Event Planner vs. Event Designer: The Details that Matter

Within the event industry there are two types of event professionals; “Event planner” and “Event Designer” two very similar terms but do you really know what they both entail and what their differences really are?

These professionals will often work together, and sometimes the same professional plays both roles for a single event. Both careers are challenging, allow you to work with people, give you the chance to advance and work and earn as much as you want, and provide the opportunity for entrepreneurship.

As you plan your future and decide on an education that will help you achieve your goals, it is important to understand what the careers you are interested in entail. Being torn between designing and planning, you need to know what makes these roles similar and different so you can make the best choice for you.


Salary and Market Demand for Event Designers and Planners

The market demand right now, and in the near future, is positive for both professions. The demand for trained professionals who can plan, design, manage, and run events ranging from small weddings to large, multi-day trade conferences is big. The success or failure of these events is determined by the people planning and designing them, so demand for those who are good at what they do and have the training and education to back up their skills is also high.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry as a whole is growing faster than average job growth. The event industry is growing at a rate of ten percent, which means that over the next several years there will be nearly 10,000 new positions available for event designers and planners.


Another similarity between these two related careers is salary. There is a wide range in salaries within both professions, from $25,000 to $92,000 per year for event designers and a similar range for event planners. The average salary for an event planner is $47,350 and for an event designer is $45,009. The salaries can vary widely because there is a huge potential for freelancing in this industry and for choosing to work smaller or larger, higher-paying events. Freelance designers and planners can choose to work part time, full time, or even more.


What Does an Event Planner Do?

An event planner is a professional who handles all the logistics of an event, from finding a location to making sure vendors are paid. It is important to understand that working with events is not the same as being a party planner. While there may be parties involved in events, such as a wedding reception or a meet and greet for a professional conference, events have specific goals in mind that must be met, rather than simply being a party at which guests have fun.


An event planner takes the client’s goal, budget, requirements, and ideas, and puts all the pieces together to develop a plan for the event. There are many specific tasks an event planner may do, including:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss the event and plan.
  • Finding and securing the event site.
  • Taking bids from vendors and selecting vendors, such as caterers, florists, and entertainers.
  • Securing transportation.
  • Developing a timeline for the event.
  • Coordinating services and events.
  • Hiring staff.
  • Supervising the setup of the event.
  • Monitoring the event to ensure it runs smoothly.
  • Troubleshooting any logistical problems that arise.


What Does an Event Designer Do?

The logistics of an event come together with the effort of an event planner, but it doesn’t include creating a theme, tone, look, mood, and atmosphere of an event. A wedding or convention can’t have just any decorations, food, or entertainment. All these elements have to coordinate with each other and with the overall goal of the event, and it is the work of the event designer to create it.


Even if an event goes off without a hitch because of the diligent work of a planner, it is the work of the event designer that makes it memorable. This work is important and goes beyond creating a wedding reception that looks and feels as romantic as the bride wants. For instance, an event designer may be hired to design a launch event for a brand’s latest product. The event has to have the feel, look, and atmosphere that not only matches the brand but also impresses attendees and leaves them with a positive memory of the brand and product. In actually designing an event, there are many tasks a designer may perform:

  • Researching a brand or event
  • Meeting with clients to get ideas for the design
  • Developing the image and atmosphere for the event
  • Selecting specific elements to match the desired image, including color, food, decorations, linen, entertainment, and more
  • Using design software to design the space for the event
  • Designing and creating photo shoots


Event Planners often Supervise Designers

When the planner and designer for an event are two separate professionals, the planner is usually higher in the event hierarchy. The planner may even be responsible for finding and hiring an event designer. Depending on the individuals, the planner may give the designer free reign to be creative or may give strict guidelines based on client expectations. The planner also may act as a go-between for the client and the designer or the designer may sit in on meetings.


Event Designers Have the Creative Work

Perhaps the most important difference between an event designer and an event planner is that the designer is the one exercising creativity the most. This is the professional who makes sure all the artistic elements of an event, like color, flowers, music, and food, come together to represent the theme, desired atmosphere, or brand. To be a good event designer means having a solid background in art, design, or both. To do this job well you have to understand a little bit of everything: interior design, color theory, photography, and even the psychology of design.


Both Event Designers and Planners Must Please the Client

In an artistic and creative field, it can be easy to forget that a client’s needs must be met on a job. The ultimate goal for both planners and designers is to satisfy the client’s desire for the event. The client has to be satisfied, or the job is not effectively executed, no matter how well planned or designed the event may be. This means that both careers require working with people, collaborating, and taking a client's ideas and suggestions and making them a reality.


Qualities of Excellent Event Designers and Planners

Both those working in event design and event planning must have certain qualities in order to be successful. There are many common qualities of good designers and planners that are important, including:

  • Good organizational skills
  • The ability to work within a budget
  • Good communication skills with staff and clients
  • Time management skills
  • Flexibility and adaptable to change
  • Willingness to work long hours, nights and weekends
  • Attention to detail

Additionally, an event planner must be able to negotiate with vendors, have excellent interpersonal skills, be calm under pressure, and be able to solve problems on the fly. An event designer must be able to keep up with current trends in design and events, develop new ideas, and match creative ideas with the client’s vision.


Becoming an Event Designer or Planner

To work in this field, especially as an event designer, requires a solid education. Many of the skills of a planner can be learned on the job and through a mentor, but designers need more refined skills. They need to have a deeper understanding of design theory and art, and they also need to be able to use design software. The best way to get into this career is to get a diploma or certificate in event design or styling. A four-year degree is not necessary, but a program that focuses specifically on event design is a great way to get the necessary skills and to prove to prospective employers and clients that you have those skills.


Experience on the ground is also important in getting into event design or planning, so look for an academic program that allows you to do hands-on work. You want a program that is staffed by instructors who have experience working in the industry. It should also have some type of internship or field work program. Having that real-world experience is crucial for developing your skills and for landing your first job.


Are you ready to start an exciting career as an event designer? If this sounds like the kind of work you have been dreaming of doing, check out the academic event design programs available that can set you on the path to your dream career.

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