We've scoured the web and asked the experts what exactly should and shouldn't go on a conference badge. These folks have spent years testing and redesigning thousands of badges. First we chat with Mark Littlewood, who has run Business of Software for 16 years. After many reiterations, he shares with us the latest design.

Mark Littlewood: We ask people when they register what they want other people to talk to them about, and that appears on their badge.

You might notice that the biggest thing on the badge is the first name. Then it says who you are and your Twitter handle. If people are too shy to introduce themselves, then they can go and find you on Twitter. And then it says, “Talk to me about ___.”

TM: Did it take you a while to get to that current badge design?

ML: I’ve been in the business a long time, so I guess yes, but the kind of format that we’ve had is fairly standard now.

Then when the badge inevitably flings around, you have the person’s name again. Because that’s the first thing you want to know about someone… Then you can say, “Oh, hi Joe...”. And then we also have a tiny print schedule on the back.

TM: The schedule looks upside down?

Business of Software badge design

ML: Well, it’s not upside down. We quite often write, “You think this is upside down, but it’s not.” It’s actually because people have their badges on and then they look at the schedule and it’s the right way around for them.

TM: So thoughtful.

ML: It’s all those little things that make people go, “Oh, that’s nice.”

TM: I feel like all those design details add up to a better experience. Sometimes it's one thoughtful bit that can lower the social barrier and encourage me to speak to somebody about their photography or passion for pinball...something I would have never known that otherwise.

A Badge is a Badge, Right? Nope.

Badge design is a passionately debated topic on Twitter. Brian Fitzpatrick has attended and spoken at more than 300 conferences and has seen the whole spectrum of conference badge designs.

He became so passionate about conference badges, he launched Badge Reviews with his friends Conrad Fuhrman & Shawn Smith.

Together they spell out their 8 rules of a perfectly designed conference badge:

  1. Everyone must wear a badge
  2. The first name should be large, 72pt minimum while the last name should be large too, but not take equal weight. The font should be easily readable.
  3. Fifteen feet is your target goal for readability. Print your design early and often and test across the room in various lights for readability. Try long and short names.
  4. Holders should not be able to flip over. Use badges and lanyards that utilize the top two holes in the corners of the holder.
  5. 4” x 6” should be the standard size of the badge/holder.
  6. Have attendees provide you 3 things they’re interested in. Put this on their tag in readable distance. This gives folks an excuse to look at someone’s name and create talking points.
  7. Make the conference logo and title really small and put them at the bottom. Everyone knows what conference they’re at. Seriously.
  8. Lanyards need to be adjustable in length and comfortable to wear for an entire day.

Looking for Some Badge Inspiration?

Check out these badges from conferences great and small.

Where Am I Now?

At Etsy's first New York conference, they printed the map on the back of the badges. It kept attendees' hands free while wandering around the large exhibition hall.

Etsy's 2013 badge with map attached. Photo by The Photo Booth Party

You've Attended How Many Times?

MicroConf encourages conversations around the number of times you've attended. If you're a newbie, and you see another newbie badge, you might be more inclined to introduce yourself. Or if you see someone who has been many times, you might talk to them about their previous experiences.

Dele Taylor tweeted about his MicroConf badge

Want To Bring Out the Child At Heart?

ST8GE ran with their love of legos and let attendees build their own name tags. While you don't have to get this playful, some conferences now offer a table of stickers to let attendees personalize their badges.

ST8GE instagrammed their 2018 badges

Looking For Something Eco-Friendly?

A popular conference badge at conferences trying to go green are these plant seed papers. They are biodegradable & grow into wildflowers once you plant them.

Chris Ready tweeted about his badge from the We Are Museums Conference.

Want Attendees to Show Off Their Personalities?

Sometimes your attendees want to show off their personalities rather than just where they work. Limmud Seattle gave their attendees an opportunity to share as much about themselves with these stackable stickers.

Harry Reis, a speaker at Limmud Seattle, tweeted about his customizable conference badge.

Okay, Where Can I Print My Badges?

ConferenceBadge.com is a great resource for designing and printing your badges. They offer badges you can print before your event as well as on-site printing.