The promise of design events, if you go looking for it, is often thought about in the same way. If you attend, you'll get to be "inspired", to "network", to find out about "hot trends", and (sometimes) get free stuff.
On paper, that's charming. But what if you actually work in design and want to find a specific conference to go to that suits your school of design, medium, or you know, real-life work?
Now that you've decided you want to go to a design conference — or learn from other conferences if you're organising your own — you'll want to know which particular ones are worth it for you, right?
Well, here's my attempt at bringing that to you, and I promise to steer clear of such painful generalisations as "it'll revolutionise the way we think about shapes."
2019 Design Events - A Quick Index:
- UX Night School Intro Series
- UX Foundation Training
- Frontend NE Conference 2019
- New Adventures 2019
- SmashingConf Freiburg 2019
- Leading Design New York 2019
- Brand New 2019
Based in Portland, Oregon and on the internet, the team behind UX Night School offer a significantly more polished, credible and interesting take on night schooling than the boring, basement tropes of adult education you might think of.
UX Night School describes the way they teach design as "relevant, fun, and human-centered," to be specific.
How are they relevant, you ask? The first thing I noticed about UX Night School when I heard of them was that they cater for anyone that wants to learn. Their relevance comes from a deep understanding that people have different circumstances, needs, education levels, and desires.
This manifests in a few different things: consulting services, on-site training (great if you can't make it to Portland), as well as remote and public workshops.
Then how are they fun, you ask? All of the classes hosted by UX Night School encourage the social aspect of the sessions and focus on how students can get practical, enjoyable use out of the methods they're being taught.
They bring together like-minded peers eager to get a grounding in the principals of UX. Of course, UX is an ever-changing, multi-dimensional field, so you'll get a healthy sprinkling of people looking to refresh and upskill in the mix too, who're more than likely to share their experiences with you and add to the diversity of the classes.
And, how are they human-centric? Well, for one, their programming has a Code of Conduct. They're also a woman and minority-owned business, which you don't see every day in the world of front-end development. But, to get the full promise of what they have in store, I guess you'll just have to attend for yourself.
This particular course will take place on a series of Thursday nights between January and February, 2019. If you can't make these lessons, I'd recommend regularly checking out their (obviously well-designed) website for additional upcoming courses.
Best for: Anyone making, selling, or supporting technology. Beginners are especially welcome.
Dates: January through February, 2019.
Tickets: Available now for $497.
I love lists. You might notice that this post can, if in an elongated way, be viewed as a list. The good folks behind the following UX training event are no different, and spell out the benefits of their upcoming course on their website like so:
- Expert-led training
- Practical, commercial focus
- Learn-by-doing through hands-on, interactive courses
- Small class sizes
- State-of-the-art classroom facilities
- Digital copies of all course slides
- A Certificate of User Experience from UXTraining.com
Lead by five UX designers, consultants, and experienced freelancers, this event will take place in Manchester (much, I imagine, to the happiness of those of you who can't travel to Portland for the event above).
Testimonials are available on the event site too, should you want that little extra bit of encouragement to sign up. One former student describes the experience as a,
"Great two days of UX training with @UXTraining_ . A mine of insights & info. could not recommend it enough."
During this course specifically, they'll be covering these topics over the two days of tutorials: the fundamental principals behind UX design, research methods, how to run design workshops, why mobile is different, and more.
Best for: Product managers, business owners, current UX designers looking to upskill, project managers.
Dates: February 19th & 20th, 2019.
Tickets: A limited quantity are available now at £695 each.
"NE" in this case is (and sorry if you're from there) not an abbreviation of Nebraska. Instead, Frontend NE is a now-annual conference held in Newcastle, England about — you guessed it — front-end development.
So, what makes it different from your run-of-the-mill design or development conference? First of all, it comes with a strong, welcoming community that's already been established. This is because the team behind the conference also run a meetup series called — again, you guessed it — Frontend NE.
What's more is the speakers they manage to recruit set them apart. Last year saw a two-time author and lead on the Microsoft Edge team take the stage, as well as the head of the front-end development team at Buzzfeed. And there's no reason to believe 2019 will be any less impressive. The best-selling author of CSS Secrets will be among the line-up as well as the inimitable Rachel Andrew.
As a lucky, early coincidence, if you'd rather speak than attend, and feel up to the challenge, the Call for Speakers for the conference is still open and available here.
Best for: People with at least a little experience with front-end development and design
Date: April 3rd, 2019
Tickets: Available now for £125
Excuse me for a second or two, but I simply must draw your attention to New Adventures' beautiful website colour scheme before we go any further:
Now that that's out of the way, you can either visit their full site to stare longingly at it some more, or you can stick around the tl;dr of what this conference is all about.
