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Design Cities: Where you at?

Since August, I’ve been traveling almost every month to do a lecture outside of New York. Hampton Roads in Virginia, Ypsilanti in Michigan, Cleveland in Ohio, and Nashville in Tennessee. All wonderful experiences and great audiences. What has stood out in all these visits is a recurring question from young designers and students: Do I have to be in New York to have the best experience and the most opportunities as a graphic designer?

To an extent, I answer yes. The ridiculous amount of graphic design firms in the city provide a consistent stream of employment opportunities if you are looking for a job, and the number of potential clients available to those looking to start their own firm or a freelance career is nearly infinite, not to mention the inherent amount of visual stimuli that there is everywhere. And, of course, there is the large design community and endless barrage of design-related events and venues. Graphic design living in New York is indeed a great experience and provides ample opportunities. But…

With New York, there is always a “but.” So, yes, New York is great but you have to be able to stomach the high price of living, the fast pace, the competitiveness, the noise, the crowds, the small apartments, the summer heat, the winter cold, the crippling of the subway system with just the slightest increase of normal rain or snow, and a number of other idiosyncrasies that, for the most part, New Yorkers see as badges of honor and representative of the lifestyle they (we) have chosen.

I’m sure the same applies to cities like San Francisco and London, and to a lesser extent Chicago, Seattle or Minneapolis. So, what’s the right balance for a design city? How much hustle and bustle is necessary to thrive? Or how much serenity is needed to not go insane? If you are an employee, what do you look for in a city? If you are a design firm owner, large or small, what do you look for? Does a smaller market mean smaller clients or have PDFs, e-mail and web-based conferencing killed these limitations? Where you at? And what do you like about it?

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PUBLISHED ON Oct.15.2008 BY Armin
Jon’s comment is:

While this may only be the beginning in a possibly-inevitable stream of city apologetics, I can't help but notice that each of the NYC "cons" you mention are (in a way) void in Minneapolis. The cost of living (particularly rent), especially compared to other large US metropolitan centers, is shockingly and disproportionately low. While the public transit system isn't anywhere near as robust as other metros, it's one of the few -- only? -- remaining metros of its size where getting around by car is realistic and dependable. It's statistically bizarre that the '07 bridge collapse happened in the Twin Cities, because really, the infrastructure and planning in that area is overwhelmingly smart -- not least of which during the winters, where all the functions of doing life (walking, shopping, driving, commuting) have been engineered over decades to withstand the cold. Summers are temperate, and stunning.

Then come the pros: The arts, illustration/comics, crafts, and design scenes are rooted, expansive, and growing. The design agencies are solid (Duffy, CSA), and the numerous ad agencies hire great work. Multiple design schools and galleries dot the map, and the cultural attitudes are historically -- and -- reliably progressive and arts-friendly.

One hell of a good design city, really.

On Oct.15.2008 at 10:10 AM
Hollis’s comment is:

For what it's worth I was told this in an interview once:

New York is hype; LA is talk; and the Midwest is work.

P.S. I live in New York, and my interview was in Cincinnati. Nonetheless there is some truth to that statement, which is probably why I remember it.

On Oct.15.2008 at 11:50 AM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

Currently I'm working as a designer in Pittsburgh. Not necessarily the mecca of graphic design. I am fortunate enough to work at an agency that does kick ass work with predominately national and global brands. It's probably the only place in this city where I would be content working.

I suppose the beauty of technology is the ability to destroy geographical boundaries. So in that regard, we all should be able to do work for anyone anywhere.

On the other hand, there is no place like New York. The inspiration and energy and certainly unparalleled. I hope in some time to live and work there, but in the meantime, go Steelers.

And P.S....Armin, are you hiring?

On Oct.15.2008 at 11:52 AM
Prescott Perez-Fox’s comment is:

Having grown up in the NYC area, I can't imagine living and working in a city like Pittsburgh or Minneapolis or even Philly, where I went to college — and that is my curse. While New York is obviously a massive market for design, it's also incredibly intense, as Armin says.

One problem I find is that every agency in New York is super-specialised. The mid-sized, general purpose design group seems to be an endangered species here — it seems that every group has their niche, the biggest specialties being fashion, finance, and pharma.

