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Unity, not uniformity. “A corporation should be like a painting; everything visible should contribute to the correct total statement.” —Eliot Noyes

As designers and marketers, our primary responsibility is to bring to life our distinct brand character through the spaces we create and the experiences we deliver. This toolkit will assist you in designing programs that express IBM’s unique value across different touch-points. The techniques herein can be applied to all audience types and sizes, venues and environments, and geographic locations.

IBM Design Language

IBM Design Language distinguishes every experience we make and delivers clear criteria for the conception, creativity, and craftsmanship the IBM brand deserves. Through purposeful composition of the environment, architecture, visual identity, and event programming, every event experience becomes a powerful opportunity to positively shape perceptions of the brand.

While focused on the event discipline, these guidelines are derived from IBM’s broader design language. Refer to the design language portal for our core principles, design philosophy, and brand elements such as typography, color palette, identity and more. Certain elements of the toolkit are designed to be flexible—to suit the needs of the audience, our corporate narratives, and the environment in which the event experience is built. Others—such as grid structure and architectural elements—are fixed and nonnegotiable.

IBM Design Language does not aim to limit or constrict event experience design, but to enhance it in every way. Through providing a common language and lexicon, we can focus our design resources on crafting compelling and differentiated IBM experiences without reinventing the supporting parts and pieces.

Experience design framework

Four core areas compose every IBM event experience.

Explosion view of abstract foundation model

Narrative and strategy

This should serve as the IBM positioning and messaging for the event. Start by putting your audience at the center of the story—their wants and needs should drive the story’s progression while aligning with the company’s general corporate narrative (for example Let’s put smart to work). The narrative is built on a brand platform that influences messaging and the stories expressed within the experience.


Event programming establishes the types of experiences required to support the event narrative and strategy. These might include activations, software demos, networking spaces, presentation zones, or executive meeting areas. Event programming is driven by the audience type and business objectives of the event. Providing clear programming requirements at the outset of event planning will help inform the booth design.


Our event architecture is modular and composable, designed to support events of any size or scale. Our event experiences must feel like IBM. Consistency in materials, finishes, furniture, and signage will create implicit cues that support our visual language. Approaching architecture as a collection of systems and principles enables creative solutions while ensuring a common look and feel. Rather than looking at architecture in a subjective manner, we will define basic principles that are systematic in their nature. Creative design can and should happen through the use of these principles.

Brand expression

All IBM brand expressions are products of the master brand architecture, aligned with the IBM Design Language philosophy and principles. Absolutely every element we create for events and experiences is in service of expressing our master brand. Once the event narrative and strategy have been identified, event teams can explore brand expression based on IBM’s established brand systems. All brand systems and supporting guidance can be accessed through the IBM Brand Center portal. All of our business unit identity systems have been designed to work together, complementing one another in our event experiences. Do not create new brand systems of guidelines for specific events without explicit approval from the worldwide team.