Get Involved: Conferences for Web Designers

If you are a web designer there is no shortage of inspirational and educational design conferences available for you to speak at or attend. Ranging from practical to theoretical, thousands of attendees to a hundred, conferences are a great way to get away from your computer screen and make connections with other living breathing designers… in person.

I have had unique opportunity to both attend and speak at numerous conferences in the last few months and I wanted to share with you the highlights of a few of them.


SXSW interactive is the big daddy of all the conferences for networking. Traditionally a music festival, the interactive portion of the conference officially surpassed the music conference in number of attendees this year with well over 10k tech savvy participants. At any one time there are 10-20 events happening that cover what is currently happening on the web, so you can find out about the newest trends.

Personal Highlights: Cogaoke, Visual Notetaking 101, WebFonts Panel with Roger Black and Jeff Veen

You can read my run-down of the conference here
Status: Speaker
Attendees: 10k +
Location: Austin,TX
Price: Moderate


A gathering of web professionals in Columbia SC. It was well worth the trip. Well branded and well run, this conference featured some great little details. From the Sharktupus on the website to the color-book schedule that featured all of the speakers as their own hybrid animals, you could really tell that the organizers put a time and care into making this a great event. Like SXSW there was a variety of topics that had a wide appeal.

Personal Highlights: Meeting the folks from UnMatched Style, Aaron Walter’s Emotional Design talk, Chatting with and his wonderful wife, Amy.
Status: Speaker
Attendees: 225
Location: Columbia, SC
Price: Inexpensive


Pittsburgh Design Day 

I would argue that Pittsburgh has one of the most friendly design communities that I have ever met and this conference is run by two passionate members of it. With an amazing line-up of speakers this one day conference is a little more targeted towards those who are looking to be inspired or learn about UX and design. It was a nice mix of practicality, process and inspiration. I will return to this conference again and again for the amazing conversation, connections, and the Perogies. The conference takes place in a design-centered space with an awesome back patio that only enhances the creative ambiance.

Personal Highlights: Margot Bloomstein’s Content Strategy Talk, Elliott Munoz’s talk, Networking with awesome people. Status: Attendee
Attendees: 100
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Price: Inexpensive


Everything aspect of this conference, from the venue to the highly conceptual metaphorical themes of this conference were unlike any other web related conference that I have ever attended. The Brighton Dome has hosted Abba and the Rolling Stones, and for the past few years it has hosted web geeks looking to be inspired. From Jazz music to movies the ideas discussed here took a more abstract approach to how designers and web professionals should approach the online space. Each presentation was limited to 30 minutes. I found this really refreshing…allowing the audience to be inspired in quick spurts.

Personal Highlights: Merlin Mann’s talk and Tom Coat’s presentation. The entire experience of this conference was really unlike any of the others, making it a highlight in itselfStatus: Speaker (listen to my talk here)
Attendees: About 1000
Location: Brighton, England UK
Price: Moderate

An Event Apart

This is a big one. If An Event Apart is in your neighborhood, RUSH to buy a ticket. A conference for everyone who makes websites, you will attend and wish everyone you knew got the chance to experience the magic with you. What makes this such an amazing experience? Two days of the most polished and professional talks that make you realize that web design is making websites, that every tiny detail that goes into the strategy, content and planning of a website so directly effects every aspect of your final finished design. You will walk away with both practical knowledge and inspiration to innovate. You will sit at your desk quivering with anticipation waiting to unleash the new ideas that popped into your head. That type of motivation is hard to find, and that is why they get away with the highest price out of all of these conferences and it still sells out well before the event date.

Personal Highlights: Zeldman’s rundown on the history of web design and Malarky’s presentation on Hard-boiled web design. Overall this conference is top-notch.
Status: Attendee
Attendees: About 500
Location: All over (but I went to the DC event)
Price: On the expensive side.