We've brought together the best conferences and events for designers across digital, UX, branding, graphics, advertising and more from around the UK this 2019 – and a few major ones from overseas you might want to consider booking a trip to.
Events featured here will inspire you, conferences which help build your skills and facilitate meeting like-minded people to build a support network around yourself. We’ll be updating throughout the year as more events are announced, so keep checking back.
These are events that are mighty in size and local to the UK or worth travelling far and beyond to, beginning with London Design Festival and ending with US highlight Adobe MAX. We've also included some regular events you can attend without having to break the bank.
London Design Festival
The highly-regarded annual festival brings together a host of international designers and innovators to showcase newly commissioned works in contemporary design, art and research. It covers all forms of design from architecture and textiles to graphic and digital design.
This two-day conference is perfect for UI and UX designers, and the conference itself admits it has competent, visionary and nerdy talks, workshops and discussions with an all-new 'nerd tracks', which explores a range of design topics more in depth.
2019 will see talks from one of our fave illustrators Alva Skog plus Roberta Sandri & Sven Robin Kahl, respective visual design lead & design manager at none other than Lego.
Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn
Focussing on digital artists from concept art to animation and VFX, THU was our favourite conference of 2018. Describing itself as a 'digital rave', it feels more like a gathering of family and friends than your average industry forum.
That's not to say there's no creative and professional development going on, with this year hosting talks from the mighty Yuko Shimizu, Disney artist Mingjue Helen Chen, illustrator Gregory Manchess and Peter Ramsey, the co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
There's also a new strand looking at UI and UX design, with many gaming companies actively looking for designers in those fields at the conference.
Us By Night
Not one for the morning larks is Belgium's biggest and best design and art conferences, Us By Night.
Taking place over three nights in the old timey city of Antwerp, this year you can catch the likes of artist Shawna X, production company Buck, Childish Gambino typographer of choice Tyrsa, C4D maker Chris Schmidt and fabulous illustrator Karan Singh.
Playgrounds: The Art Department
October 3-4, 10-11
Eindhoven (3-4), Berlin (10-11)
First things first – The Art Department is four days but spread out over two countries with almost a week's gap in-between. As it's happening before Brexit, you should be able to travel from to the other for a jolly; may as well make the most of your European passport before it's too late, we say.
Playgrounds is an international platform that focuses on innovative moving images in animation, illustration, graphic design, virtual reality, games and visual effects.
Their Art Department conference is atually the largest event on concept art and design in film, animation and games in Europe, with over 4000 international visitors from 15 countries.
Alongside the regular Art Department Eindhoven, Playgrounds is setting up shop for the first time this year in Germany, Berlin. Speakers for the Dutch event include animators Manddy Wyckens and Marlies van der Wel who we both interviewed last year; whlle in Germany you can catch Nelson Lowry of LAIKA (US / production designer The Missing Link) and Patrick O’Keefe (CND / art director Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.) Damn, it sure seems like everyone involved with Spider-Verse is on the conference circuit this year...
Brighton Illustration Fair
Brighton Illustration Fair (BIF) enters its fifth year with a cracking lineup featuring Alex Norris of Webcomic Name fame, provocateur Mr Bingo and clay lover Charlotte Mei as some of its headline names, with over 100 exhibitors taking part..
Tickets aren't currently on sale, so keep an eye on the BIF Instagram for updates. Day tickets will cost just £5.
Interact London is a leading design conference that explores the roles that digital design, user experience, artificial intelligence, strategy, and everything in between play in today’s society.
The speakers and talks on offer represent a mix of 'philosophy and practice’ from some of the most accomplished thinkers and practitioners in their fields, and this year's theme is 'The Human & The Machine.'
VIEW Conference is the premiere international event in Italy on Computer Graphics, Interactive Techniques, Digital Cinema, 2D/3D Animation, VR and AR, Gaming and VFX.
This year's got some massive names: Brad Bird of The Incredibles and Mission Impossible, director of How to Train Your Dragon Dean DeBlois, Ralph Eggleston, production designer at Pixar, and Aardman's animation director Simone Giampaolo.
Cheltenham Design Festival
On hiatus for three years, the Cheltenham Design Festival is back with a bang this year, a three-day festival of design where designers, thinkers and innovators come together to discuss how design can bring us all together and make us happier.
Camilla Buchanan (Senior Policy Designer, UK Cabinet Office), designer and author of Oh Shit What Now Craig Oldham, Gavin Strange (Aardman Animation) and designer Tina Touli will all be speaking; along with Steve Matteson, creative type director at Monotype.
Los Angeles, CA
This is the best conference to attend if you’re a creative using Adobe software and a mega fan of their products. Each year new Creative Cloud apps and updates are announced at Adobe Max, there’s an epic party that Adobe puts on at the end of the conference, and you get to explore Los Angeles – who’s complaining?
Last year we covered the ever-exciting Adobe Sneaks - new exciting and experimental tools Adobe is working on that may or may not officially launch - played around with Adobe AR app Project Aero with help from artists Supermundane and Dan Mumford and got a good look at the forthcoming Adobe Fresco.
This year we're hoping catch talks from film graphic design legend Annie Atkins, design titan Paula Scher, illustrator Rob Generette III aka Rob Zilla III, design punk Aaron Draplin, illustrator Lisa Congdon, Digital Arts author Kervin Brisseaux, and master letterer Lauren Hom.
If you don't fancy breaking the bank but still want to network with fellow creatives on a regular basis, then keep an eye on the Glug site to see what they're holding e.g. Doodle Socials in London and VR 'wonders' in Dublin. Find out more here on events held in the UK and worldwide.
Also worth attending is Yo Illo, a monthly pub meetup that's been running since 2011.
There's no charge, no pressure and no agenda – just the opportunity to talk to like-minded creatives about illustration, sharing opportunities and advice (and sometimes to blow off a little steam). Find out more.
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