Joey Alissa Berman’s a true success story. From getting her foot in the door at Chicago-based event design and décor company Kehoe Designs almost seven years ago—she worked her way up into a senior event producer role for corporate events. “I love the company and believe in the brand. I’m in it for the long haul,” says Berman, who has a strong background in corporate events, experiential activations, and mitzvahs.
Berman’s favorite part of the job? “Endless possibilities,”she says. “That’s the best part about Kehoe Designs. Just because you don’t see it on a shelf or Pinterest doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We can make anything—that’s what sets us apart.”
From a modernly minimalistic NFL Draft weekend and her interpretation of the movie ‘Mad Max,’ to the world-famous music festival Lollapalooza, Berman selected three corporate events that best showcase her creative style and vision for her clients.
Major Touchdowns at the NFL Draft
One of Berman’s favorite corporate design tactics? Working product into an event-scape, whether it’s integrating a wine bottle or footballs at an NFL Draft party in a double-decker tent right on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. “I asked my team at Kehoe Designs if we could make a chandelier out of footballs,” she says. “They said 100% yes. Let’s one-up the look and craft the chandelier into the shape of a football. We wanted to create an element of surprise for this hospitality experience during the NFL Draft.”
The event was very tech-oriented, with the NFL’s big LED screens and media front & center. Berman used these tech cues, as well as the black-and-gold NFL logo, for the sleek, polished design: curved black leather sofas, glass-topped tables, and stylish chairs.
“We incorporated their branding on the boxwood walls, tabletops, and the pillows, and we elevated the design with details like adding a touch of gold to the planters and turf under the outdoor chairs,” Berman says. Since the three-day draft featured different sponsors, Berman changed out the branded tabletops and pillows daily.
“It was a true honor to participate in the hospitality experience during the NFL Draft,” Berman says. “Being part of such a prominent event in Chicago was quite exciting!”
This grand chandelier—made of footballs and in the shape of one—shows off the teamwork at Kehoe Designs, as its structural and welding teams came together to construct it.
Since the 2015 NFL Draft logo was black and gold, Berman played off the look with black seating and pops of gold, including in the planters.
‘Beautiful Chaos’ at a ‘Mad Max’-Inspired Event
Berman loves showcasing this ‘Mad Max’ corporate event because it was a unique experience bringing all aspects of décor, art, furniture, lighting, and entertainment together. “The creative freedom allowed us to push the envelope and grow as a company,” she says. “We brought the movie to life through event design for a memorable experience people are still talking about!”
This dystopian-inspired event took a few twists and turns before the big day. “This very out-of-the-box corporate company wanted a ‘Mad Max’ theme. Their goal was to scare the pants off their employees,” she says.
Instead, Berman’s client rented space about three minutes up the road from Kehoe Designs. “The event was going to be held outdoors, but that day, it was freezing,” she says. “On a moments notice, we moved the event into an existing loading dock and had to tow cars and wheel out dumpsters. Since this wasn’t an actual venue space, there were challenges to overcome. Such as relocating the lounge seating in places where it wasn’t pouring!”
All of that gave way to the perfect ‘Mad Max’ chaotic look and feel of off-kilter lighting, haze, huge focal art, metal grids, and outlandish performers: trapeze artists, stilt walkers, and wild drummers. “You could be stepping in a puddle for that outdoor vibe, but still be protected from the elements,” says Berman, who also asked Kehoe Designs’ plantscapes division, Floral Exhibits, to save dead plants from the garbage. “Even though this was quite an unexpected request, the team rolled with it and got us exactly the right plants to create the dystopian look.”
A last-minute request, Berman says, the client’s CEO wanted to make a grand entrance in full costume, hair, and makeup. “This German-based company that said, ‘We want to go big or go home,’” says Berman. “He wanted to make an entrance, and, oh he did.”
The tech-heavy event included a significant collaboration between all of our Kehoe Designs’ departments—our new tech division, BlackOak Technical Productions, played a significant role. “Our team took ‘Mad Max’ to the next level,” Berman says.
