The best design, art & animation events in 2018: Exhibitions, conferences, festivals & more

Find inspiration, fun, skills and the chance to meet some like-minded people.

We've started to bring 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 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’ll be updating throughout the year as more events are announced, so keep checking back.

We kick off with 11 exhibitions, conferences, classes and festivals, starting with the VFX Festival in London.

Until April 29
House of Illustration, London

Who knew Quentin drew nudes? In this Valentine’s Day exhibition, Quentin’s 18 exuberant pencil drawings depict women avoiding or embracing Cupid’s arrow.

Find out more. 

Until June 3
Yorkshire, UK

This is a light exhibition hosted at the Hepworth Wakefield – the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 winner – based in Yorkshire.

Three solid light installations of Anthony McCall’s are part of the first UK exhibition of McCall’s work in over a decade.

McCall is best known for his large-scale, immersive sculptural light installations that incorporate the visitor and invite them to become active participants in the work. These ‘Solid Light Works’ use only projected light and a thin mist, yet they create physically powerful works that take on the appearance of sculptural forms in space.

Find out more.

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February 16 – 18
Dreamland, Margate, UK

The gaming festival with a retro and family-friendly vibe returns to vintage-themed theme park for the second year running.

Again there will be consoles, computers, games and arcade machines from the 1970s to the present day – plus real-world recreations of classic games from Pac-Man to Whack-A-Mole. It's the 40th anniversary of the launch of Space Invaders and the 10th of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, so there will tournaments (also for Street Fighter V, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 and Halo 4).

There's a whole day dedicated to Minecraft and a 'Jedi Fight Academy' to learn light saber skills from The Phantom Menace actor Andrew Lawden.

Find out more

February 23 – May 13
House of Illustration, London

This unique exhibition looks at graphic design from North Korea in the form of posters, sweet wrappers and stamps collected by Nicholas Bonner, who has led tours to the country for 20 years.
The objects reveal a graphic style honed over decades in a closed society, giving an extra ordinary and rare insight into the everyday life of North Koreans.

Find out more. 

February 27
Soho Hotel, London

One Question conference is launching a new event series – One Question Debates. As a sequence of in-depth industry-specific discussion, the new event series invites guests to a live 60-minute debate including Sony Music, Pepsi Co and communications agency 3monkeys, all answering the question: What does 'brand' really mean?

The first event will be held at the Soho Hotel with a cocktail reception. There will also be a 30-minute Q&A session with the panelists.

Find out more.

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March 8 – August 26
Wellcome Collection, London

Four contemporary artists collaborate with scientists to give shape to intangible ideas at this exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Somewhere in Between brings together the work of Martina Amati, Daria Martin, Maria McKinney and John Walter, who explore ideas that are vital to human life – ideas about our senses, our sexual health, our bodies’ limitations and where our food comes from.

Find out more.

March 9
British Library, London

Reasons to is an international design conference for coders, designers, developers, illustrators, film makers and more. This year has another awesome line-up of speakers including design luminaries Jonathan Barnbrook (seen here), Rob Draper and illustrator Lizzie Mary Cullen. Past speakers also include Jon Burgerman, Nadieh Bremer and Erik Spiekermann, so you know you’ll be getting some top tips from the best.

It’s a good chance to meet other creatives, be inspired and challenged – and it will only take one day out of your schedule. Reasons to used to be based in Brighton, but now it’s moved up to London, hopefully making it more accessible to more people.

Find out more.

March 28 – August 12
Design Museum, London

See how public engagement with politics has changed dramatically since 2008, and see how graphic design was crucial in dictating and reacting to major political moments of our time. And yes, this means expect to see everything from the 2008 financial crash to Brexit, the refugee crisis and US President Donald Trump's election.

Find out more.

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Until April 2
Tate Modern, London

Artist Amedeo Modigliani developed a pictorial style of which met little success during his time, but his emotionally intense portraits and seductive nudes (police censored his only ever solo exhibition on the grounds of indecency) are now among the best loved paintings of the 20th century.

Find out more.

April 24-26
The Old Truman Brewery, London

The annual festival is back once again, celebrating graphic design and advertising since 1962. Winning a D&AD award is recognised globally, so you can image some of the calibre that’s on show at the three-day festival. The coveted awards night now runs at the end of the festival, which this year includes speaker Debbie Millman, Jeff Goodby, Kyoko Yonezawa, Lernert & Sander and Joy Howard.

