Five upcoming design conferences, and how to get the most out of your trip
These international events are all amazing, and we've got tips on where to eat, sleep and visit while you're there.
It's weird to think how recently we were all under lockdown. Most things have gone back to normal now, and the days of not being able to go to the pub, or enter a shop without a mask, seem like a distant dream. Now we can travel abroad and start going to physical design conferences again. Hooray!
This will be many people's first creative event of the decade. And if it takes place abroad, it might also be your first trip overseas of the 2020s. So this time around, you'll really want to make the most of the occasion.
To help you out, we've listed five big international design events that are coming up and some pointers for hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions you can visit while you're there. So rather than going straight from the airport to the venue and then back again, why not add on a couple of days to your trip, and enjoy it in style?
1. Brand New, Austin, Texas
If you've ever looked for logo or branding inspiration, you'll probably have encountered UnderConsideration's Brand New blog. Well, it also organises a two-day conference focusing on the practice of corporate and brand identity in Austin, Texas.
This consists of eight sessions each day, offering a broad range of points of view with speakers from around the world, from global consultancies to in-house groups and small firms. The conference's 11th iteration will take place at The Long Center for the Performing Arts on 3-4 October.
Beyond the exhibition
Do you ever find yourself stuck for something to talk about when you've just met new people at a conference? The Austin Biker Gang E-Bike Adventure, a two-hour e-biking experience which costs $69.99, solves that problem nicely! It also gives you a unique way to explore the Texan capital, learn about its history and culture, and take cool photos. It all starts at 506 Walsh St, and you'll be given a helmet, bottled water and rider training. That said, the organisers stress that if you can ride a push bike, you should easily be able to ride an e-bike.
An expressive riot of colour and creativity, Maie Day is worth visiting for the wild interior design alone. And if you love steak, you'll be in food heaven. The restaurant provides a heady combination of great steaks, sides and cocktails, with a casual, lively, party-driven style that's uniquely Austin. Maie Day is housed within the South Congress Hotel on 1603 S Congress Ave and is open from 3-10pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
If you find the noise and intensity of Austin's Sixth Street a bit much after a while, here's the perfect antidote. Hotel Saint Cecilia is a boutique, 14-room hotel in honour of the patron saint of music and poetry. Located at 112 Academy Drive, less than a mile from Austin Convention Center, this five-star hotel is set in a secluded area, and its design is a tribute to both rock and roll opulence and royal elegance. Guests get free bikes, free Wi-Fi and access to an outdoor swimming pool. Each room has a pool view, a private bathroom, a private seating area and a desk, and some have river views too.
2. UXDX EMEA, Dublin
You've heard of UX (user experience), and you've heard of UI (user interface), but what exactly is UXDX? Well, DX stands for developer experience, and so by extension, UXDX refers to the relationship between UX Design and DevOps in modern digital design.
At the UXDX conference, held this year both in Dublin and online, you'll learn the latest product, UX, design and developer practices from leading companies through case studies that detail the obstacles as well as the successes. In the process, you'll increase your T-shaped skills and discover the techniques modern digital teams are using. It all takes place at the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin 4, from 12-14 October.
Beyond the exhibition
Telling the story of the Irish diaspora, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was voted as Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction at the 2019, 2020 and 2021 World Travel Awards, and for good reason. This brilliantly designed museum is based on the idea that Irish history should not be a long list of names and dates but an experience. And so it allows visitors to get hands-on with the subject via a range of interactive exhibits, including video galleries and motion sensor quizzes. It's based at the Custom House Quay, North Dock, Dublin 1, and you should expect to spend between one and two hours on your visit.
Located in the buzzing Dublin 2 area of the city, at 12 Wexford Street, Las Tapas de Lola offers award-winning Spanish tapas, wines, beers and tasty sangria. Founded by Anna, a native of Barcelona, and local girl Vanessa, both are passionate about providing a high-quality, authentic dining experience... and it shows. "This is not about haute cuisine, nor flash interiors," they say. "It's about a place where people can feel at home, relaxed and enjoy their food." The restaurant opens 5-10.30pm Thursdays, 5-11pm Fridays, 1-11pm Saturdays and 1-10.30pm on Sundays. You'll need to book ahead, but it'll be worth the effort.
The Devlin is a hip, beautifully designed hotel; with all herringbone floors, wooden ceilings and original paintings. But that's not all. Along with 40 cosy modern rooms, it also boasts a high-rated rooftop restaurant, an on-site subterranean luxury cinema and an Americana-themed cocktail bar. It's located at 117-119 Ranelagh, Dublin 6, in a trendy district south of the city centre. Temple Bar is about a 45-minute walk, or you can take a tram which is about five minutes away.
3. Adobe Max
Adobe Max is one of the world's biggest gatherings of creatives of all stripes. Both promoting the Creative Cloud specifically and creativity in general, it's a truly unique mix of software-focused reveals, sneaks and skill-building sessions, along with talks by some of the planet's leading creatives.
After lockdown forced it online during 2020-1, it's now returning to Los Angeles for 2022 and takes place from 18-20 October, with a pre-conference on 16-17 October. You can get a taste by watching all the talks from last year's virtual event on the website for free.