Kehoe Designs worked with their partners to source the wildest performers, the most outrageous costumes, and the best hair/makeup artists to bring the “Mad Max” theme to life. “Part of my background is the entertainment arena—a lot of times our clients ask us to help source entertainment, models or costumes, and yes—we can do it!” Berman says.
‘Do Epic Shit’ at Lollapalooza
At Lollapalooza, the annual must-attend four-day music festival in Chicago’s Grant Park—Berman’s client C3 Presents tasked her with turning two platinum hospitality tents for performers and high-level executives into coveted hideaway destinations. “From bright orange and shocking pink walls featuring an edgy gallery wall to a real chill zen den highlighting plant life and natural elements—these polar-opposite looks elevated guests’ platinum VIP hospitality experiences,” she says. “Both styles emerged using the Kehoe Designs seasonal trend boards with a personal twist—adding pops of gold, residential accents and attention to detail.”
The south tent sat boldly electric, with bright pink and orange corrugated walls—home to zesty black-and-white prints (kohl-rimmed eyes and dramatic clouds) and sayings (“Too glam to give a damn”). Greenery-hugging, low-slung furniture ringed the perimeter. Berman chose curved black faux leather sofas dotted with shimmering pillows, gold-gilded honeycombed tables, and glass-topped, wicker-bottomed highboys with faux leather stools. “We didn’t originally plan for the gallery wall, but when I was in the tent, I felt like something was missing,” Berman says. “I knew we needed an edgy gallery wall, and our whole team got after it. At Lollapalooza, you can push the boundaries. We printed sayings such as ‘Do epic shit’ and ‘I’m feeling tipsy & fresh.’”
This tent design is electrically vibrant, with the recurring pinks and oranges funneling dynamism into the design.
On the tent’s other end, Berman designed an opulent bar, featuring custom-printed gray marble and overlaid with gold faceted panels, and topped by a majestic dog statue and golden vases overflowing with faux orchids. “When you’re doing four-day festivals in a tent, we must consider what plants will be longest-lasting,” says Berman, who thoughtfully added a fringed pink-and-orange ceiling treatment. “That helps with overall atmosphere, giving an alternative vibe vs. the feeling of being inside of a tent,” she notes.
Berman ran with a totally different design for the north tent, creating a calming organic, greenery-infused ‘zen den‘ feel. A canopy of copper-painted, wood-slat fencing woven through with greenery and straw-like fronds—all overhanging a collection of wicker-evocative shelving and furniture, covered in neutral fabrics with small pops of blue, teal, and gold.
“The ceiling treatment was originally used as a layered wall piece in Kehoe Designs’ lobby—the creative vision to reimagine décor elements is what makes our team so great! For the tent’s walls, we also painted wooden beach fencing with copper, bronze and gold leaf tones for more of an elevated look,” states Berman.
Berman ran with a different design for the second tent, creating a calmly organic, greenery-infused “zen den” feel.
Quick Q’s: Joey Alissa Berman
What branding elements get you most excited when you’re designing a corporate event?
JAB: I enjoy the challenge of integrating clients’ products into our designs. Whether it’s a Christmas tree made of soccer balls or a weeping willow tree made out of green mop heads—the unique product displays help our clients sell their products, and ultimately keep us on the edge of creative genius!
Any cool events in your pipeline that you can share with us?
JAB: One of my favorite corporate events of the year is coming up in May. This annual event is unique because the client usually asks to feature Pantone’s Color of the Year (for 2019, it’s Living Coral) and integrate their products into the overall décor.
What’s an experiential event trend that you’re incorporating/excited about incorporating into your events?
JAB: Social media plays a big role in the majority of our corporate events and activations. Kehoe Designs’ clients are all about creating unique and memorable photo moments. By adding a dimensional graphic to a flat wall or continuing the design onto the floor, we strive to push boundaries and elevate the experience. Click here to see the most recent photo experience with our partners, TagPrints!