One could argue that design is more important than ever—an essential focus for any brand that wants to stand out and stay top-of-mind in the over-stimulated world we live in.
But wow-worthy design doesn’t just happen. We know that designers need a steady stream of fresh inspiration to take their work to the next level.That’s why we’ve assembled a list of the top design conferences that are sure to provide the creative spark you crave.
Without further ado, here’s a look at nine design conferences (listed in chronological order) worth checking out in 2019.
1. AIGA Design Conference (April 4-6) Pasadena, California
Are you looking to be inspired by some of the best designers in the business? If so, then this annual three-day conference by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is just right for you. In the mornings, you’ll have your choice of topic-specific sessions to choose from. Moving to the afternoon, you’ll join the host Roman Mars, creator of the podcast 99% Invisible, and hear from other executive-level creatives that are shaping the aesthetic standards of the industry at companies like IBM, Warby Parker, The New Yorker, and AirBnb.
2. OFFF Conference (April 25-27) Barcelona, Spain
Are you eager to learn from a wide range of global experts, participate in enlightening discussions with others who share your passion, get inspired like never before and travel to Barcelona? Then this is your conference. The schedule for this event is unbelievable. Attendees get to hear from talented individuals from around the world who represent a wide range of disciplines—everything from product design and independent filmmaking to typography and data transformation. The inspiration and creativity presented by such a diverse group will send you back to your home office geared up and ready to elevate your work, thinking and results. Plus, there are curated networking events where you can huddle with fellow creatives and hear professional hosts’ stories. (An example of one that caught our attention… Draft and Draw: A Meeting for Drinkers with a Drawing Problem). And, as if all of this knowledge and inspiration isn’t enough of a souvenir, you can head over to the OFFF market where you can purchase local and international products, designed prints, textiles and more.
3. What Design Can Do (May 6-8) Mexico City, Mexico
Enjoy an enriching experience at this 3-day festival in Mexico City, which includes interactive breakout sessions, talks and live performances that cover a diverse range of topics focusing on global and cultural issues. Opening night kicks off with inspiring speakers and live musical performances that will set the creative tone for the duration of the conference. The following two days allow participants to fully immerse in the creative, cultural and political communities of Mexico as they hear from speakers representing iconic companies like Tesla, IKEA and AirBnb.
4. HOW Design Live (May 7-10) Chicago, Illinois
HOW Design Live is one of the largest annual gatherings of creative professionals in the world. (What could be more fun than that?) HOW’s mission is to serve the business, creativity and technology needs of all graphic designers—whether they work for a design firm, an in-house creative department or themselves. Guaranteed to leave you inspired, this conference provides the opportunity to hear from amazing industry game-changers, visionaries and creators at companies like Etsy,Taco Bell,Home Depot,Google,Colgate Palmolive and more. Not only that, you’ll be able to test-drive the latest software and tech, and create vital connections that will last a lifetime.
5. Dieline Conference (May 8-10) Chicago, Illinois
Co-located with HOW Design Live, Dieline Conference brings together attendees to help move the packaging industry towards future-forward solutions through creativity and innovation. Packaging and related trends continue to change rapidly, so who better to learn from than the world’s leading brands, agencies, designers and sustainability experts that are navigating this change? You’ll hear from trend-setters and biz leaders like Pum Lefebure, Co-Founder & CEO of Design Army and Giles Verdon, Head of Earthcare at Lush. This year’s show will emphasize sustainability, with a focus on how it will impact the future of consumer brands and product packaging.
6. 99U (May 8-10) New York City
This two-day conference sponsored by Adobe focuses on pushing creative boundaries and design to tackle challenges and shape the future. On the first day, you’ll hear from speakers with a range of expertise focusing on the topic of “The Future is Creative.” The second day focuses on the topic of “The Future is Human,” with talks from creative experts that focus on innovative ways to bridge humans and design. This conference features dynamic breakout sessions that include workshops and master classes with a mix of hands-on activities and discussions aimed at changing the way you think about the future of design. For example, creative and futurist Layne Braunstein, will demonstrate how the use of nostalgia can create an optimal experience, resulting in an immediate love of a brand.
7. Typographics (June 14-15) Manhattan, New York City
If you’re a typography junkie, then you won’t want to miss Typographics. This multipart design festival centers around a 2-day conference that focuses on the use and future of typography. There are lectures, workshops, tours, TypeLabs and book fairs happening throughout. Participants can look forward to experimenting with a vast range of typography (like micro type, augmented type) and even create their own typeface.
8. Circles Conference (September 18-20) Richardson, Texas
The Circles Conference brings designers, illustrators, creative professionals and techies together for three days of creation, collaboration and world-class networking. Attendees will learn from top leaders in the industry while rubbing elbows (and ideas) with a diverse range of artistically inclined individuals who are striving for excellence, inspiration, and the fuel to ignite that next passion and breakthrough concept in the industry of design.
9. Adobe MAX 2019 (November 4-6, Preconference Nov. 2-3) Los Angeles, CA
Join 14,000 of your closest friends for this intense 3-day experience (5-day, if you’re feeling extra ambitious). Said to be a mashup up of practical knowledge and wild imagination, Adobe MAX is more than just a collection of inspirational keynotes. You’ll experience rich hands-on labs and creativity workshops where exploration becomes your greatest tool. There are also lots of networking events to appease your inner social butterfly. Oh, and about those keynotes—you’ll still get plenty of them from some of the best in the biz (past presenters include Ron Howard, Questlove and Lilly Singh). Need a little help convincing your boss? Check out the customizable “Convince Your Boss” letter. There’s nothing stopping you now!
So, which of these design conferences sounds the most inspirational to you? Will you be attending any of them? Are there any others you think we should add to the list? I’d love to hear from you—drop me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Interested in even more sources of inspiration? Check out links to our lists of the top innovation and creativity conferences below…
Jeff Johns is SVP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he consistently delivers breakthrough creative at lightning speed across a wide range of best-in-class design practices: packaging, branding, shelf aisle optimization and advertising.
Jamie Schleicher is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy. A consummate creative leader, collaborator and catalyst, Jamie sets exacting standards for excellence and smart thinking that help inspire internal and external teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Chelsea Bradley is a Designer at Seed Strategy where she wows teams with her visually captivating, strategically solid design solutions, while also serving as the go-to resource for Seed’s own brand equity. Her passion for packaging and layout design, paired with her detail-oriented style, has helped her craft inspired deliverables that truly shine.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is a Creative Director at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.