Also, as someone who neither went to school in the City itself, nor has a network of family and friends in the trade, it's been very difficult to break "in." Perhaps getting transfered to New York from a regional satellite office is the way to go for those seeking to move here.

I'm not sure what it's like elsewhere, but here in New York, the economic crisis and trouble on Wall St. has been disastrous. The freelance market has dried up virtually overnight and clients in every sector are canceling projects due to various fears. Are other cities more insulated due to their self-sustaining nature? I think the constant go-go-go makes the sudden stops that much more severe in comparison.

I can't say whether New York is better because it's the only life I know. My advice is to go where your people are — you don't want to be an outsider in a place such as this.

And one more thing, if you happen to work for a company that "provides a consistent stream of employment opportunities", please let it be known. kthanxbai

On Oct.15.2008 at 12:31 PM
Andrew Klein’s comment is:

In-house Art Director - Dallas, Texas

The Dallas / Ft. Worth area seems good to me - Houston and Austin are within a 4 hr drive, low cost of living, Dallas Society of Visual Communications (DSVC) brings great speakers here every month (Armin among them), many reputable agencies and firms have an office here.

On Oct.15.2008 at 12:41 PM
Jon Sandruck’s comment is:

I concur with Andrew. DFW is great. Lots of economic opportunity paired with a low cost of living.

Not only are there lots of big companies (outside of agencies) who have offices here, but lots of small and medium sized businesses for solo designers and small studios to work with too.

On Oct.15.2008 at 12:49 PM
Chad K’s comment is:

Living and working in Philadelphia.

I once had a very insightful conversation with an old cab driver who wrapped up the country in a simple description based on his long career.

I paraphrase:

"I have driven all over the country: LA, Miami, New York, Washington, Baltimore, and now Philadelphia. I find it to be a great median between large city without overwhelming scales. You can be in New York or Washington/Baltimore in 2 hours if you want a change."

I, like him, have found great opportunity here, but still appreciate and take advantage of its relation to neighboring cities. With companies own employees taking advantage of telecommuting, physical location is having less of an effect on business / client relationships.

On Oct.15.2008 at 01:24 PM
Dot Cartman’s comment is:

Phoenix, though gaining in population and until recently, economic and real estate growth, is still a small town. They look to LA for culture. Even though things are getting expensive because Californians are moving here, pay for designers is among the lowest in the country. New Mexico is the same. You would think that resort developers would have deep pockets but they dont for local designers. Most businesses go out of state for design work. Thats pretty sad. They have no faith in us and seem to want to keep good work out of Arizona. Its a horrible catch-22. Cant have good work if no one is willing to buy it.

On Oct.15.2008 at 02:04 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

After you collect all of this input, Armin, will you begin Tan Le's old idea of having a design cities section for Underconsideration?

On Oct.15.2008 at 03:04 PM
Gus Winston’s comment is:

Den Haag, Netherlands. Clean, simple design, no frills. More down to earth than Amsterdam and Utrecht, more savvy than Rotterdam. And near the sea, too. I'd recommend it to any designer.

On Oct.15.2008 at 05:09 PM
Niki V.’s comment is:

Dot - I'm with you. With as big of a city Phoenix is, I'm so discouraged by how behind we seem to be. With an AIGA membership of only 250 (including Tucson!), I'm not sure what we can do to bring the design community closer together. The potential IS here - we just need to get the word out.

On Oct.15.2008 at 06:15 PM
Justin Leibow’s comment is:

i understand that motion-based design is done all over the world, but if you are looking for a city that allows for a fairly broad variety of lifestyles all while remaining sunny without humidity, los angeles cannot be beaten. there are so very many shops working at which ever level or speciality you'd like to sink or rise to.

understandably, you'll suffer the criticism of the world regarding l.a.'s shortcomings, but it is hard to hear them while walking into work in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops in february.

none of these weather considerations can overshadow the fact that some of the best motion graphics in the world are produced here by an amazingly accessible group of firms. and this coming from a guy who left seattle to be here, a place i miss and love and am not returning to.

