As creatives, we're always hungry for inspiration, tips and insight to help us improve our craft. It's why we're happy to fork out our hard-earned cash on special events or workshops.
But it's the annual conferences or festivals that get us the most excited. Those one or two-day events crammed full of talks from some of the world's best designers, artists and makers that give us a renewed dose of creative energy.
Besides, it's always good to get away from our desks and hear from other creative humans. So here's our roundup of 2019's best creative conferences and festivals across the UK and Ireland.
With over 2,500 attendees each year, OFFSET has become one of the world’s most inspirational, educational and vocational 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 2019, you can expect names as big as Lance Wyman, Edel Rodriguez and Yuri Suzuki.
5-7 April 2019, Point Square, Dublin – iloveoffset.com
Leeds Digital Festival
The Leeds Digital Festival was set up to do two things: to celebrate the incredible talent and innovation the city has in digital and tech, and also 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 — definitely one for the calendar.
23 April - 3 May 2019, Leeds – leedsdigitalfestival.org
If you fancy mixing up creativity with some beach vibes, then Goodfest in May is one to consider. Hang out with some leading international change-makers and hear their stories. This year, you can expect to see Sir Tim Smit of Eden Project, Hugo Tagholm from Surfers Against Sewage and Hanna Henshall from If Not Now – all exploring how to create sustainable change through purposeful ideas and actions.
1-2 May 2019, Cornwall – goodfestcornwall.com
D&AD Festival, London
D&AD Festival is a three-day creative spectacular celebrating the best in craft, creativity and culture, hosted at The Old Truman Brewery, London in May. With keynotes, fireside chats, workshops and masterclasses from the world of advertising, art, design, fashion, film, and much more – this year's theme is Shaping the Future.
21-23 May 2019, The Old Truman Brewery, London – dandad.org
Dundee Design Festival
Dundee Design Festival 2019 will explore what makes a Liveable/Loveable city — looking ahead to a time when citizens have more say over how their city works, playing with the possibilities and the role of collaboration. The 2019 festival will be housed in an underused retail location in the heart of Dundee, where the festival will "seek to challenge conventional approaches to city centres and demonstrate alternative options for the cities of tomorrow".
21-28 May 2019, Dundee – 2019.dundeedesignfestival.com
UX London offers a kick-ass schedule of inspirational talks and hands-on workshops from industry leaders from all over the world. Expect to hear from Molly Nix, Design Lead at Airbnb and Josh Clark, founder of Big Medium. Day one focuses on designing products; day two is about designing for people and day three looks at designing the future.
29-31 May 2019, Trinity Laban, London – 2019.uxlondon.com
Birmingham Design Festival
For years, Birmingham’s vibrant creative scene existed with a festival-shaped hole – a design festival. In 2017, a group of Midland-based designers got together and decided to remedy this. The following year Birmingham Design Festival debuted, inviting people to immerse themselves for four days of a jam-packed programme. And now, after a grand launch, they're back for round two this June. Initial speakers have just been announced, too, including Verònica Fuerte and Liam Wong.
6-8 June 2019, various venues across Birmingham – birminghamdesignfestival.org.uk
Pixel Pioneers, Bristol
Pixel Pioneers is a one-day conference of practical and inspiring design and front-end talks, featuring eight world-class speakers, preceded by a workshop day. Organised by Oliver Lindberg, former editor of net magazine with more than 15 years experience in the web industry, the events are tailored to the web's vibrant community.
7 June 2019, Bristol – pixelpioneers.co
East London Comics & Arts Festival, London
ELCAF is the East London Comics & Arts Festival, London’s biggest annual festival dedicated to showcasing the best in comics, illustration, sequential art, and storytelling. What more do you need in your life? Founded by independent publisher Nobrow in 2012, ELCAF’s aim is to introduce and celebrate both small press publications and the dynamic community of individual artists and collectives that are pushing the boundaries of comics and illustration.
7-9 June 2019, Hackney, London – elcaf.co.uk
Creative North, Manchester
It's all about The Future of Content at this year's Creative North in Manchester. Join experts in copywriting, content marketing, media and technology, and hear from seven exciting speakers and four quick-fire presenters who will give you their take on the future of content: how your industry is changing, how to prepare for and embrace the future, and how you can offer increased value to your clients.
7 June 2019, Manchester – creativenorthconf.com
Camp Digital, Manchester
An inspirational, one-day conference that brings together the digital, design and UX communities, Camp Digital is back for 2019 for a series of seminars exploring the latest thinking in the creative industries. There's also a pre-conference workshop with two of their keynote speakers, giving you a mix of inspirational presentations and hands-on, practical workshops.
