A guide to the UK and Ireland's best art and design conferences in 2020

Birmingham Design Festival. Photography by Martin O'Callaghan

If you're looking for creative inspiration, advice and insight to push your skills, or you want to enjoy a day or two away from your desk, then here's our guide to this year's best creative conferences.

Taking place across the UK and Ireland, these are the big events that are packed with talks from some of the world's best designers, artists and makers – giving us the reassurance and motivation we need to improve and grow.

You'll also find helpful workshops, fun gigs and after-parties, giving you a chance to network and make new friends. Here's our roundup of the dates to add to your calendar.

March

The VFX Festival 2020, London

Hosted by Escape Studios, The VFX Festival is an annual celebration of visual effects, animation, games and motion graphics. It's an event for emerging talent to explore the creative industries; it's also an opportunity for creative professionals to share their insights on award-winning productions. In 2020, the festival will focus on discovering and developing new and emerging talent.

16-18 March 2020, Southbank Centre, London – pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk

April

OFFSET, Dublin

With over 2,500 attendees each year, OFFSET has become one of the world's most inspirational conferences for the design and creative industries. Since 2009, from its Dublin base, it has attracted such icons as Massimo Vignelli, Sir Peter Blake, Paula Scher, David Carson, Milton Glaser, Kyle Cooper and Stefan Sagmeister. For 2020, you can expect names such as April Greiman, Oscar Hudson, Rory Simms, Laura Callaghan, Andy Gent, and more.

3-5 April 2020, The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin – iloveoffset.com

Leeds Digital Festival

The Leeds Digital Festival celebrates local talent and innovation in digital and tech and aims to encourage collaboration between everyone. In 2018, there were more tech events in Leeds during the festival than in San Francisco, with 20,000 people attending events across 68 venues. It's back for another year and "bigger, better and bolder" than ever.

20 April - 1 May 2020, Leeds – leedsdigitalfestival.org

May

Goodfest, Cornwall

Love creativity? Love beaches? Goodfest is for you. Hang out with some leading international change-makers and hear their stories. This year, there'll be talks from Alex Weller of Patagonia, Natalie Fee of City to Sea, and Dan Burgess of Good for Nothing – all exploring how to create sustainable change through purposeful ideas and actions.

14-15 May 2020, Cornwall – goodfestcornwall.com

D&AD Festival, London

This three-day spectacular celebrates the best in craft, creativity and culture, hosted at The Old Truman Brewery, London every May. With keynotes, workshops and masterclasses from the world of advertising, art, design, fashion, film, and much more – this year's theme is Imagine. And speakers for 2020 include Andrew Melchior, Ane Crabtree, Eddie Opara, and more.

19-21 May 2020, The Old Truman Brewery, London – dandad.org

UX London

UX London brings you loads of inspirational talks and hands-on workshops from industry leaders from all over the world. For 2020, you can expect to hear from Benjamin Evans at Airbnb, Amy Zima from Spotify, and Alison Coward, founder of Bracket.

27-29 May 2020, Trinity Laban, London – 2020.uxlondon.com

June

Birmingham Design Festival

We're heading into the third dose of Birmingham Design Festival, organised by designers and friends Daniel Alcorn and Luke Tonge. Each year, they choose a theme; for 2020, it's 'Colour'. Expect big names such as Brian Collins of COLLINS, Morag Myerscough, Anna Charity, and Anthony Burrill.

5-6 June 2020, various venues around Birmingham – birminghamdesignfestival.org.uk

UX Scotland, Ediburgh

UX Scotland is the conference for the UX, service design and digital communities in Scotland. Like its London twin, which takes place earlier in May, it has a decent lineup of speakers including Alison Coward of Bracket, Ben Holliday from FutureGov, and designer Tatiana Mac. "People who join us leave with new ideas and skills to improve their user experiences, an increased professional network and the echoes of excellent conversations to encourage them forward in their work," say the organisers.

10-12 June 2020, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh – uxscotland.net

Pixel Pioneers, Bristol

This is a one-day conference of practical and inspiring design and front-end talks, featuring world-class speakers, preceded by a workshop day, organised by Oliver Lindberg, former editor of net magazine. For this year's lineup, you can expect Val Head from Adobe, Charlie Gerard, and Paul Boag.