On Oct.15.2008 at 07:35 PM
JP’s comment is:

I am running my own design shop with loose partners on a bi-coastal(if the Mississippi is the middle coast)basis. I work with many clients back in Minneapolis yet, but have now moved to Seattle.

I haven't had much time in Seattle so I wouldn't be giving a even opinion of the good and bad if I did so now.

Of what I do know...For designers the market is quite tech heavy out here. If you're an interactive designer or developer, you have higher chances(most of which will probably be working for Microsoft)of getting work.

I'm not to sure about more analog design, it seems you have to be somebody to be somebody. The logic of which baffles me as well.

The summer weather I quite enjoyed(warm and low humidity), which compared to Minnesota during the summer is excellent. Though now I don't know what to think about it.

The city i'm more qualified to speak about...

Minneapolis, my long time home of course hold a place in my heart, but its has its pluses and minuses. It a fair town where each designer is judged on their own merit upon being hired(which is nice), but what that means is that as far as networking with other designers, it doesn't work. They have very strong events here, but the people attending don't seem to have the connective energy that flows around New York for example. Go to the event, go home.

Oddly enough we do great work here. I second that quote from Hollis above. Midwesterners stay at home or go east or west to make a name. At home we got Aesthetic Apparatus, Spunk, Target, Fallon, Duffy, Colle McVoy, Catalyst, Space 150... I mean there is a ton of high quality studios and smaller labs in this town. The Minnesota section of the Print annual is always chocked full. Though I do think we have a bit of a problem with stuckinthepastitis, where quality is never an issue, but pushing the progressive envelope is.

Competition for jobs is fierce. There are very few internships and some are biased and only available based on the school you attended.

Perhaps it's my familiarity, but overall there seems to be a more cohesive creative community practicing art, fashion and design then there is in Seattle. Seattle feels compelled to live up to itself, while Minneapolis just grows and does it honestly. In the next few years you will see loads of small retail and services built by designers and friends in the MSP area.

I'll have to write an update whenever I get enough of Seattle to be confident.

On Oct.15.2008 at 11:52 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Greetings from Atlanta , the city of big hair and bigger cars. As for advertising - and I'm relatively newish here - it's a freakin' wasteland. They don't seem to LIKE art... as my hometown of New Orleans did,( but they were pretty smashed by Katrina for a long time.) And so I don't even TRY to get work here, and instead get work out of New York, Denver, Dallas, Raleigh, Chicago, and sometimes San Francisco. As an illustrator I can stay in my pajamas all day and email and phone folks just about anywhere.

The trick is to connect with art directors as someone who'll make them look good designwise to both client and boss. Always looking for new ways not to become extinct. The market has just gotten tougher...
I had been doing work regularly for an agency in NYC for Merrill Lynch too. All gone with the wind now.

On Oct.16.2008 at 11:47 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Well, coming from the Twin Cities, I have to agree with the others that graphic design is big here. It's a natural magnet for most of the upper midwest based graphic designers. We have MCAD and CVA and several quality state colleges (Stout, Fargo, Iowa) pumping out folks. Some great museums (Weisman, Walker, etc.) and plenty of Ad Agencies as well.

At this point in my life, though, I'm more interested in the rural designers. We're a high tech industry that should be much more de-centralized by now. I'm always intrigued by the designer firms and designers based out of the woods in a cabin, or small towns in the prairies. (anyone living in the boondocks looking to hire? ;o)

On Oct.16.2008 at 04:41 PM
Rett’s comment is:

Interactive Art Director at Clockwork in Minneapolis.

Jon, Darrel and JP have covered a lot of what makes it such a great city for designers, but I wanted to follow up on a few things:

1. I think our public transit is great, but more importantly, we've got the second highest percentage of people biking to work (second to Portland).

2. It's probably changing a bit with the current economic situation, but it's totally possible to find a great house in the city.

3. At least in the interactive design community we have quite a few conferences, just recently the MIMA summit with ZeFrank as keynote and Flashbelt during the summer.

On Oct.16.2008 at 06:13 PM
Raphael’s comment is:

I'll take a NYC winter over a Chicago winter any year. Last February here in Chicago I just felt like yelling "F**K! F**K! F**K!" at the -5F air every morning when I'd step out the door because the cold that I had grown up with for my whole life was starting to get to me like never before.

