25 Design Thinking Conferences for 2019 – The Accidental Design Thinker

This past April, I crossed off a big item on my bucket-list by attending my first-ever design thinking conference. I had the opportunity to not only attend Design Thinking 2018 in Austin, but also serve as an official media partner for the conference. It was an incredible experience that accelerated my trajectory as a design thinking practitioner.

In October, I also had the opportunity to participate in Service Design Week which was a fantastic deep dive into the world of service design.

Through both conference experiences, I’ve become convinced in the potential value of attending human-centered design oriented conferences. I developed a strong external network of design thinking practitioners and learned from leaders in a variety of industries. The network I gained and best practices I learned have been invaluable to me as a design thinking practitioner.

Looking Ahead to Design Thinking Conferences in 2019

Since my initial post on design thinking conferences a little over a year ago, I frequently get asked about other DT conferences throughout the world. I see the world of design thinking & service design conferences continuing to expand and a couple of emerging trends:

  1. Large conference players like IQPC and Luxatia expanding winning conference models into new regions and segments
  2. Increased specialization/focus within specific conferences (e.g. Design Sprint Conferences, Service Design in Government)
  3. Stalwarts like POLISHOPA and SDFF continuing to hold steady and deliver great programs year after year

Similar to last year, I’ve made my list of design thinking conferences for the upcoming year. My list has grown from 17 conferences in 2018, to 25 conferences in 2019. (NOTE: Serv Des has been removed from the list as it is bi-annual and will not be back until 2020).

My Preliminary List of Design Thinking Conferences for 2019

IMPORTANT NOTE – Red Font Means Conference Date/Location Needs to Be Confirmed. F or newer conferences, this also means confirming whether they are actually happening at all in 2019

    No updates from here since last year. McMurdo Station is always devising new research projects and experiments but I think it will be quite a while until we see a design thinking conference in Antarctica.
    Service Design Summit – (Barcelona, Spain – April 4-5, 2019)

    • 2nd annual session (2018 conference was held in Prague). Video from 2018 on the site. Spain has some strong service design communities but I’m not very familiar with this newer conference.
    • 2019 Conference Details
  • Design Thinking – (Austin, TX – April 16-18, 2019)

    • This was officially the first-ever design thinking conference I’ve attended and it was an incredible experience. I can honestly say that the contacts I made from the conference and the lessons I learned from attending (especially around scaling design thinking in large organizations), truly accelerated my trajectory as a design thinking practitioner.
    • 3 days / $550 – $4,200 USD (many different ticket options)
    • Read my Review of the 2018 Conference
    • 2019 Conference Details
  • RGD DesignThinkers – (Vancouver, BC – May 28-29, 2019)
  • Service Design Week – (October, 2019)

The list of design thinking conferences and agendas is enticing for 2019. I’m officially hooked and can’t wait to attend my next design thinking conference (I’ll be at Design Thinking in Austin again).

If you’re looking to build your design thinking practitioner network and to learn from some of the brightest in the field, you should definitely consider attending one of these conferences. If there are other good ones I’m missing for 2019 or updated info for the ones I’ve identified, please let me know!


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