12 June 2020, Bristol – pixelpioneers.co

Design Politics, Dublin

Design Politics is the first in a planned series of conferences from This is HCD, to be held in June in the gorgeous space of The Richmond Education and Event Centre in Dublin. "Design is the act of making change by putting products and services into the world," says the organisers. "There are always politics in design – within project teams, studios, client stakeholders, impact on the environment, culture and society. In an age of perpetual design sprints, Design Politics is a chance to spend much-needed time thinking about and discussing the complexities of design."

16-17 June 2020, Dublin, Ireland – events.thisishcd.com

Creative North, Manchester

Creative North is an annual one-day event in Manchester that aims to "help you do better work". With a theme of 'Collaboration' for 2020, you'll learn how working together can supercharge your career, grow your business and develop your skills. Expect to hear from a load of inspiring speakers offering insight and wisdom.

19 June 2020, Manchester – creativenorthconf.com

July

OffGrid Sessions, Osea Island

OffGrid Sessions is an independent "ideas festival" for creatives, founded by Jeremy and Aimi Hill. Whether it's hearing from philosophers, academics or entrepreneurs, taking part in discussion groups, walking tours, making bread or a morning swim, OffGrid creates a space to discover, absorb and reflect on new ideas and connect with others.

8-10 July 2020, Osea Island – offgridsessions.com

September

dConstruct, Brighton

Clearleft is bringing its one-day conference back after a five-year break and for 2020, dConstruct will take place in its home of Brighton. "Here is an opportunity to push the boundaries of what we think we know, re-visit assumptions and go deeper into the opportunities and challenges of our time as designers," says the organisers. This is a one-time thing, dConstruct isn't returning yearly, just as a fifteenth-year anniversary celebration – so don't miss out.

11 September 2020, Brighton – dconstruct.org

October

Canvas, Birmingham

Describing itself as "a single-day digital product and experience conference sharing actionable insights from makers, to makers", Canvas brings us inspirational and informative talks for people who design, make and deliver digital products and experiences. The first speakers have been announced, including Matt Davey of 1Password and Genevieve Kangurs of TSB.

8 October 2020, Cineworld, Birmingham – canvasconference.co.uk

Interact, London

A conference where the best minds from UX, design, AI, data and more share their ideas with digital leaders from around the world. This year, the one-day event is once again taking place at the Natural History Museum, and the theme for 2020 is 'Designing Tomorrow'. Only one speaker has been announced so far: Melanie Yencken, the UX Design Lead at Google.

15 October 2020, Natural History Museum, London – interactconf.com

November

magCulture Live, London

magCulture Live is a day of talks celebrating the culture of magazines. Featuring an international selection of speakers from magazines both large and small, sharing their work and inspiring those who attend. Previously known as ModMag, magCulture Live takes place annually in London and New York.

5 November 2020, Conway Hall, London – magculture.com

Design Manchester

We have a soft spot for Design Manchester. It's an annual festival on our doorstep, celebrating creativity, collaboration and inclusivity in the worlds of art, design, illustration, fashion, music, animation and photography. Speakers have yet to be announced for 2020 but never disappoint. There'll be workshops and events, too, with plenty of surprises.

5-15 November 2020, Manchester – designmcr.com

Thought Bubble, Harrogate

Thought Bubble is a week-long celebration of all things comic art, animation and illustration, featuring talks, exhibitions, book launches and workshops, finishing off with a giant comic convention. It regularly host artists whose work is known and loved all over the world, with guests and exhibitors representing Marvel, DC, Black Horse, Image, The Walking Dead, Rick & Morty, 2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Hilda, Star Wars, Hellboy, Nickelodeon, Netflix, The Guardian, New York Times, The Observer and countless more.

9-15 November 2020, Harrogate – thoughtbubblefestival.com


Have we missed anything? Got a creative conference or festival that you can recommend? Drop us a line to [email protected], and we'll consider adding your event to this guide for UK and Ireland.