Beyond the exhibition
The Broad is a downtown Los Angeles art institution and, without wishing to sound repetitive, is worth visiting just to view the design of the building itself. Plus, this contemporary art museum, at 221 S Grand Avenue, is next door to Frank Gehry's iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, so you get a two-for-one in terms of architectural wow factor. And that's before you've even gone inside the 120,000-square-foot space, which is packed full of everything from work by Warhol and Koonz to the latest, cutting-edge practitioners. A current highlight is Yayoi Kusama's immersive installation Infinity Mirrored Room: a mirrored room with LED lights that you can physically enter for up to one minute. Note, though, you need to book in advance for this exhibition, although timed tickets are free, as is general admission.
Since 1975, El Compadre in Hollywood has been one of Southern California's hot spots for Mexican cuisine and drinks. Located at 7408 Sunset Blvd, it has the look and feel of an old-world hacienda, with its clay roof tiles, wrought iron lanterns and stained glass chandeliers. This amazing place boasts nightly live music from a trio singing Mexican classics, dimly lit, sultry lighting, and a separate bar area serving mixed cocktails and imported and domestic beers. El Compadre opens from 11am to 10pm Monday to Thursday, 11pm Friday and Saturday, and 9pm on Sunday.
Hotels in Los Angeles can be a bit bland and samey, but here's one that's much more distinctive and interesting. Proper has been thoughtfully designed by Kelly Wearstler to seamlessly blend past and present with compelling design, vintage influence and local art. Each of the 147 rooms and suites is subtly different, and all offer tiled baths inspired by Moroccan interiors, custom robes and Aesop amenities. Located at 1100 S Broadway, Proper also features two destination restaurants in partnership with award-winning chef Suzanne Goin and renowned restaurateur Caroline Styne, along with an intimate library lounge, a rooftop pool with fabulous city views, and a lounge-bar-restaurant.
4. Manchester Animation Festival, Manchester
Taking place from 13-18 November, Manchester Animation Festival is the UK's largest animation festival. In its third year at HOME, the city's leading arts centre, the festival invites the international community to join for animated short competitions, feature films, retrospective screenings, workshops, networking events, panel discussions, masterclasses and screen talks.
Beyond the exhibition
Named after the early 20th-century painter LS Lowry, The Lowry is a theatre and gallery complex at Salford Quays that is worth a visit just to marvel at its stunning architectural design. And if you have time to venture inside, you'll find a diverse programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, music, comedy and visual art to entertain and inspire. Events taking place during the Manchester Animation Festival include an evening with Noel Fitzpatrick, comedy from Brown Girls Do It Too, La Traviata by Opera North and Othello by Frantic Assembly.
Manchester's packed with fantastic restaurants, but 10 Tib Lane is the jewel in the crown. Located in Bow Chambers, M2 and open from 4pm-1am, there are no fancy gimmicks or airs and graces here: just first-class food, served by friendly staff in attractive yet unpretentious surroundings. A joint venture between Chorlton bar Henry C and the Northern Quarter's Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun, there's lots of locally sourced and organic produce on offer, and the prices are pretty reasonable too. Get there for their famed Sunday roast if you can, but make sure you book to avoid disappointment.
Tired of chain hotels and want to stay somewhere a bit more quirky and out of the ordinary? King Street Townhouse is a luxurious home-from-home that's just five minutes' walk from Manchester Town Hall. It's housed in a large Italian renaissance building, which has been updated to modern standards while maintaining its historic features. The rooms are beautifully contemporary, and there's a heated infinity spa pool on the rooftop, as well as a relaxation room and steam room.
5. OFFF, Barcelona
OFFF Barcelona is one of the world's largest showcase of visual creativity and design. This three-day festival, running from 23-25 March 2023, is packed full of workshops, conferences, networking and more. It all takes place at Disseny Hub, the city's museum of contemporary design, and speakers for 2023 include Joshua Davis, Kessels Kramer, Universal Everything, The Mill, Javier Mariscal, FutureDeluxe and Mr Bingo.
Beyond the exhibition
Think of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, and you think of incredible structures like the Church of the Sagrada Família. But one of his greatest achievements wasn't a building at all, but Park Güell, a system of gardens and architectural elements located on Carmel Hill, in the Gracia district of Barcelona. This playful urban park, replete with peaceful greens, winding paths, sculptures and mosaics, is now open to the public and listed as a UN World Heritage Site. The perfect getaway from the intensity of OFFF; give yourself between one and two hours to enjoy it. Tickets cost €10, and the park is open from 9.30am to 7.30pm.
You might not expect us to recommend an Asian restaurant in Barcelona, but Tamae Bar is something else. While the food is first-class, it's actually quite reasonably priced. That's because world-class chefs Albert Raurich and Eugeni de Diego launched it during the pandemic to focus on up-market takeouts. Now it's open to the public, so you can enjoy the food straight from the kitchen. It's very small, though, with seats for just eight people. However, OFFF isn't till next March, and when we checked Tamae Bar's calendar, all those dates were free, so you do have time to book!
And where to stay? Seventy Barcelona is a stylish and modern homage to Mediterranean hospitality, blending the quality and hospitality of a guest house with the services and amenities of a high-class hotel. Located on Carrer Còrsega, nestled between the refined Passeig de Gràcia and the timeless charm of the neighbourhood of Gràcia, it attracts a buzzy, cosmopolitan and avant-garde crowd thanks to its lively and sophisticated décor, warm customer service, and great food. This four-star hotel also boasts an outdoor pool, indoor pool, and fitness centre.