Design Conferences to Attend From Your Sofa (For Free)

Issue 8

By Design.

By Design is a fortnightly letter reaching ~170,000 people following the Prototypr publication. Written by Sophie Clifton-Tucker, we unearth unheard voices, and break down the barriers in design and development.

Everything may have gone to pot, but as the panicked ringmaster said as his star lion broke loose, the show must go on. As we enter into our 7th month of the apocalypse, you’ve probably grown accustomed to being bombarded with remote gigs, plays, virtual tours, live baking tutorials, and the dreaded family Zoom quiz. Enter the design conference.

Remote design conferences have understandably grown in popularity in recent months, allowing attendees to participate from the safety and comfort of their own home. The benefits? You don’t need to deal with the dilemma of choosing between two conferences running at the same time, and your location no longer matters, meaning people from all over the world can meet up and mingle — albeit virtually. Forget transport issues, wardrobe crises, and social anxiety — all you need is a stable WiFi connection, and maybe some underpants.

So, could a new generation of remote design conferences emerge as a new norm? It won’t come without its hiccups, namely the issue of ‘audience rhythm’ — or lack thereof. “All the delicate interplay between the entertainer and the entertained is lost when you perform without an audience. Timing has to be relearned, even before we get to the interruptions and overtalk that plague any Zoom call.”The Atlantic. We’ve all been there. The lack of eye contact, glitching, and pets running riot in the background of our video calls can make for some serious drain-tertainment.

But, as my grandmother used to say, tough tits. It’s just something we’re going to have to get used to. Luckily, there’s a whole host of excellent conferences to come to 2020’s rescue:

Conferences to Attend in 2020

#DesignThinkingVX: Design Thinking is an interactive design-centred conference held annually. Due to obvious reasons, they’ve made the wise decision to take it virtual for 2020. As a sort of ‘virtual field trip’, participants will have access to a virtual expo hall, chat 1:1 with fellow design thinkers, and have access to keynotes and workshops. Dubbed the #1 event for design, CX, and UX professionals, this conference featuring John Maeda explores the impact of design and what it means to each of us. And the best part? It’s free for the first 1000 people who sign up!

When: September 8–11, 2020

#FemTechConf: With over 30,000 expected attendees representing more than 100 countries, this conference is all about empowering women and allies from the tech industry. As I spoke about in a previous newsletter, Mind the Pay Gap, the design industry (or tech industry as a whole for that matter) has not always been the most inclusive arena. FemTechConf aims to address this with their empowering one-day event. Using a custom-built streaming and interaction platform, 50+ inspiring women speakers will deliver a slew of motivational talks on a variety of tech topics. Hashtag inspo.

When: September 25, 2020

South Summit: The format of this conference will be that of an omnichannel, with a view to multiply business opportunities. Key players of the innovation ecosystem will gather in Madrid to network and connect disruptive startups with worldwide investors and corporations seeking to improve their global competitiveness through innovation. But no need to book that plane ticket — you can attend virtually in what they’re calling a “phygital encounter”.

When: October 6–8, 2020

Women in Tech StoriesGirls in Tech are hosting this online event, showcasing an impressive selection of talented women in technology sharing their personal journeys. Speakers include: a dynamic woman with a background in aerospace technologies, a marketing guru at social media powerhouse Facebook, an accomplished C-Level executive and board director and a technically brilliant Head of Platform Development in the gaming industry. And it’s free!

When: October 15, 2020

Adobe MAX — The Creativity Conference: You’re encouraged to “expect the unexpected” as experts in the fields of design, video, illustration, 3D, and more come together for this uniquely immersive experience. Three whole days of luminary speakers, celebrity appearances, musical performances, global collaborative art projects, and 350+ sessions. Reignite your creative fire with workshops, and be among the first to see what’s new in Adobe Creative Cloud! We love an exclusive.

When: October 20–22, 2020

Next.js Conf: The first Next.js global user conference is an “interactive online experience by the community, free for everyone”. Next.JS powers things like TikTok, Netflix, Hulu, and even Prototypr! In October they’ll be bringing together like-minded thinkers to learn, share, and showcase.

When: October 27, 2020

For a more comprehensive list, head on over to Un-Cancelling 2020: Virtual Conferences for Designers.

Hot off the Press

  • Webrings: Ever heard of a webring before? Me neither, so I Googled it: A webring (or web ring) is a collection of websites linked together in a circular structure, and usually organized around a specific theme. They were popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, particularly among amateur websites. Okay, great. How can they help you? In Has the Algorithm Lost Its Rhythm I mentioned the benefits of using established platforms such as Medium — but it’s easy to get lost in the masses. On the flip-side, getting the right reach for your own personal platform can be… a challenge. The solution? Webrings, duh! “The Sidebar Webring aggregates a collection of hand-picked personal design blogs and makes their content available to the existing 40k+ Sidebar newsletter subscribers.” Not too dissimilar to getting lost in a Wikipedia wormhole, webrings are a retro way to dive into specially curated information. A collection of design blogs are hand-picked and aggregated for the 40k+ Sidebar newsletter subs.
  • What Kind of Designer Are You? What’s the first thing you do when you start your workday? And how do you react to negative feedback from a client? Hype4 have put together a fun little quiz to help brighten up an otherwise dull day.
  • Grab a Cuppa Ko-Fi, On Us: You thought I was going to go a whole newsletter without mentioning Ko-Fi again? You thought wrong! We’re supporting 100 Prototypr writers and contributors who complete their profile with their page. All you have to do is update your Prototype profile with your personal Ko-Fi URL, and people will be able to drop you a donation via your article footer, sidebar, or your profile. Here’s a handy how-to. Katie Brigden has been using Ko-Fi for a few months now, and has compiled a list of tips and tricks to help boost your Ko-Fi support!

Prototypr Roundup

Wave Goodbye to Wireframes: Do wireframes still serve a purpose? Anton Sten explores the argument around it, countering each pro. Do they really prevent stakeholders from derailing meetings over irrelevant aesthetic details? Are they actually quicker to create than high-fidelity designs? And perhaps most importantly, what should you use instead of wireframes?

The Case Against Figma: Figma has long been hailed for its collaborative capabilities, but is it really the best tool for the future of the design industry? Seven Shurygin (7) considers it less of a ‘right’ tool, and more of a ‘right now’ one. “Ultimately if teams want to move faster than Figma fast, and break through to hyperspace speeds they need to adopt version control and systems-based processes which have become the mainstay of programmers for those very same reasons.”

Text fields & Forms Design: Taras Bakusevych is the man with a plan when it comes to forms. Data collection forms have been around for donkey’s years, but as information processing evolves, so should the gathering of it. There are a multitude of UI components to consider when creating even the most simple of forms; text field anatomy, text field types, appropriate input type, and inline validation to name but a few.

Available for Hire

Times have been tough in the career world recently… but when one door closes, we’re here to open a window for you. You know the drill — create your Prototypr profile and hit ‘Available to Hire’ for a shot at being featured here in our fortnightly newsletter, and potentially connect with thousands of employers and fellow designers.


Hoang Nguyen • Senior Product Designer

LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr


Amani Sheikh • UX Researcher + Designer

LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • In her previous professional life, Amani Sheikhworked in marketing before making the transition to UX. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, she is now a proud New Yorker!
  • She has been involved in a number of impressive projects, for companies such as cloud-based recruiting platform Comeet (developing user personas) and body care brand Outlier Beauty (designing a responsive e-commerce platform).
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Sophie Clifton-Tucker

Editor, UX writer, coding since GeoCities 👾