This year the festival identity, in collaboration with studio Hato, invites everyone to draw at 3D illustration and have it displayed on the website (seen here).

Find out more.

May 2
Manchester, UK

Camp Digital is another UX design conference, led by digital UX agency, Sigma. This year’s keynote speakers include Professor Vikas Shah, chair of FutureEverything, and Dr. Sue Black OBE.

Professor Shah (seen here) will speak about his work at Thought Economics, and as well as the most pressing issues affecting the digital industry. The talk will include insights gathered from his interviews with some of the world’s leading thinkers and entrepreneurs, including Sir Richard Branson, Jack Welch, and

Other confirmed speakers so far include: Per Axbom, UX designer & coach; Katy Arnold of the Home Office; Gareth John and Eve Critchley of MIND; Gavin Elliott, DWP; Ella Fitzsimmons, a digital strategist; Molly Watt, an inclusive design and accessibility consultant, and Alastair Duggin of the Government Digital Service.

Find out more here.

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May 17-19
House of World Cultures

As attenders of this conference last year, we can surely say you’ll learn a lot about how to make beautiful typography and lettering, as well as be inspired by some truly awesome designers and illustrators. Last year’s speaker line-up included Oliver Jeffers, House Industries and Debbie Millman, and this year it’s the likes of Toshi Omagari (Monotype) and Jonathan Key. 

Find out more.

May 23-25

Bringing together London’s leading UX design experts, this three-day programme of workshops and talks should help you learn new skills to apply straight away. And it’s the conferences 10th year – so join the celebrations.

Find out more.

May 23 – September 9
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

British artist and designer Edward Bawden will be celebrated with this exhibition, taking a First look at every aspect of his 60-year career.

The exhibition will showcase a number of previously unseen works from the Bawden’s family private collection, as well as 18 rarely seen war portraits, displayed together for the first time.

Edward was an innovative graphic designer, book illustrator and printmaker best known for his linocuts and witty designs he made for companies such as Shell and Fortnum & Mason.

Image: 'A sergeant in the police force formed by the Italians', Edward Bawden

Find out more.

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May 24-26

OFFF is a festival that hosts acclaimed international speakers, as well as workshops, activities and performances. It’s for designers, developers, creatives and students, and it rolls around once a year.

The speaker line-up this year is impressive, with Animade, Camille Walala, Jessica Hische, Malika Favre, Petra Erikson, Tom Muller, the Yarza Twins and just announced – Patrick Clair, who directed the title sequences for American Gods (seen here) and True Detective.

You’ll definitely want to make sure you make it to the workshops too, including hand lettered logotype and selling and presenting design.

Find out more.

22-24 June

Applications to exhibit at ELCAF are now open until January 21, so if you’re a comic artist in the UK, make sure you get down to this festival. Publishers, collectives and individual artists can exhibit.

Find out more.

12-16 August

Siggraph is a five-day event that showcases the latest trends, designs and innovations in the areas of animation, VR, games, digital art, mixed reality and CG. You can get a hands-on look at the new technology, live demos, research and acts of collaboration.

Definitely worth going to if you’re interested in emerging technologies, and how they can help your creative processes. We usually send Ian Failes along. See the best highlights from 2017 here.

Find out more.

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Across London

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.

Details of the full festival haven't been announced yet – but we have been told about one part of it. The London Design Biennale will run at Somerset House from September 4-23, featuring responses to a brief around ‘Emotional States’ from countries from the UK and US to Latvia and Lebanon. It’s always insightful to pop along to see what new work is being produced and the role of design in our collective futures.

Find out more.

October 15-17
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, alongside Adobe’s ‘Sneaks’ – new exciting and experimental tools Adobe is working on that may or may not officially launch. Plus 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?

Find out more.

November 9
House of Illustration, London

An exhibition telling refugee stories both observed and experienced first-hand. Multi-media work by 13 contemporary illustrators will include Olivier Kugler’s portraits from Calais, George Butler’s reportage from Syria, animation by Majid Adin and manga by Asia Alfasi.

Find out more. 

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