The Best Design Conferences in 2018 (and beyond)


Image: OFFF Barcelona identity by Italian duo Matherly Studio

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

We've brought together the best conferences and events for designers across digital, UX, branding, graphics, advertising and more from around the UK – and a few major ones from overseas you might want to consider booking a trip to.

Events featured here will inspire you, conferences will 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.

We kick off with eleven conferences, beginning with Camp Digital and ending with D&AD Festival's just announced replacement for next year – which sees the D&AD team up with The Guardian for a new 'festival of creativity'.


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
Global

The One Club for Creativity's Portfolio Night is one global night of advice, networking and recruitment that will take place in 20 cities around the world, including London, Amsterdam, New York, Stockholm, Madrid and Los Angeles – hosted at agencies such as Wieden+Kennedy, Edelman and FCB. It's basically an advertising portfolio review program, which brings together international creative directors from leading agencies to mentor thousands of aspiring advertising creatives in industry hubs across the globe.

It’s a way for agencies to give back to the industry by guiding future creatives, and of course a great way to recruit fresh talent.

Find out more.


May 23-25
London

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.

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May 24-26
Barcelona

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.


June 19-25
Global

Glug is partnering with CANNT Festival (the alternative to Cannes Lions) to launch a series of events taking place globally including London, New York and Cape Town to celebrate creativity. Agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, ustwo and Manifest are hosting talks for their own staff, clients and local communities. The events aim to celebrate young creatives who may be left behind while their seniors head to Cannes Lions, and a chance to network and celebrate creative ideas.

CANNT Festival runs as an alternative during the same week as Cannes Lions, but it’s not "anti Cannes Lions", says Glug founder Ian Hambleton.

"We wanted to create a grass roots alternative to celebrate creative ideas during a week everyone is talking about creativity. Every year the senior creative leaders in business around the world head to Cannes, but agencies are built on a huge range of diverse people many of whom get left behind," he says. "We want to help young creatives on their career journey and bringing them together in their hometown to celebrate an industry-wide event."

Glug is looking for agencies around the world to take part in two ways – to host talks with at least two speakers and to organise a summer party for networking, in the form of in-house drinks or invitational summer parties.

See how you and/or your agency can get involved.


June 22-24
London

Returning to the Round Chapel in East London, this three day fair presented by Nobrow sees over 4,000 visitors celebrate the work of artists and take part in a programme of talks and workshops. This year's international artist-in-residence is Belgian illustrator Charlotte Dumortier (who also runs yum yum zines), who designed this year's ELCAF identity (seen here). She'll be joined by international artists including Patrick Kyle, Nina Cosco and more. 

This year there is also  a chance to have your portfolio viewed by professionals, and there will be two awards; Best Publication and Audience Award up for grabs. Visit the ELCAF website for the full programme and ticket prices.

Find out more.

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June 29
Bristol

Collaborate Bristol is a UX, IA and design conference in England's south west. The conference returns for the sixth year running , aimed at encouraging sharing, learning and networking within the digital community.

With speakers including Sandra Gonzalez, head of UX and design at Just Eat; Luba Elliott, creative AI researcher; Andrew McGrath, head of digital experience at TR Labs, Thomson Reuters; Felicia Williams, chief strategist at Facebook; Simon Norris, CEO of Nomensa and more to come, it’s set to be an insightful day in the world of UX and design.

The event returns to the Watershed, offering a unique chance to network with peers and learn from top brands and internationally renowned speakers.

Find out more.


August 12-16 
Vancouver

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.


September
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.

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September 26-27
Copenhagen

This two-day conference is perfect for UI and UX designers, with an impressive line-up of speakers including Netflix product designer Alex Bronkie, Amazon design director Masuma Henry, Minecraft experience design director Tobias Ahlin and design director Anisha Jain. 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.

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.


2019
London

Announced on Wednesday at D&AD Festival 2018 is the exciting new partnership of Guardian Media Group and D&AD with the aim to create a new global festival of creativity in London, replacing the traditional D&AD Festival.

The new festival will remain in London, and will feature speakers from design, film, advertising, gaming sectors while also touching on risks and opportunities of automation and data. There’s no set place or time for the new conference, but keep your eyes peeled for 2019.

The aim of the new partnership is to integrate both cultural and creative sectors as they merge more closely together with digital disruption, automation and AI.

“It is clear that creativity no longer simply powers the worlds of media, advertising and design - it is an essential component of any business’s long term strategy,” says chief executive of Guardian Media Group David Pemsel.

Find out more.

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