Design is an ever-changing field, and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the news feed. Fret not: attending a design conference gets us offline and into a world full of new ideas, discussions, and talks from design luminaries we’ve always wanted to meet.
Across the world, design fairs, festivals, and week-long conferences will be showcasing new trends – from problem-solving collabs to community-driven design – in 2019. From UX discussion to marketing lectures to public art assemblies, here are some of the best design fairs and festivals.
Arctic Design Week
Dates: March 18–24
Location: Rovaniemi, Finland
Boasting itself as “the world’s most northern design week,” this design week is right up by the Arctic Circle. Expect to see design talks and workshops, design exhibitions, pop-up design shops, restaurants and even an arctic fashion show. One highlight is the Designer Stories conference, where a group of Finnish designers, design professors, and entrepreneurs will talk about their process, stories behind their works and Nordic design history.
Bauhaus Festivals Dessau
Dates: March 20 – September 15
Location: Dessau, Germany
This year marks the centennial of the Bauhaus design school. It’s hard to imagine it was 1919 when Walter Gropius first founded the minimalist design school, but it’s represented throughout the year with several design-related festivals.
Three festivals will take place at the Bauhaus Museum Dessau, starting in March: School Fundamental, Architecture Radical, and Stage Total. Architecture Radical features prototypes of radical design with competition entries from over 100 design students around the world. For fans of brutalism and German minimalism, this one’s not to be missed.
HOW Design Live
Dates: May 7–10
Location: Chicago, IL
Hosted by HOW Design, this annual fair is everything for a graphic designer. The opening keynote speaker this year is Nike director Beth Comstock, author of Imagine It Forward, a book about change in the design industry. Throughout her career, Comstock has helped develop new digital strategies with clean energy, and she’s know to work magic when it comes to enhancing brand value. Hands-on product demos, lectures, and networking sessions make this conference an immersive one.
LA Design Festival
Dates: June 20–23
Location: Los Angeles, CA
A festival featuring young, up-and-coming talent, this design-focused fair hosts parties, workshops, and on-stage conversations that aim to reflect the city’s sprawling creative community. This year’s theme is ‘design with purpose,’ so expect to see talks related to social change. In 2019, the festival is launching its first internship program in a partnership with Find Your Grind, which pairs up mentors and companies with interns looking for work.
San Francisco Design Week
Dates: June 20–28
Location: San Francisco, CA
The startup savvy Bay Area’s own design conference will showcase everything from industrial products to eco-friendly design and debates around design issues in 2019. Featuring 300 events and 60 studio tours around the city, this year’s theme is CommUNITY, and visual and industrial designers will come together with other creatives to talk about how building a creative community is one way to make a lasting impact.
EDIT: Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology
Dates: September 28–October 8
Location: Toronto, Canada
Hosted by Toronto’s central design hub, the Design Exchange, this design conference is presented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In line with the city’s ongoing ‘Toronto the Good’ campaign, this festival will focus on the intersection of design, innovation, and technology and how they’ll help shape future and create positive change.
Dutch Design Week
Dates: October 20–28
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
Move over, Amsterdam: the small Dutch town of Eindhoven has created a lot of buzz around Dutch design over the past few years. This conference and festival is vast, drawing over 300,000 guests from across the world for features in over 100 venues. Not to miss are the winners at the Dutch Design Awards, who show their works in a week-long exhibition. This year’s 18th edition is still in progress, but you can check out highlights from last year’s event here.
Digital Thinkers Conference
Dates: May 9–10
Location: San Francisco, CA
Happening a few times a year (including in Amsterdam early in 2019), this two- or three-day design conference features an option workshop day and talks centered around UX and graphic design, with speakers from Airbnb, Google, Dropbox, and more as the main event. The conference takes place at San Francisco’s Greek and Roman-inspired Palace of Fine Arts, using their theatre for talks and the Palace grounds as inspiration.