On the Ball: Designing a Gala that Continues to Shine
The American Cancer Society’s Discovery Ball gala is always a wildly successful fundraising affair. We look back over six years of design of the gala.
For the last six years, it’s been our pleasure to design the American Cancer Society’s prestigious Discovery Ball gala. This marvelous affair continues to rank among the top benefits in the nation, and has consecutively been ranked as the number one charity event in Chicago for the past four years.*
Rankings by Biz Bash, the nation’s leading event trade publication.
We caught up with our VP of Sales & Design, Rishi Patel, to learn more about how he works alongside the organization to keep the gala on top, and over the top.
When it comes to wedding design, there’s almost always a vision: an inspirational thread that’s woven into every layer. It’s a guiding but flexible force, and a broad way for couples to speak their style through their chosen elements. But what about galas?
When it comes to galas, event design and décor have an entirely different role to carry out: to successfully and compellingly portray an organization’s specific mission. Ultimately, there’s a lot less wiggle room: the theme must be clear and resounding. Especially when the cause is as important as that of the American Cancer Society.
Each year, the event board fashions a theme, and this is where the gala truly begins. Next, it’s up to Rishi to interpret, enhance, and take it to the design level.
But the theme shouldn’t hit you over the head; it should envelope you. Thematic elements must be cohesive and comprehensive without sacrificing taste and elegance.
Luckily, Rishi is up to the task. In fact, what he likes most about gala design is the ability to step further outside the box.
“The potential for creativity feels limitless when you are able to consider unconventional materials, applications, and concepts that might be otherwise inappropriate for [more timeless] social events,” he says.
So where does he begin? Initially, Rishi says to always let the space inspire you. “We also always look in an opposite direction of where the event has gone before,” he adds, “considering aesthetic elements that will help to sculpt the sentiment of this year.”
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
So what makes the Discovery Ball such a wildly successful affair? For one, the ACS has an entire team dedicated to making the best possible big-picture decisions. “Their team directs every element of the event like a theatrical show,” notes Rishi. This focused decision making makes for an incredibly thoughtful process.
In addition, hundreds of volunteers and high-level corporate sponsors such as Coca Cola, United Airlines and Advocate Health Care all play their role in the fundraising and logistics.
Another distinctive aspect is the fully collaborative nature of the event: as the creative backbone, Rishi and HMR are involved not just in the décor, but also in the flow, timing, and overall feel of the gala.