Most of this page comes from an original article by Steve Davies. One thing he doesn't mention is that it is also useful to have the membership NUMBER on each badge. This means that if there are three "Steve"s at the convention, they still have unique badges as they will each have a different badge number. This is particularly useful for things like the Art Auction where the membership number is usually used to identify the bidders, but it's also useful if the badge is dropped and found, as it can be returned to the correct Steve.
See Badges for other kinds of badge used at the Eastercon.
Badges actually come under a number of areas. Why do we have badges anyway? Well, the main reason is so that other people can tell who you are when you're talking to them. They also act as a token to show that you are a member of the convention and are entitled to be wherever you are. Let's look at the features a good badge should have:
- Membership number
A unique code, possibly with letters for 'A' for 'Attending' and so on, to avoid all the issues of everyone being called 'Steve'.
- Readable names
Far and away the most important feature of a badge. Use at least 20-point type and preferably larger (36 pt, maybe 48pt or even bigger) on a white or faintly patterned background. Forget cute, forget pretty pictures, large type is essential. And I'd just like to say that gold foil on black has been tried, yes it looked cool, no they weren't readable.
- Names on both sides
Badges on lanyards with names on only one side have a tendancy to stick to the fan's t-shirt as if it was toast, coated in butter and the fan was the ground. Sometimes a list of programme items you are on is on the back, which can be useful, and Eight Squared (2013) had these on an optional sticker.
- Easily identifiable
If Security have a gopher on the door checking badges, it makes their life much easier if they can spot the badge among the profusion of chest decoration.
- Can easily distinguish full membership from day membership
And also, distinguish the individual days from each other. Normally, day badges look the same as full badges but are on pastel-coloured paper instead of white.
- Easy to make up new badges
Registration will need to make new badges for people joining on the door. Badges should be simple enough that the process of registering a new member is not unacceptably slow.
- Hard to counterfeit
Not a common problem in the UK (as yet) but US conventions have suffered from this. If you suspect you're going to have this problem, ask around for ideas and don't tell anyone what you've decided on.
Let's just mention that one really critical point again. READABLE NAMES. You should be able to read a person's badge from 10 feet/3 metres away without needing to squint. I've been to conventions where the names were in 10pt type and it was pretty hard to read a name without being already extremely friendly with the person concerned. So why do people go for such small type? Well, usually they say it's so that they can fit everybody's name into that same space. Which means that because "Bloodthirst the Barbarian Babyslayer" needs a lot of space, everyone else gets tiny type. This is not a sensible argument. Most names will fit into a small space using large type. The few unusually long names can be adjusted by hand. Incidentally, setting 1000 badges by hand, so that they all fit the space perfectly and every badge has a different slogan customised for that person (as we did in 1999), takes about 2 days. You don't have to go to that level of detail, you can easily afford an hour or so to hand-set the long names.
If you use laminated plastic badges instead of button badges, you can go for even bigger type. For <Plokta.con> in 2000 we came up with a badge design that was unforgeable, had all the convention info on it, and you could read a person's name from over 40 feet away. Take a look at some other con badges and see what you think. Incidentally, for Contrivance in 1995, I wrote a short VB program that automatically sized names to fit in the space available on a button-style badge. An earlier version of the same software was used for the Smofcon badge above. I don't have the source for this any longer, but it wasn't difficult, it fed directly off the membership database and I think we only had to do one badge by hand. There's one other thing that's worth mentioning here, and that's the vexed question of real names versus badge names. Don't try and enforce a "real names only on badges" policy, however much you may feel it's a good idea, you'll only annoy people unnecessarily. It's not worth stopping people from calling themselves whatever they want, though Ops and Registration should both have access to a copy of the full membership list giving both real names and badge names, allowing them to do a lookup.
Some people like lanyards, some clips, so leave both in a box at Registration.