12 June 2019, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – wearesigma.com
Murmurations is a wonderful one-day conference in Chester that aims to bring the local creative community together and offer a shed load of inspiration. Positive and supportive, it's based on the motto: "If you want to live in an interesting city, you have to contribute towards it". Speakers for 2019 have yet to be confirmed. Watch this space!
Friday 28 June 2019, St Mary's Creative Space, Chester – themurmurations.co.uk
OffGrid Sessions, Osea Island
OffGrid Sessions is an independent ideas festival that emerged from the UK media, tech and design community. Whether it is big thinking from philosophers, academics or entrepreneurs, taking part in discussion groups, walking tours, making bread or a morning swim, OffGrid seeks to create a space to discover, absorb and reflect on new ideas and connect with others. The secret's out!
22-24 July 2019, Osea Island – offgridsessions.com
Design It Build It, Edinburgh
Now in its ninth year, Scotland's conference for digital creatives is set to return this September. The one-day event in Edinburgh is for UX designers and web developers and features presentations from those shaping the future of the web.
13 September 2019, The Hub, Edinburgh – dibiconference.com
London Design Festival
London Design Festival celebrates and promotes London as the design capital of the world. It returns to venues and institutions across the city this September. One of our highlights is the annual Landmark Projects, significant installations from the world's best designers, artists, and architects, as well as exciting new talent. Over the years, projects have appeared in some of London's most prominent and best-loved spaces such as the V&A, Southbank Centre, St Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern and Trafalgar Square.
14-22 September 2019, London – londondesignfestival.com
Talk UX, Manchester
Talk UX is brought to you by Ladies That UX, a global organisation that has created an international community of inspiring, supportive women in design and tech. Founded in Manchester, it's a leading a global movement, with chapters in over 55 cities worldwide, that empowers women to achieve their full potential. Talk UK is their annual conference, led by women and focused around design and technology.
20 September 2019, Fairfield Social Club, Manchester – talk-ux.com
Insider stories from product people – that's the big sell from Canvas, a one-day conference in Birmingham that focuses on, you guessed it, product. Early bird tickets sold out in January – so it's set to be another popular fixture. If product is your thing, keep an eye out for the full lineup of speakers to be announced shortly.
10 October 2019, Birmingham Rep. Theatre – canvasconference.co.uk
Interact is 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 takes place at the Natural History Museum, and the theme for 2019 is 'The Human & The Machine'.
16 October 2019, Natural History Museum, London – interactconf.com
Walking Whisky Wellness, Scotland
A "life-changing opportunity to spend a full weekend with a small gathering of impressive delegates and speakers to share walks, talks, whisky and wonderful food" – that's the promise from Walking Whisky Wellness, an annual business conference in disguise. Not only do we award this recommendation with "best festival name", but we also love the "getting away from it all" aspect of the three-day event.
18-20 October 2019, Inshriach House, Aviemore – walkingwhiskywellness.com
Graphic Design Festival Scotland, Glasgow
Graphic Design Festival Scotland takes place in Glasgow every October featuring workshops, talks, exhibitions, competitions, murals and music. The lineup for 2019 is yet to be confirmed, but past speakers have included Pentagram's Naresh Ramchandani, KesselsKramer, Noemie Le Coz and David Carson.
Dates TBC, Glasgow – graphicdesignfestivalscotland.com
Belfast Design Week, Belfast
From a grassroots beginning in 2015, the team behind Belfast Design Week has worked together to nurture an annual festival inspired by the city they live in. It's a massive celebration of the capital's diverse communities, cultures and people that make Belfast the authentic and creative city that it is. Expect an action-packed week this November with events, exhibitions and experiences across Belfast.
4-10 November 2019, Belfast – belfastdesignweek.com
Thought Bubble, Harrogate
Thought Bubble is the UK's largest comic art festival; a week-long celebration of comics, illustration, animation and more. Whether you're a longtime fan of comic art or have never picked up a graphic novel before; Thought Bubble is unique among comic festivals by keeping creators as its focus; the work and the people that inspire our cultural landscape. You won't find another event like it.
4-10 November 2019, Harrogate Convention Centre – thoughtbubblefestival.com
On Creative Boom's home turf is Design Manchester, an annual festival celebrating creativity, collaboration and inclusivity in the worlds of art, design, illustration, fashion, music, animation and photography. Now in its seventh year, venues across Manchester will host loads of exciting talks, workshops and events – the highlight being the Design Conference with presentations by leading designers from all over the world.
14-24 November 2019, Manchester – designmcr.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.