Freeform badges

AdaCamp was a two-day unconference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. This page is part of the AdaCamp Toolkit, which helps you take AdaCamp’s tools and practices and apply them to your own event. You can re-use the text of this page under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license with credit to Sara Smollett and the AdaCamp Toolkit.

Rather than pre-printing conference badges with names and similar information, AdaCamp provided blank badges, a variety of colorful markers, badge holders and lanyards. Attendees made their own badges at on-site registration. This was a fun way to start the event with a personal touch and avoided us collecting and storing some potentially sensitive information in advance, and needing to design questions to collect it as inclusively as possible. It also avoided us limiting what it was possible to communicate on badges.

What to provide

In the registration area, at a separate table with space for several people to work at the same time, provide:

  • a few copies of an instruction sheet, taped to the table in easy-to-read spots
  • one or more sample badges that show attendees a reasonable default format for their badge, taped to the table in easy to read spots
  • blank cards of the right size to slide into your lanyard holders
  • plenty of markers in various colors
  • plenty of small stickers in various colors and styles

A default badge might have a small number of decorations, and read:


What to ask attendees to put on their badges

Badges should display information that is important for attendee introductions. At AdaCamp this included preferred name and personal pronouns. At multi-lingual events, badges might include preferred language(s). Badges may also include community affiliations, interests and other things that will help attendees to quickly meet each other.

Lanyards showing willingness to be photographed.

At AdaCamp, we also wanted to clearly identify people who did and did not consent to be photographed. We used lanyards with distinctive colors and patterns to communicate this, since it is more visible than writing or using stickers on badges. See a sample photo policy and information about applying a photo policy.

Preferred personal pronouns

AdaCamp was a trans-inclusive feminist conference, and attendees identified themselves using several different sets of personal pronouns, including she/her/hers, and singular they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs.

Displaying pronouns on badges allows people to immediately communicate desired pronouns and prompts others use that pronoun, reducing some of the social anxiety of introductions. AdaCamp encouraged everyone to display preferred pronouns, so it was not unusual to see pronouns on badges. Further, by asking attendees to display their pronouns, attendees were immediately introduced to the trans-inclusive cultural norms of the event. This gave attendees with limited exposure to non-binary pronouns an opportunity to become familiar with the concept and learn more before introducing themselves to another attendee who goes by a non-binary pronoun.

Sample instruction sheet

Badge making!

Some ideas for things to include on your badge:

  • Name and/or pseudonym
  • Your pronouns, e.g.
    • “she/her/hers”
    • “they/them/theirs”
    • “zie/zir/zirs”
  • Affiliation/Organization/Company
  • Twitter handle
  • Interests
  • Sparklehearts

Please make two identical sides for your badge so that it can be seen even if your lanyard flips around.

Choose a lanyard color!

  • Green: Photos okay
  • Yellow: Ask before taking a photo
  • Red: Photos never okay, don’t ask

Note: A green lanyard is not a model release and does not imply permission for EVENT to use your photo on our web site. If you do want to give this permission, please sign the model release form (nearby), and thank you!

Readability tips

  • Before the event, get markers in many different colors and thicknesses and test them out by making sample badges and seeing how close you need to be to read them. Use only the most readable markers at the event.
  • Similarly, experiment with how much information can fit on a badge and still be readable.
  • Ask attendees to write in big clear letters and to use both sides of the badge, in case the badge flips over.
  • Affix badges with lanyards, rather than clips or pins so that badges are easy to locate. (Plus, this avoids the awkwardness of badge placement and doesn’t ruin clothing.)
  • If you use lanyards as a signal, use not only color but a stripe pattern, to be accessible to people who are color blind.



The Ada Initiative would like to thank our advisor Sara Smollett, lead author of this document, for this invaluable contribution to the AdaCamp Toolkit.