We’ve collected the data, analyzed the schematics, and crunched the floating points to scientifically proclaim that design conferences are awesome, and you should try to attend them.
Before we get to the list of our favorite design conferences of 2019 though, allow me to say a few words about design conferences in general. A design conference is like a party, career refresher, inspiration fountain, and industry meet-and-greet/networking event all rolled into one. They are valuable to many, many types of designers, wherever they are in their careers.
For a student or junior designer, they provide a place for you to see and possibly meet your current design heroes — or to just get fired up about your future. You can make contacts for your first job, or get a better job, and start meeting the professionals in your trade.
Attending local conferences makes you a familiar face — showing up to events shows other people you are committed to your community, which says a lot more than anonymously sending your portfolio and resume around.
For a veteran designer, design conferences can spark a new approach or simply refresh your state of mind. You’ll find out about new and exciting approaches or software, and stay on top of current trends.
Some of the bigger conferences with well-known speakers are expensive, and they involve travel, which can be challenging if you’re just starting out or supporting a family. But, there’s a good chance there is a worthwhile conference going on this year within driving distance of your town. And many employers provide continuing education or career development budgets so you can attend them.
So here are the 5 best design conferences of 2019 for first-timers and the experienced alike, in chronological order.
1. AIGA Design Conference
April 4-6, 2019 | Pasadena, CA
AIGA, the professional association for design, is the largest, most visible community for graphic designers. Their design conference is also one of the most well-known events, with familiar designers from our social feeds — along with up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. There are always plenty of wide-ranging presentations, from technical to purely creative.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:
- Mornings — Each morning, plan to attend the symposia of your choice.
- Afternoons — Our general sessions bring everyone together in the afternoon around the main stage.
- Our Conference Host — Roman Mars, creator and host of the popular design podcast 99% Invisible, returns to host general sessions on the main stage.
- Command X Returns — Command X brings emerging designers to the stage and pits these up-and-coming creatives against one another to tackle bold design challenges and defend their designs in front of peers, role models, and potential employers.
- The Design Fair — Come here to network, line up for book signings by design legends, play with hands-on demonstrations, participate in roundtables or portfolio reviews, attend happy hour, charge your devices, learn about new products or services, and so much more.
2. HOW Design Live
May 7–10 | Chicago, Il
One of the largest annual gatherings of creative professionals in the world, HOW Design Live is a career-changing, life-altering experience.
That’s a big claim, but it’s probably true. Since 1985, HOW Live has become legendary in its scope and features, providing education, powerful keynotes, empowering community building, and exclusive hands-on previews of technology and products in the design industry. Everyone will be there, and it’s right in the middle of the U.S.
Highlights include the following:
- Journaling Wall — Check out this live reflection of HOW Design Live illustrated with words and drawings.
- Job Board/Headshots — Sponsored by LinkedIn, here is an opportunity to polish your image.
- Speed Coaching — Join our expert speakers for one-on-one, 10-minute, personal coaching sessions — and to discuss various design topics.
June 4-6, 2018 | San Jose, CA
Nested within Apple’s WWDC, or Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Layers is a three-day conference addressing “design, technology, and creativity/culture/business/leadership/snacks,” according to the website.
This is a broader conference including product design, UX, and interactive design, but these topics all play with graphic design in a blend of creativity and technology. For the designer with a tech focus, this is a great conference, whether you are involved with Apple apps or not.
The Layers conference promises the following:
- Building successful products.
- Getting more value from your work.
- New design tools and features.
- Approachable methods for staying motivated.
- Facing project challenges.
TBA | New York, NY
For the designer focused on typography, Typographics is a two-day conference centered on the contemporary use of type. Billed as, “a design festival for people who use type,” it certainly sounds like a fun and educational experience for any graphic designer interested in letterforms.
Highlights include the following:
- Workshops & Tours — Everything from hand lettering to responsive typography.
- TypeLab — A series of technical hands-on workshops, demos, interviews, and experiments.
- Book Fair — Items for sale from some of our favorite design booksellers.
5. Adobe MAX
November 2–6, Los Angeles, CA
To finish off 2019, for creative computer users, the Adobe MAX conference is the ultimate example of “all-encompassing.” Every app Adobe offers is practically its own cottage industry, with thousands of professionals using them exclusively.
Of course, a graphic designer will benefit from MAX, too. All the new updates to your favorite Adobe product are presented here.
Here’s a sampling of what to expect from this year’s epic (yes, actually epic) annual bash:
- Speakers — Including Ron Howard, Questlove, and Jessica Hische.
- Sessions, Labs, and Workshops — Top creative minds show you how to do everything from building skills to launching a new career.
- Pre-conference Training — Get even more out of MAX: spend a day or two before the main conference and dive deep into Adobe Creative Cloud
- Creativity Workshops — Take the leap and make something; these workshops are all about hands-on exploration.
They’ll also have a musical guest you’ve actually heard of and probably can’t believe is playing. It’s huge, it’s ultimate.