New Adventures is an event boasting sessions to suit every taste. As well as the conference proper, there are multiple workshops on progressive web and front-end performance as well as a design exchange meetup and a multiple-environment after party.
Speakers will include seasoned designers from Clearleft (more on them later), the organiser of Women in Tech Nottingham, and the person who coined the term "responsive web design."
Aside from the learning opportunities on show that you'd expect from most business events, there's also a focus on good food, good coffee, and good fun, with a bowling fringe event taking place on the day preceding the main event.
If that weren't enough, you can find the following, glowing recommendation on their site for some additional proof (or if you need a little something-something to convince your boss):
“We absolutely loved it from start to finish. Everything about the day exceeded any expectations that we had, and we came away from this amazing event with heads full of exciting ideas and a heap of new industry friends.”
—Ian Harris, Carron Media
Best for: Anyone who wants to "reconvene, recalibrate, and re-energise digital design."
Dates: January 23rd - 25th, 2019.
Tickets: On sale now, starting at £100 for students.
Anyone who's been in the design industry for even a short period of time will probably be familiar with Smashing Magazine. Another large percent of those people will also be familiar with their somewhat legendary events, and SmashingConf Freiburg is the latest in their repertoire.
Hailed as friendly, inclusive events, SmashingConf has broadened the horizons of what a design conference is. Instead of showing slides, presenters prefer showing attendees how they work in a practical sense, from live debugging to live redesign. They'll also cover a broad scope of topics (think machine learning and UI design) since the notion of good design is the only real requirement for something to be worth thinking about at Smashing conf.
The undertone of everything that takes place at a SmashingConf event is passion. If you're looking for an intro or immersion into the real-life issues and adventures being undertaken by the innovators of the design world, this conference is a must.
This design event will boast two days, 13 speakers, and 260 attendees. As further proof of their commitment to a safe, inclusive event, you can view their Code of Conduct and Accessibility Policy at the linked pages.
Best for: Anyone. Literally. The organisers provide diversity scholarships and welcome designers and those interested in design, regardless of background.
Dates: September 9th - 11th, 2019.
Tickets: Available now for €399.
Venue choice says a lot about the event you're about to attend, and yet more about the people organising. As a designer (should that be your forte) you'll probably be impressed to know that this particular getaway for designers is being hosted in the Guggenheim in NYC.
We mentioned Clearleft a little further up, but let's look into them a little further. As a strategic design and innovation studio, Clearleft work with digital teams to get the most out of their teams, products and approaches.
For the last 13 years, Clearleft have been bringing some of the most influential design projects of repute to the industry, and they're not about to stop now.
Leading Design is a conference for people leading design teams. Previous speakers lead the folks behind Spotify, Facebook, and Google Venutures, to name but a few. The team have sold out three of their past editions in London and now have their eyes set on the Big Apple where they'll be welcoming influential designers from Pinterest, Lyft, and beyond.
Discussions therein will range from the biggest modern challenges with managing design to how to be a better leader.
Best for: According to Clearleft themselves, "people leading design teams, overseeing design direction, or instilling a culture of design within their organisations."
Dates: 19th & 20th June, 2019.
Tickets: Available now, starting at $1,195.
Bonus: If NYC is too far afield for you, Clearleft will also be presenting UX London in 2019. Limited, early details are available here.
The 411 (if people still say that) on Brand New is that it's a design event that gets to the heart of branding, with a two-person team behind it who epitomise the devotion that should go into creating the assets that symbolise what your business or mission is.
Enter: Bryony Gomez-Palacio, one half of that team. Whenever she talks about Brand New, she frames design challenges as ways to learn new skills, rather than roadblocks. She and her husband Armin have built one of the most sought-after conferences for designers, as showcased by the fact that they've hosted different editions in cities on either end of the USA, and still manage to sell out.
They've accrued millions of views on their design blogs, thousands of followers on social media, and the love of yet thousands more for their never-ending creativity and ability to create a delightful, awe-inspiring atmostphere.
Best suited for: Brand managers and graphic designers.
Dates: October 17th & 18th 2019.
If you're not a designer, well done on getting this far, but if you'd like our recommendations for tech events, please click here. We endeavour to update posts like this as often as possible but, for now, prices, dates, ticket availability and venues are all correct as of November 14th, 2018, though we'll keep an eye.
For more upcoming round ups like this, you can subscribe to blog notifications via the form below or follow the Tito team on Twitter.