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The 17 Best Design Conferences to Attend This Year
min read

The 17 Best Design Conferences to Attend This Year

Get the rundown on which design conferences you should attend this year.

Looking for a good reason to get up from your desk, stretch your legs, and yet, still be productive? Maybe even stretch your mind a little bit while you're at it. Well, we have a great idea for you: attend a conference (or two).

Attending conferences is a great way to stay on top of trends in your industry, meet like-minded professionals, and clear your head from day-to-day tasks.

So, grab your notebook and pack your bags, because we're going to give you a rundown of the top design & creativity conferences you should attend this year.

girl holding up popicle


Experience Design Week

When: February 24-26, 2020

Where: Denver, CO

What to expect: As you may be able to gather from the name, this conference is going to be largely centered around UX design. You'll attend workshops and sessions where you will hear the latest news coming from the digital landscape, and where the future of experience design is heading.

Keynote speakers:

Koji Pereira, Sr. UX Lead, Google
Thai Fernandes, Product Manager, Lunna App
Marcela Lay, VP Client Strategy, Y Media Labs
Brittany Boyer, Technology Director of Digital Claims Experience, State Farm

Cost: $2,599 - $3,999

Leading Design

When: March 4-6, 2020

Where: San Francisco, CA

What to expect: This conference is geared specifically towards people leading designs teams, particularly in the tech space. Design leaders from Google, Uber, Lyft, and more will be speaking on everything from leading teams to overseeing design direction to instilling team culture.

Keynote speakers:

Jane Austin, Director of Product Design, Babylon Health
Katie Dill, VP of Design, Lyft
Stuart Frisby, Director of Design, Deliveroo

Cost: $1,495

SXSW Conference

When: March 13-21, 2020

Where: Austin, TX

What to expect: Chaos, in the best way possible. SXSW brings together professionals from the worlds of design, film, music, and technology to explore what's next in the world. The conference has different "tracks" you can follow based on discipline, but expect to meet and rub elbows with creative individuals across disciplines.

Keynote speakers:*

Martha Cotton, Group Design Director, Fjord
Jessica Shen, Sr. Experience Designer, R/GA
Mark Webster, Director of Product, Adobe

*Note: these are the speakers for the design track. For a list of the conference keynote speakers, click here.

Cost: $1,145


AIGA Design Conference

When: March 30-April 1, 2020

Where: Pittsburgh, PA

What to expect: Big names, and high-level thought. the AIGA Design Conference will be a bit light in terms of practical skill, and heavier on content pertaining to large scale problems, and design/creativity's role in solving them.

Keynote speakers:

Luis von Ahn, CEO and Co-founder, Duolingo
Tim Allen, VP of Design at Airbnb
Roman Mars, Creator and Host, 99% Invisible Podcast
Giorgia Lupi, Partner, Pentagram

Price: $395-$1,495

Creative South

When: April 2–4, 2020

Where: Columbus, GA

What to expect: One of the most friendly, educational, and downright fun design conferences you'll ever attend. Set in the small, charming town of Columbus, GA, this conferences drops all pretense, and you can expect to have genuine conversations with humble, friendly, and talented folks. The delightfully southern motto of "Break bread, hug necks" is embodied in this conference. Plus, this is the conference's 10-year anniversary, so you can expect a special show this time around.

Keynote Speakers:

Aaron Draplin, Founder, Draplin Design Co.
Mackey Saturday, Owner, Mackey Saturday
Lauren Hom, Letter & Illustrator, Hom Sweet Hom

Cost: $97–$447

HOW Design Live

When: May 4-7, 2020

Where: Boston, MA

What to expect: A massive, polished, well-oiled conference. HOW has a particular focus on design and technology, making it an amazing conference for UI/UX designers.

Keynote Speakers:

Roanne Adams, Chief Creatice Officer, RoAndCo
Emily Oberman, Multidisciplinary Designer, Pentagram
Amy & Jennifer Hood, Co-founders, Hoodzpah Design

Cost: $795-$1,695

99u Conference

When: June 3-5, 2020

Where: New York, NY

What to expect: This conference is really for a range of creative disciplines. Designers, illustrators, marketers, and strategists can all feel at home here, as 99u looks to bridge these gaps and explore how design, creativity, and technology can change the world for the better.

