Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Design Conference Review (2024)

Graphic DesignThe Design Conference Review (2024)

The Design Conference, hosted annually in Brisbane (Meanjin), Australia is a “wonderfully confronting experience that introduces you to your dream future, how to grasp it and the connections that can make it a reality.”

This marketing wank aside, what it really means is that this event is a place to hear topical presentations and connect with others.

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It’s a 3-day experience of talks, discussions, workshops, experiences for creatives available both in person and streaming online.

Here’s my experience and recap of the event:

The Design Conference Review (2024)

Matthew Haynes, CEO of The Design ConferenceMatthew Haynes, CEO of The Design Conference
Matthew Haynes, CEO of The Design Conference
Patrick Guerrera, The Design ConferencePatrick Guerrera, The Design Conference
Patrick Guerrera, The Design Conference
The Design Conference Mat Voyce SlidesThe Design Conference Mat Voyce Slides
Mat Voyce, The Design Conference

The Details

  • What it is: 3 Day Conference
  • Who is it for: Designers, Creatives, Strategists, Brand Designers, Brand Managers, Business Owners, Project Managers, Students, Marketers, Freelancers,
  • When: June 5-7, 2024
  • Venue: Hybrid (Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane) and Online Streaming
  • Time Zone: Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)
  • Price: $148-$742

The Speakers & Topics: Diverse

Jacob Cass, James Barnard, Mat Voyce, PennybridgeJacob Cass, James Barnard, Mat Voyce, Pennybridge
Jacob Cass, James Barnard, Mat Voyce, Kiel from Pennybridge

The curation of the speakers and talks was excellent.

There was a balanced cross-section of disciplines reaching from brand to animation to illustration to packaging to websites to storytelling and much more. This made for an diverse and interesting mix of presentations as no one presentation was even remotely similar.

The topics of this event were focused on brand, burnout, collaboration, culture, design thinking, digital, dignity, experimentation, failure, growth, illustration, inclusivity, leadership, motion, optimism, packaging, problem solving, resilience, self-care, start-ups, storytelling, strategy, transformation, and wellbeing.

This said, I did get tired of seeing speaker/agency reels, especially as some dragged on. Perhaps there is a rule of 30 seconds maximum per reel?

The Experience: Immersive

Julie Solvstrom, The Design Conference 2024Julie Solvstrom, The Design Conference 2024
Julie Solvstrom, The Design Conference 2024

The best way to describe the experience of The Design Conference is immersive.

From the talks, to the live panels, the Q&As, and after-hours experiences, you felt connected to each of the speakers and attendees. You felt like that you belonged there and you were part of the tribe.

Networking was natural and easy and this truly made the event for me.

From connecting with the speakers in the halls, or having a beer with everyone after the event, the conversation flowed easily and you just felt like friends. The speakers were not on a pedestal nor did they act that way.

I also had a number of people approach me saying they followed me online, they were grateful and that they loved our JUST Branding Podcast. So that sort of recognition is always nice too!

While the 3 days was a fire-hose of information, there was enough down-time between each block of speaker presentations to recharge, check your emails or if you’re like me, have a quick nap in the sun to recover from the night before.

Overall, the experience is immersive, but manageable.

The Production: World-Class

Think Packaging, The Design Conference 2024Think Packaging, The Design Conference 2024
Think Packaging, The Design Conference 2024

The production level of the event is world-class. From the brilliantly vivid screen to the crisp audio, to the overall branding of the event, I could not fault the production at all.

The break-away rooms for the workshops were OK but the projectors in each room were ordinary, so there is room for improvement there.

The Workshops: Deep & Transparent

The Design Conference WorkshopThe Design Conference Workshop
The Design Conference: Workshop with Pennybridge

The workshops were quite possibly my favorite part of the event, just behind the networking aspect.

The workshops run parallel to the main presentations and each speaker hosted their own workshop which was an optional upgrade available for $89-$150 depending on when you bought the ticket.

They were hosted in smaller breakaway rooms and generally had 15-30 people in each room so it made for an even more immersive experience.

I enjoyed these because you got to ask questions on the fly and go deeper on each topic.

The ones I attended were focused on creative business and there was no gate-keeping of information. It was genuine value without the veil. 

If you’re attending the conference, I highly recommend signing up for some workshops.

