Us By Night, the design conference with a difference, is back for its fourth edition. Hitting the heart of Antwerp’s creative scene from 26-28 September, the unique nocturnal experience is welcoming design-enthusiasts from all over the world to attend this community-based festival. With a first-class line up of speakers featuring a number of It’s Nice That favourites – The Rodina, Studio Dumbar, Grilli Type, Ezra Miller, Hassan Rahim, Weiden + Kennedy, Fisk and Kelly Anna (just to name a few) – the talks are sure to provide a memorable conference-cum weekend of entertainment for all its attendees.
Besides the three stages hosting talks this year, Us By Night’s nightmarket is also back with a bang. Hosted in a riverside castle but designed to evoke the misty streets of Bangkok, the nocturnal festival sees XXL screens, experiential projections, local food and drink and even a “gentle clubbing experience” (not to mention the world’s largest disco ball) befitting the occasion. As one in six enterprises in Antwerp belongs to the creative sector, which is approximately 18,000 creatives working in over 8,000 enterprises, Us By Night hopes to cater to the multi-disciplinary hub of creativity embraced by the Belgian city on a daily basis.
A buzzing amalgamation of creative outpourings, Us By Night’s conception came about in a rather unexpected way. Its founder Rizon Parein – who re-popularised contemporary neon typography as seen in his film poster for the 2011 film Drive – has been going to design conferences for a long time, and wanted to create his own version in his native city of Antwerp. “What was always obvious to me,” he explains, “was that the majority of the people who attend, not only love the keynotes but also love coming together as a design community. A lot of us are from abroad and only know each other from online platforms so I always thought that there should be a festival that takes this into account.”
He thought to himself: “What if we posed a design conference in a nightlife format?” Drawing inspiration from the vibrant hubbub that is the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Williamsburg, he envisioned a design festival that encapsulated a zesty social experience as well as riveting talks from the best in the industry. As a result, in 2016, he founded and curated the first Us By Night. Falling somewhere in between a club, bar and conference, the ultimate goal was to connect people.
“It was never really the plan to make it an ongoing thing, but the response was so great and seeing the joy and the sparkles in the attendees’ eyes made me remember how these of festivals changed my career,” says Rizon. As a young emerging designer, whenever Rizon would go to a conference, he remembered thinking, “Woah, this world is so much richer than I originally thought” and seeing this kind of realisation in the younger generations at Us By Night is, in turn, “really motivating” to the founder.
As the festival has grown over the years (in all directions), this year’s line up marks the most diverse to date. As well as illustration, design and typography, the festival will also play host to speakers leading the fields of film, photography and fashion. “I don’t think inspiration needs to necessarily come from your own discipline,” says Rizon. “I like it when people leave the festival with a different highlight from the one they thought they were coming for.” And with speakers such as Lukas Kaisar – the man behind the Smith family’s social media outlets – not to mention Drieke Leenknegt, a global executive in marketing and management with 20 years of experience at Nike, the upcoming edition of Us By Night is sure to provide insight into some of the lesser-known, but most relevant roles in the creativity industry today.