The lanyard: tedious and wasteful 30.05.18

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LANYARDS Crimes against design

A mainstay of any (and seemingly every) trade show, the single-use badges are not only tedious but a waste of plastic, writes Max Fraser


The governments of the world seem to have finally woken up to the scourge of single-use plastics on our environment and health. While plastic bags and bottles are rightfully in the line of fire, it’s important that we pick up on other short-lived items that are casually tossed in our paths. 

The lanyard is one such item. Attend any trade fair, conference or corporate office meeting and, on registration, a paper badge with your name, job title and database-friendly barcode is printed for you. Before you know it, it’s been slid into a clear PVC pouch which comes attached to a nylon cord (often branded) via a plastic or metal connecting clip. Usually within spitting distance of this tedious registration ceremony is a burly security guard insisting you unceremoniously loop your newfound dangle-worthy around your neck.

At this point, despite the printing of your name, you are inadvertently a number. It becomes visitor versus ‘the rest’. And for the rest, one can understand the efficiencies of having visitors wearing their identity with the visibility and accessibility that a lanyard provides; with a scan of your barcode, fire marshals can monitor capacity and security can decide where you can and can’t go; for the organisers, you are traceable and provide data as to which parts of the venue are most visited and how frequently; for exhibitors, you are one scan away from them harvesting your details. But put visitor next to visitor and status issues arise as labelling immediately determines hierarchy. Are you VIP? Are you Media? Or are you just plain old standard?

Put visitors or delegates together into a networking environment and the lanyard starts fooling with its bearers. Invariably, just as you’ve forgotten the name of the person you’re trying to introduce, their prominently printed name has flipped 180 and is now facing their chest, revealing only the tiny and useless T&Cs on the back. If this hasn’t happened, perhaps it’s your eyesight letting you down which, if dealing with a female bearer, may land you accused of cleavage staring. 

For all of the above reasons, I find myself banishing my identity-bearing lanyard to my jacket pocket, revealing it only when requested. And on departure, instead of these robust pouches being returned and reused at future events, most follow their bearers home only to be found weeks later in a rogue pocket and discarded. 

Lanyard manufacturers would no doubt claim they can be recycled but don’t be fooled – their material diversity defies municipal recycling schemes so they end up in landfill. For this reason alone, the ubiquitous lanyard is another item to add to our disposables watch-list. Surely an alternative digital design solution can rid us of this superfluous sidekick of hospitality.

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