The current state of Design Conferences

Due the corona 2020 pandemic most of the design conferences have been cancelled throughout the community.

The current state of Design Conferences

Opinion: Sander Baumann

Every design organization faces a similar issue in 2020/2021. Physical events and conferences are restricted due the corona pandemic. Basically every organization from small to large have transformed into virtual events.

Larger design conferences such as The Next Web did a 2-day live event on Hopin. Hopin is a virtual venue with multiple interactive areas that are optimized for connecting and engaging. You can join different rooms and stages depending on your interests. Other platforms such as Creative Mornings went all in on virtual events.

The events in our wayfinding community also transformed to virtual events. From podcasts, Zoom chats to full day virtual conferences.

The purpose of conferences (pre-corona)

Over the years I had the pleasure of going places for design conferences. Either as participant or a speaker, I went to conferences about typography, technology, wayfinding or design in general.

Conferences bring together the curious like-minded designers in one place. The conferences usually have a mix of speakers, workshops and meetups on small and large stages. In my opinion a unique experience to meet people at conferences which let to business and friendships.

Designer conferences to learn, experience and connect with peers

The psychology of going to conferences (pre-corona)

When looking at the experience when going to a conference you enter a mind-set focused on maximizing time and effort out of a conference. When you make the choice going to a physical conference this usually results in creating free time of enjoy a conference. Ranging from 1 to multiple days of physical conferences allows you to connect to peers, have time to reflect on things you heard or learned during these times.

In my opinion physical conferences offer the opportunity to really connect to like-minded people to get new insights or perspectives on the multidisciplinary fields of design.

The now: Virtual events and conferences

Over the last years I have attended anything from virtual meetups to online talks and one day virtual conferences. Also tried many of the available platforms, such as Zoom, Teams, Meetup, Hopin, etc.

Without leaving the house or studio I was able to enjoy the conferences in a virtual way. Although at the start of the pandemic this was a great way to connect to peers and to share thoughts, ideas and reconnect again. Over time I have noticed a lower attention span during the virtual conferences. Even with Hopin, I caught myself being distracted and started doing other things again.

Sander Baumann working from the home studio

Attention span

During the challenging covid times the (wayfinding) design industry also changed and shifted a bit more towards digital services. Regarding the time spend on physical conferences vs. the time spend on virtual conferences I noticed that virtual conferences does not really excite me in the same way as physical events.

The virtual events are squeezed into the tight schedule and I seem to jump from working with clients to conferences in an instance. This let me to think about how I perceive the information and what my key motivation would be for attending either virtual or physical events.

Main takeaway

Virtual events/conferences are here to stay. I believe a hybrid mix of physical and virtual events will push forward in our design community. On the one hand, virtual events are convenient to keep up with peers in the network. On the other hand meeting in person makes the memory.

The road to a physical conference and spending time with peers in a venue is in my opinion a great way to absorb information in a lively ambiance where you can be free to enjoy content and people.

For future physical conferences, I can imagine it to be more an experiential experience. A mix of meeting in person and connecting digitally would make the best out of both worlds. Physical conferences would take place lets say once a year and periodically supported with virtual events.

Support your design organization

If you want to learn more about wayfinding, information design, typography and design in general. Please take a look at the following design organizations as they have regularly virtual talks/events at the moment.

The future is bright and I look forward meeting you soon at an upcoming virtual or physical event.