Live Panels + Q&A Discussions: Interactive

The Design Conference Q&A Live PanelThe Design Conference Q&A Live Panel
Live Q&A Panel at The Design Conference 2024

After each block of speaker presentations there was a live interactive Q&A and the audience could submit questions via a convenient QR code which made for some interesting discussions.

There were also live panel discussions in between the main speaker presentations. I personally didn’t attend these as I preferred networking instead.

The Experiences / Parties: Loud

Felons Barrel Hall PartyFelons Barrel Hall Party
Felons Barrel Hall Party

After the event ends, you have the opportunity to head out to ‘dine with the speakers’ at Felons Brewing Co, which I highly recommend doing as you get the chance to talk-shop with your favorite speakers as well as network with other creatives.

The second night didn’t have a planned event but I heard many hung out at the bars near the hotel. I instead met up with an old friend.

The last night is the ‘after-party’, an all-expenses paid event at Felons Barrel Hall, complete with food, DJ and a massive disco ball. Again, another great opportunity to talk-shop with your peers, let your hair down and lose your voice (from shouting over the music).

The Location: Brisbane Powerhouse

The Brisbane Powerhouse is an ideal venue for a design conference, blending industrial charm with modern amenities. Located on the banks of the Brisbane River, it offers picturesque views and easy access to public transport.

Personally, I found myself renting a scooter each day to ride along the board walk to and from the hotel which was a nice way to travel.

Scootering along Brisbane River BoardwalkScootering along Brisbane River Boardwalk
Scootering along Brisbane River Boardwalk
Scooters in front of The Brisbane PowerhouseScooters in front of The Brisbane Powerhouse
Scooter parking in front of The Brisbane Powerhouse


Where to Stay?

The Ovolo Hotel PoolThe Ovolo Hotel Pool
Hotel Pool, Ovolo The Valley

If you’re wondering where to stay, I recommend staying where the cast and crew stay, which this year was at the Ovolo hotel.

This is so you can connect with them at breakfast and also ride together down to the event which was a quick 8 minute Uber away or 15 minutes via scooter.

The Ovolo was central, had a solid breakfast (although it was the same every morning) and overall, was a great experience!

Constructive Feedback 

The Website: The website’s user experience needs improvement. While the site looks beautiful, the hierarchy of information is frustrating and the flow of buying tickets is not intuitive.

Case in point, on the Schedule page, you can not see information about each presentation, or purchase a ticket for a workshop. There was no button to buy or even a link to find out more. I’ve recorded the experience which was notably worse on mobile than desktop.


The workshops times: The workshops were held at the same time as the main presentations so if you wanted to attend a workshop, you would miss out on a few live speaker presentations. Although they do offer replays online I would prefer in the future, to have less cross-over.

Food and drink: I would have liked to have seen a complimentary coffee station to fuel our attention spans. Instead you had to line up with dozens of others, order your $6(!) coffee and wait while just one barista made all of the coffees.

At lunch time there was just one food truck which meant huge lines & waiting around just to get a feed. A few more food options would be appreciated especially since there were not too many options near by.

The Design Conference Review Summary

Richie Meldrum, The Design ConferenceRichie Meldrum, The Design Conference
Richie Meldrum, The Design Conference

The Design Conference, held annually in Brisbane (Meanjin), Australia, is a dynamic 3-day event aimed at designers, creatives, strategists, brand managers, business owners, and students. Held June 5-7, 2024, at the Brisbane Powerhouse and available online, it featured a diverse range of speakers in a variety of disiplines. The event covers various topics such as brand, burnout, collaboration, design, and more.

The conference offers a blend of talks, workshops, live panels, and Q&A sessions. Workshops are particularly engaging, offering deep dives into creative topics. Networking is a highlight, with opportunities to connect with speakers and attendees in a relaxed setting.

Despite minor drawbacks like the website’s user experience and limited food options, the overall production is world-class, featuring vivid screens and crisp audio. The Brisbane Powerhouse, with its industrial charm and scenic river views, provides an ideal venue. Staying at the nearby Ovolo hotel is recommended for its convenience and networking opportunities.

In summary, The Design Conference is an immersive and well-curated event, perfect for those looking to learn, network, and get inspired in the design industry.

Shout out to Matthew Haynes for pulling this together year after year and always consistently improving!

Learn more about The Design Conference here.

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