Meet the Designer: Bari Singh

Bari Singh for HMR Designs. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.
Bari Singh for HMR Designs. Photo by Kent Drake Photography.

At HMR Designs we pride ourselves in creating one-of-a-kind environments tailored to the needs of our clients. Be it a private dinner, gala, wedding, or corporate production, our team of skilled artisans are prepared to bring your vision to life through our vast pool of resources and talent. And one of those talents is Event Designer Bari Singh. With over a decade of experience she’s been an innovative force in our corporate events wing, specializing in everything from intimate company dinners to experiential activations. We sat down with Bari to chat corporate trends, what she’s forecasting in the ever-changing event world and where she sees room for creative improvement. Keep reading to learn a bit more about this self-proclaimed “math nerd” and get to know the person behind the designs.

How did you get your start in the event industry? 

By mistake, ha! I was in culinary school and I needed a part time job so I began freelancing on event sites. In fact, it was Botanicals where I started my event career (Editors Note: Botanicals was one of several companies acquired by HMR to form our current iteration). There are even a few people who were working at Botanicals back then that are still working with HMR today! It took a few years but I eventually found my way back here, gaining design experience at various companies throughout Chicagoland along the way.

It seems that the world of corporate events has really expanded over the last decade. Companies are investing more in a variety of events, especially experiential. Can you speak a little bit about that?

When I started the vast majority of corporate events were award programs or holiday receptions, really just turnkey banner events. But now there’s been an expansion into marketing based productions, everything from product launches to experiential activations. The whole goal of events has shifted, companies are looking for exposure and to reach new audiences. While the celebratory programs still exist, it’s been an exciting change in the industry to see the corporate world grow the way it has.

What are some new trends you’re seeing in the corporate event world?

I think we’re taking current social trends and translating them into tangible elements within our design. Integrating social media is a big one, or maybe it’s the popular color palette of the moment. Speaking on a broader scale, though, there’s something to be said about moving past traditional design. It feels like there isn’t a rulebook nowadays, we don’t have to use snowflakes for our holiday parties anymore. The deterioration of set boundaries have really opened the door for us to explore these social trends and expand what we can do through design.

Experiential events have really taken off over the last decade, why do you think that is?

Experiential events build a connection, it drives home the message and it’s more memorable. In today’s digital world, information is constantly being thrown at people so brands need to find a unique way to stick out and experiential offers them that opportunity.

How has the rise of social media affected experiential events?

Social media has been a huge positive in terms of exposure. These days events have almost become like an advertising campaign, but instead of creating an extensive ad program through an ad agency, the general population creates the campaign for them on social media while they experience the activation. It’s also a helpful analytical tool, too. We can search specified hashtags, locations, etc. and see in real time what and how large the feedback is.

Where is there room for creative improvement?

More seamless integration of technology, it’s very present in events now, and not always in the decor capacity, but as technological advances continue to progress so should our ability to incorporate them in even more aspects of events.

How do you approach designing a corporate  event?

Every event is different, of course, but if I were to have free reign to design whatever I want, or whatever I think would work best for a client, I would start with something simple like a fabric, or a color palette, and build out from there. Creatively I begin on a broad scale and narrow down what elements would fit best and add details as I build.

Do you have a design philosophy? 

I have more of a design aspiration than a philosophy. I’m in awe of how Bill Heffernan (Editor’s Note: Bill is HMR’s Creative Director) can take anything and turn it into a polished design. His ability to see everything as decor is incredible. He utilizes pieces most people would never even glance at and incorporates them into a black tie gala that leave guests exhilarated. I really love the idea that decor is everywhere, I hope to reach that level of talent one day.

Where do you source decor inspiration from?

Fashion, advertising, travel – even science. Being open minded to the elements around you allows you to view things differently and it can be very inspiring.

What is your most memorable event?

I did the Boys and Girl Club Gala this summer which was really special. The cause is so wonderful and it was very rewarding to be a part of it. I was working with a fantastic women’s board and there was a collaborative aspect to it which made seeing everything come together so beautifully that much more fulfilling.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your line of work?

In the corporate world things can move fast, so I find that turn around time can be complicated. In the end, though, everything always works out but the pressure to produce at a rapid rate can be stressful.

Do you have a favorite design element?

When I was thirteen I worked in a tree and flower nursery, so my heart is with floral. Granted, corporate events aren’t too flower heavy but I have such a soft spot for it because of my background. And who doesn’t love pretty florals?

What’s your favorite thing about HMR?

There are so many different experts in different fields here, it’s incredible to be able to tap into that and collaborate. The resources for talent is truly endless at HMR, I couldn’t ask for a better team.

How do you spend your free time?

Gardening in the summer, doting on my dogs, and of course cooking – thanks, culinary school! I also love spending time with my nieces, they both have recently discovered vintage stores so we’ve been doing a lot shopping lately. It’s been a ton of fun.

What’s your favorite way to relax?

Easy, a massage.

If you could pick up and move anywhere in the world, where would it be?

My whole family lives in California and I sometimes wonder why I’ve never relocated there, even temporarily. Maybe somewhere around Monterey or Big Sur.

What’s your biggest vice?

I like to think I grew out of all my vices but if I had to pick one I’d say ice cream.

What’s one thing people don’t know about you but wish they did?

That I’m a math nerd. Remember how people would complain about math in school, “when am I ever going to use this?” Well it turns out that I use math all the time for events! I use the Pythagorean theorem and algebra nearly every day. When you’re trying to figure out how a polygon shaped backdrop will fit into a tiny room, math saves the day.

What’s the last book you read?

I haven’t read a full book in some time but I do get the New York Times delivered every Sunday. I read it top to bottom… except for the sports section, ha!

What three words would your friends use to describe you?

Goofy, creative, and driven.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day on site?

I snuggle my dogs!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Chez Panisse in Berkley. Alice Waters, the chef and owner, basically revolutionized the culinary world before hot, new restaurants became such a trend. I’ve been twice, once 15 years ago and another 8 years ago. I think it’s time to make another trip!