Keynote speakers:

Debbie Millman, Host, Design Matters Podcast
Tim Brown, Chair, Ideo
Stefan Sagmeister, Founder, Sagmeister, Inc.
Seth Godin, Author & Entrepreneur
Brené Brown, Author & Researcher

Cost: $999

UXR Conference

When: June 3-5, 2020

Where: Toronto, Canada

What to expect: You can expect this conference to get pretty deep into the technical and research side of UX. UX professionals from across the globe will gather together to learn how to pull together better insights and solve UX problems more effectively.

Keynote speakers:

TBD. But here's last year's list to give you an idea of what to expect.

Cost: $1,261

Eyeo Festival

When: June 8-11, 2020

Where: Minneapolis, MN

What to expect: This conference doesn't necessarily have a particular design discipline in mind, rather, is "a rich intersection of people doing fascinating things with technology." Expect everyone from artists to developers to researchers to be there, learning how to use creativity and technology for good.

Keynote speakers:

Claire O'Neill, Art Director, The New York Times
Emily Gobeille, Partner, Design IO

Cost: $679

Enterprise Experience

When: June 10-12, 2020

Where: San Francisco, CA

What to expect: The Enterprise Experience conference is aimed at UX designers and researchers who are building larger, enterprise-scale products. Expect most of the conversation to be around building products at scale, leading large teams, and how to make product decisions with multiple stakeholders across disciplines.

Keynote speakers:


Cost: $1,295


Circles Conference

When: September 10-11, 2020

Where: Richardson, TX

What to expect: A good mix of heady keynote presentations and intimate, hands-on workshops to satisfy both your curiosity and tangible skill. Plus, the conference is loaded with networking events, so you'll have a chance to meet a lot of like-minded professionals.

Keynote speakers:

Aaron Irizarry, Design Director, Capital One
Brit Blankenship, Design Director, Matchstic
Jeff Sheldon, Owner, Ugmonk

Cost: $457

Letterwest Conference

When: July 9-11, 2020

Where: Salt Lake City, UT

What to expect: Letterwest is very direct about what it is –– "A conference for people who love hand-lettering." Being the only conference specific to hand-lettering in North America, Letterwest draws in some of the best hand-letterers in the world for some networking. Expect to run elbows with some of your favorite Instagram follows, and learn practical tips on how to grow your business as a hand-letterer.

Keynote speakers:

Jessica Hische, Letterer & Author
Seb Lester, Graphic Designer & Calligrapher
Lisa Congdon, Illustrator & Author

Price: $144-$480

Awwwards Conference

When: July 14-16, 2020

Where: Toronto, Canada

What to expect: Awwwards is going to be a great conference for anyone designing for the web. If you're an illustrator, UX designer, developer, or any hybrid of those roles, you can expect to gain something valuable from attending the Awwwards conference.

Keynote speakers:

Irene Pereyra, Founder, Anton&Irene
Jared Erondu, Head of Design, Lattice
Aaron Draplin, Founder, Draplin Design Co.
Pablo Stanley, Design Leader, InVision

Cost: CA$499 ($~380 USD)

Design + Diversity

When: July 30 - August 1, 2020

Where: St. Louis, MO

What to expect: Design+Diversity is a conference put on to explore proactive ways to make the design and creative industry more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. It'd be great for anyone to attend, but particularly great for design leaders who want to learn what they can better do to foster an inclusive, diverse workplace.

Keynote speakers:


Cost: $200-$350


Adobe MAX

When: October 17-21, 2020

Where: Los Angeles, CA

What to expect: Maybe the most premier design and creativity conference out there. Massive names, massive crowds, and an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of your design and creativity icons.

Keynote speakers: TBD. But here's a list of 2019's speaker lineup to give you an idea of what kind of names you can expect.

Cost: TBD. Registration opens in Spring.

Seattle Interactive

When: October 20-22, 2020

Where: Seattle, WA

What to expect: Seattle Interactive Conference is "a celebration of the incredible work happening at the intersection of technology, creativity and industry." Expect to hear from speakers from different industries and professional disciplines on how to creatively tackle some of the world's biggest problems.

Keynote speakers:

TBD. But here's a list of 2019's speaker lineup to give you an idea of what kind of names you can expect.

Price: $449-$749

Brand New Conference

When: October 22-23, 2020.

Where: Austin, TX

What to expect: Organized by UnderConsideration, this conference is focused specifically on corporate and brand identity. Speakers from global consultancies, in-house teams, and small firms will be there to share their knowledge on branding and identity, so if that's in your wheelhouse, you won't want to miss it.

Keynote speakers: TBD.

Cost: $400 right now, $500 when early-bird pricing ends in May.

See you there?

Are you planning on attending any of these conferences? Let us know on Twitter (@realthread). We may be at one or two of them as well.

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