas because it helps to bring the whole team together around the event design using a standard format.

“We’ve been working with public and private sector organisations of all sizes who are successfully using the #EventCanvas to create a full range of different types of event. The number of users – currently 3,000 – and of trained professionals – 800 – continues to grow.”

The whole event plan comes alive on a single sheet of paper

Roel comments: “Taking a democratic and collaborative approach demands a way to capture the inputs of all the contributors. The Event Canvas does this in a highly visual way. It puts a complete event plan on a single sheet of paper. It’s been described as ‘a super helpful analogue system to track the past, organise the present and plan for the future.”

Understanding the Event Canvas principle and how to sketch the canvas for an event are core elements of what Roel, Ruud and their colleagues will be teaching on their course at IMEX. They will also be explaining how to create a prototype for an event using a wall and some sticky Post-It notes and highlighting the role of the event organiser in this; all the initial knowledge that an organiser needs before creating an event using the Event Canvas.

Ruud And Roel Event Canvas

Investing the right resources at the right time – upfront

So, reflecting on all your experience helping organisations to design events, what advice would you pass on to help planners and other stakeholders? Ruud replies “It’s all about resources. Better events result from investing just the right amount of resources into event design. For instance, claiming event design time with a dedicated team. Too often not enough time is allocated to design and the team starts executing immediately without a clear picture of what they need to achieve. Better events also come from inviting just the right number of people to contribute to the design, as diverse a team as possible, so that core stakeholders are all carefully considered and engaged. Too often organisers are working on too small a canvas, they don’t engage enough people and don’t capture that vital big picture.”

Given their love of simplicity, the pair’s advice boils down to six words: ‘start earlier, be democratic, think bigger – oh, and learn to use #EventCanvas!’

For more information, see

Interviewed in April 2017.