This past April, I was honored to be a part of Orange Conference’s Design and Production team for the fourth year in a row. This is among my favorite events of the year. Not only does Colette Taylor and the ReThink Group’s leadership team do a phenomenal job in getting the best musicians, speakers, teachers and creative minded family ministers together for an amazing event, it’s just some of my favorite people in the world to work with. So here’s a bit of the process we went through to plan the set design that was Orange Conference 2018.  (photo below of the final set)


The Team

Let me share with you who is on the core production / design team. It’s led by Orange producer, Colette Taylor. Then you have the following team: Ryan Book, Paul Green, Nick Rivero, Brad Sitton, Jordan Greene, Ryan Bates and myself. We set a creative meeting a few months away from Orange, and begin the process.

Step 1: Identify the Theme

The first part of our creative meetings is always allowing Ryan Boon (Creative Director, and overseer of the brand look) share with us the style and theme of this year’s conference. This specific year, it was called “One Voice” which centered around the idea of each of us being diverse, but coming together to have one voice. A core element is that we can “do more together”. And he shared with us the visual anchors of the brand, with the vector style faces, the blue and orange tones and the overall playful, family ministry design angle.

Once we have the theme in mind, it gives us a bit of a style to play off of. Something to design around, and Brad Sitton (who animates all the brand looks, speaker bumpers, and walk-in/walk-out stage sets) a perspective on what sort of surface / canvas he may need.

Step 2: Recognize the “must haves”

At this point in the process, Colette lets us know of anything that is a “must have” in the event. This could be anything from specific stages (like the center stage that was there this year), the set pieces that her boss wants to have included, key scenic moments needed to support a drama, or other miscellaneous components that we need to keep in mind. After this step, it’s off to the races.

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Step 3: Draw out Ideas / Brainstorming Session

This is when Nick, Paul, Jordan and I go to the white boards and begin sharing ideas and concepts. This is the bulk of our brainstorming meetings, and where the most fruitful ideas come out. As Nick has said over and over, this section of the brainstorming process is a place to dream without borders. Don’t worry about money, constraints or other physical limits. Dream without boundaries.

Often, one idea will come to the surface, we’ll draw some concepts around that idea and then move on. But no idea is ever removed from the discussion and we take numerous pictures, show lots of Pinterest posts and draw a ton of “scribbles” on the board. Some make sense, some don’t. If you’re leading a process like this, find a room with as many writing surfaces as possible. Is the entire wall a white board? Can you lay paper down across your table so that becomes a canvas to draw ideas on as well?

At some point in the meeting, we get to a place where we settle on a specific design idea or style. This core concept this year was a series of LED Walls that were at a bit of an angle, creating a forward motion and forced perspective, showing forward motion, with unique sized walls coming together to form one image. However we wanted lighting in between the large LED canvases, so we had the opportunity to create more dynamic moments in the room visually.

Step 4: Design it in a Design Software

From paper/white board, we now transition to a computer. This is where Paul takes control. He takes the ideas we’ve all been drawing on the white board and starts putting it in a real world. This allows us to start asking even more concrete questions and Colette is given an ability to see what the final look will feel like so she can tell us if it’s going to get approved or not. Here are a few of the things we look at in this phase of the process:

  • Does it fit on stage?
  • Does it kill too many seats?
  • Is it too heavy?
  • Is stage too big? Too small?
  • Where are the main entrances?
  • How do we do Drama Well? Band Well? Speaking TV? Panels?
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This is also a stage where Ryan Bates (Production Manager) helps us recognize pitfalls in load in time, budget, rigging capacities and overall ability to pull this off within the other constraints of the event. Below is a great idea of what the stage may look like in this stage. It’s no where near “finished” but more of an outline or draft of the production rig.

Step 5: Model it out.

Once the rough draft has moved into a more likely approval by the team at ReThink, then our creative meeting typically ends. From here, it’s on Colette, Paul and Ryan Bates to iron out the final details. In this process, Paul will create a 3D Rendering of the set design and begin the process of creating other lighting design plots.


Once the LED Wall is finalized, then Nick (Video lead) will make a Pixel Map, signal flow and evaluate the resolutions that we need to pump into the wall, all while making sure our video infrastructure will support the number of pixels and size of content. Once these elements are finished, then Brad Sitton (content producer) and I will start making / preparing the content for the Video walls in conjunction with the speakers and worship that will take place.

All the while, each department will work on their own needs. From rigging plots, to production schedules, stage diagrams to lighting address sheets, etc. This is when everything comes together and we get ready for the final step…

Step 6: Load It In!

Now it’s ‘go mode’ and we’re ready for the actual event. Here are a few pictures of what that process looks like.


After load in is complete, some minor changes may be made to the set, but mostly it’s all virtual now. Lighting designer Paul will begin programming music and worship moments with me, and Brad will finalize the speaker looks. Our entire team will rehearse like crazy and we’ll begin to see all the final pieces come together.

Just like that, we’re ready for Show, and Orange 2018 begins.

Luke McElroy

Author Luke McElroy

Luke McElroy is the founder of Orange Thread Media, the parent company to TripleWide Media, SALT Conferences and Orange Thread LIVE. He is the author of The Wide Guide: Blueprint for the Multiscreen Movement. Hailed as one of the “top innovators for worship” by Worship Leader Magazine in 2013, Luke’s leadership has helped create powerful worship environments for thousands of Church communities throughout the entire world. He currently lives in Nashville, TN and regularly writes about creativity, leadership and faith at 

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