The best design, art & animation conferences, exhibitions and festivals 2017/18

Here are the best design conferences, art shows and activities for the year in the UK and beyond. You'll find inspiration, creativity and the chance to further your career – plus some that are just great fun.

In this story, we've brought together the best events and shows for creatives from around the UK – and a few major ones you might want to consider booking a trip to. We've included the best exhibitions to inspire you, conferences to help build your skills and trade shows to learn about the latest technology that could help you push your work into new areas.

We kick off with eight exhibitions and conferences that are on right now – followed up a selection of the best forthcoming events and shows that you're going to want to book in advance and plan for.

October 1-31

The Big Draw Festival is an international affair, with events happening across the UK and as far as Singapore. This year’s festival theme is Living Lines, exploring the long history of people and how to find ways to create moving images from pre-film animation devices to digital drawing and animation tech. You won’t need to have any animation experience to check out this festival though.

Whether you want to draw on the walls of a shopping centre, create an animated family tree, create a stop-motion film, or create a set of animated drawings by creating handmade drawing tools. These events take place everywhere from Glasgow to London, so make sure you take a look at what’s closest to you.

On October 14 Marcelina Amelia is leading a walk encouraging you to observe the environment around you, taking inspiration from modern life and using the Procreate app for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, create abstract artworks.

October 11-22

This festival is already underway, but it’s not too late to buy tickets. With artists attending such as North, Emily Forgot (work seen in this image) and Tash Wilcocks, the festival has been running for five years to provide the voice of design in and around Manchester. Speakers give insight into their creative work spanning brand, film, typography and service design.There’s also workshops, debates, exhibitions and other events around the city. And it’s nice for Brtis from the North to not have to travel down to London for a conference for once.

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October 23-27
Turin, Italy

View Conference is all about digital media, offering content to artists, animators, game developers, storytellers, content creators and others who work with computer graphics. This year a bunch of Academy Award winners for VFX, such as Scott Stokdyk, VFX supervisor on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and character artist Jason Bickerstaff from Pixar Animation Studios, among a whole range of other interesting speakers from Google VR, Image Engine, Guerilla Games and ILM.

November 17
New York City

Taking place months before the Pictoplasma Berlin Festival in May 2018, the conference in New York is featuring some amazing illustrator’s, including Edel Rodriguez, who has illustrated many controversial magazine covers about President Donald Trump, and the creator of viral internet content Sean Charmatz, as well as a session will illustrators and art directors who produced character stickers for the Google app Allo.

The one-day festival has a line-up of illustrators, animation filmmakers and artists speaking.

November 29
ustwo, London

And to continue the theme of political illustration, inspirational talks organisation, Yo Illo, is back with its latest illustration event in London – this time aptly discussing political cartoons. Tickets launch on October 30th, so make sure you get in quick.

Political cartoonists Dave Brown (work seen here) and Rebecca Hendin will be speaking about what it means to be a political cartoonist today, and give inner workings of the journalism industry. Dave has drawn for The Independent since 1996, and Rebecca is currently in-house at BuzzFeed UK.

Yo Illo says with the recent political climate – Brexit, Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, we all now need to have an opinion. Yo Illo is a monthly illustrators meet-up in London and Berlin, which began with Rob Barrett in 2011.

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December 15

Ustwo’s Monument Valley game will be hosting its own exhibition at the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, shortly after Monument Valley 2 was released. Named Welcome to Monument Valley, the exhibition features documents from the creators of the game, with documentary photography capturing the process.

If you love gaming – in the form of everything from VR to Football – then you’ll want to check out the exhibitions and social gaming sessions at this arcade.

OXO Tower Wharf, London
December 1-3

Every year this fair is full of illustration, print and graphic design, bringing artists and buyers together. It offers the chance for artists to meet people who appreciate their work, as well as promoting the work of emerging illustrators. For only £8 per day, this fair may be well worth your time if your agency is recruiting, or even if you’re just looking for some really nice prints for your bedroom.

February 6-8
Shoreditch, London

If you love VFX or work in the industry, you’ll be sure to benefit from hearing tips from leading industry studios Framestore, The Mill, REWIND, Escape Studios, Blue Zoo and Cinesite. Learn about gaming, immersive technologies like VR, animation, motion graphics through talks, a series of discussions and demonstrations.

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SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York
September 30 - November 4

Some of you may have seen illustrator Christoph Niemann's episode on new Netflix design series Abstract, or follow his cheeky Instagram account, but SVA Chelsea Gallery will be showcasing never-before-seen work from his personal collection, including illustrations, magazine covers, animations and digital works in Chelsea College’s upcoming Master Series.

The Master Series: Christoph Riemann will celebrate the illustrator’s talent to capture the humorous side of life with only a few strokes. Recently, Christoph has released interactive apps Chomp and Petting Zoo, augmented reality covers for The New Yorker’s digital editions and a recent 360-degree illustrated essay for The New York Times on his visit to the Korean Demilitarised Zone.

The German-born illustrator worked for Google and the MOMA as well as a regular contributor to The New York Times. He’s published books such as Words, a visual dictionary for children, and Sunday Sketching.

The Master Series is a prestigious award and exhibition honouring visual communicators. Names of past Master Series include Massimo Vifnelli and Heinz Edelman.

Las Vegas, California
October 16-20

MAX calls itself the "world's premier creativity conference". We'll happily join it in blowing its trumpet: designers, photographers, coders, illustrators, videomakers and developers converge to listen to inspiring speakers (this year's are yet to be announced, but last year included Quentin Taratino and The Simpson's David Silverman), as well as sharpen their skills in sessions, labs and workshops. 

You also might be among some of the first in the world to hear Adobe's big news. Read our feature on Adobe's Project Felix app & Adobe XD for Windows, which was announced at Adobe Max 2017. 

You can preregister for Adobe Max 2017 here

Dulwich Picture Gallery
From October 25

Dulwich Picture Gallery has already announced an exhibition scheduled for Octobercelebrating the works of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomin characters and books. 

The exhibition will showcase 150 works from Jansson’s life (1914-2001), including graphic illustration and paintings relatively unseen outside her home country of Finland.

Although Jasson received unprecedented success of the Moomin characters, as an artist and writer she didn’t want them to limit her freedom. The exhibition will showcase a large collection of self-portraits and paintings never seen before in the UK.

Tickets go on sale from February 6. The exhibition begins on October 25 and runs until January.

Image credits: (Top) Tove Jansson, Lynx Boa (Self-Portrait), 1974, Oil, 73 x 60.5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

(Bottom) Tove Jansson, Illustration for the book Moominland Midwinter, c. 1956, scrape drawing on cardboard, 13 x 18,5 cm, Private Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

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