Ticket design is often overlooked. Event planners and organizers plan how many tickets they will need for a given event and how to distribute those tickets, but stop short of putting much thought into the ticket design itself. From a branding perspective this is a lost opportunity. Branding is, after all, managing all of the different touch points that an organization has with the public and your tickets are one touch point that all of your customers will come in contact with.
I have kept several tickets from events that I attended including one from the 2002 Winter Olympics and four from the 2003 Notre Dame vs. Navy football game. I, like most people, keep tickets from events that meant something to me, but there is another factor in determining whether or not I keep the ticket: what the ticket looks like.
The Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC) went so far as to produce two tickets for each seat, one that would get you into the door and another that was just for souvenir purposes. While the Olympics have a budget that dwarfs most other events, it shows that they have realized that tickets themselves have value. Check out the season tickets for any professional or college sports team and you will see that someone has made a conscious effort to create value through the design of that ticket. An attractive ticket sells for more than a generic ticket because people associate value with the look and feel.
Cost is probably the biggest factor when choosing a generic ticket. Attractive tickets do cost more than generic ones. They usually run $0.03-0.08 cents more per ticket than a generic ticket does. However, if you charge 25 cents more per ticket (and you easily can), that becomes a profit of 17 cents per ticket ($170 for each thousand tickets that you sell). That profit is on top of the marketing and advertising benefits that you gain from having an attractive ticket. If people like the tickets to your event they are more likely to show that ticket to their friends (this is starting to sound like free, or viral, advertising). Most of the marketing classes that I have taken, focused on getting the most results from the smallest budget possible, if that is your goal, then making money with your tickets and getting marketing value is as good as it gets.
The bottom line is that the time, effort and money spent designing tickets generally pays for itself. It may not be cost effective to hire a full time graphic designer to create tickets for you, but it does deserve your attention as you plan your future events.