Us By Night: a design festival with a difference

If in the past, you've struggled with how to network (opens in new tab), this is one event that will definitely help hone your skills. With ping pong, video games, street food and art markets, Us By Night (opens in new tab) is a design festival with a difference.  After two successful editions, the unique nocturnal experience returns for its third instalment this November – and it looks set to be the best one yet. 

Tipping the traditional design conference very much on its head, this year's three-night festival has an inspiring lineup, including Mr Bingo (opens in new tab), Mirko Borsche (opens in new tab) and Emily Forgot (opens in new tab) – with more to be announced soon – and an endless night market (opens in new tab) guaranteed to make the event one to remember. 

We caught up with Belgian-born designer and Us By Night founder Rizon Parein (opens in new tab) to find out why designers should put the date in their diaries now...

How did Us By Night come about?

In 2016 I was asked by the city of Antwerp to curate a year of design. The initial plan was to organise an OFFF-on-tour franchise, so I started immediately inviting colleagues, friends and clients. It all happened in a very naive and enthusiastic way, and in just two weeks I had a stellar lineup confirmed. 

I started thinking about how we could reinterpret the classic design conference format – make it new, fresh and different. The first thing that came to mind was why not do it at night? We’re a creative bunch so why not make it a bit wilder, approach it more as a nightlife gig?

What's in store this year?

What's great this year is lots of interesting profiles reached out to be involved, which is making for an absolutely stellar lineup of speakers. This year we will also add some photography, architecture and fashion, all with clear ties to our graphical language. We have some impressive names in these categories so we're really looking forward seeing what kind of dynamics this will provoke.

Our night market is a theme park for creatives

Rizon Parein, Us By Night founder

For lots of friends and myself the thing that drives us the most to attend design conferences is not the lineup, in all honesty, it's the community. You know, hanging out with friends and colleagues and just having a beer in a relaxed inspiring atmosphere. That's what I wanted to facilitate and encourage at Us By Night – and so our night market was born. 

We built it from scratch next to our main conference room. It’s a theme park for creatives. Massive LED walls, ping pong tables, arcade games, quality food stands, life art, tattoo shops, etc. Also at the night market we have two more stages that organically blend in, the Living Room is a more intimate setting, where we encourage more contact between the attendees and the speaker, and the Tutorial stage, where we shed more light on the technical side of design. 

Ping pong, anyone? 

Ping pong, anyone? 

UBN was a success from the start – what exactly did it offer that was so lacking in the creative festival scene?

I think community and no ego is key. For the rest, I let loose the ‘goonies kid’ in me and just want to have fun and not taking everything too seriously, but at the same time the whole curation, production and hospitality has to be spotless. The trip for speakers and attendees has to be flawless with a warm heart.

What's the idea behind attracting 'curious minds outside the sector'?

I like to cross-feed inspiration, why be inspired only by the scene you are working in? We need diversity, and to let the new kids see there’s inspiration everywhere. I often think that a creative who excels in one discipline could easily do that in another. We see too much of the same these days and we need to break that up.

The whole creative process should be a sparkling fest, an adventure, being inspired by a broader world than your immediate environment. If Us By Night can challenge and trigger the creative mind, build bridges between various disciplines and contributes to making new friendships, we'll be very happy. 

Us By Night will take over Parkloods in Antwerp, Belgium from 22–24 November 2018. Don't miss out: buy your tickets now (opens in new tab)!

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Kerrie Hughes is Editor at Creative Bloq. One of the original CB crew, Kerrie joined the team back in 2013 after moving from her role as staff writer on 3D World. Since then she's written regularly for other creative publications. Kerrie's work for Creative Bloq involves managing the team and the site's content, developing and maintaining commercial partnerships, and finding innovative ways to bring Creative Bloq's audience the content they're looking for.