I think the city that best fits your style depends first and foremost on your cultural preferences. I can't imagine living somewhere only because of a job unless it was a short term contract thing that you are highly specialized in. I've been offered good jobs in Ohio but no amount of money can ever get me to take a job there. I've been to Cleveland and Cincinatti and nope sorry not for me.

I'm a lifelong Chicagoan (grew up in Bridgeport near Comiskey) and designer about to try to make the move to NYC. Chicago has been great but I'd like to experience another place for a while and Chicago doesn't have as much fashion and consumer products work going on which is what I really wanna be doing. The real big corporations we have going on here are Motorola (every established firm here has Motorola in their client list), Allstate and a few others. Everything else seems to be very local or B2B. I don't expect a magical wonderland in NYC and for every great piece that comes out of there is a less than stellar opposite but I do know there's a greater variety of work going on there.

As a counterpoint I've heard some New York designers say they think Chicago is a better market because it's cheaper, allows for a broader playing field of work and they just think the quality is higher and the designers here work harder. Grass is greener I suppose.

There's always gonna be arguments against places like NYC but if you are really determined you can overlook and adapt to things like the high cost and the competitiveness. People of lesser qualifications and means get by so you certainly can too. It may even push you to take another look at your creative process and what kind of designer you are in such a diverse market.

The biggest hurdle I'm finding so far is getting an initial job there because none of my friends or acquaintances there are designers or in a management position so for any position I apply for I'm just another name that they've never heard of and doesn't live there. I'll break through to someone eventually but damn it's hard. All the success I've had here in Chicago has come from networking at events and becoming a familiar face to principals and other higher ups. I think that's an important thing for any designer to do in any city they want to establish themselves in. People are comfortable with the familiar. Think of any matter in your line of work that involves turning to someone else like a web or print vendor. The first person you're gonna think of is the one you already know or feel can handle your particular issue and that you have some iota of trust in even if you've just talked to them once or twice before.

On Oct.16.2008 at 06:32 PM
Robert Henderson’s comment is:

I'm a designer living in Brisbane, Australia and have found that a great deal of the design discourse to which I have been exposed is very NYC-centric.

Contemporary design from outside of the fashionable design centers is often given cursory attention, and mainly as a curiosity, or a show of cosmopolitan inclusivity.

This being said, I do appreciate the quality of design and criticism coming from these major centers, I just fear a loss of local design innovation in the scramble to keep up with the global giants.

On Oct.17.2008 at 12:06 AM
Paul’s comment is:

i'm a recent transplant to chicago, which of course seems like a design mecca after moving from birmingham, alabama. we have a bustling AIGA presence here in addition to what seems to be a good mix of firms. sure the weather can suck, but i think the transit works fine (though has its quirks) and overall i like the nature of this city: a massive mid-western town.

i work in the suburbs in a four-person shop, and my experience has been nothing but pleasant so far. i don't think chicago can match NYC's absolute immersion in all things aesthetic, but that's fine for me. there are events when you look for them here, and the rest of the time i'm ok with a book, a coffee shop, or a bike ride. the architecture is nice, the lake is beautiful, and if you need some trees you know which neighborhood to visit. selective metropolitan options with a lot less hustle and bustle; that gets my vote.

On Oct.17.2008 at 10:34 AM
Kristen’s comment is:

I run a small design business in Massachusetts. I currently am located in an unnoteworthy suburban area between Boston and Providence, but plan to move closer to Boston.

Perhaps I don't think enough like a designer, but I honestly don't look for a design city. I find my design community primarily online and in design publications. My design-business community does include a few designers and marketing/branding consultants, but it also includes a wide mix of other business owners, entrepreneurs and other creative/innovative folks. Yes, the former can talk about design-related issues, but the latter have been invaluable in terms of actually running and growing my business. After all, they are not only my business peers and mentors, but they are often my own target audience for clients. (Note: My ideal clients are NOT large corporations.)

For me, New England offers a good blend of art/culture, the outdoors, and plenty of new and growing businesses to keep my mind inspired and my workflow steady. Whenever I want to immerse myself in design and culture on a much grander scale than what's available here, NYC is only a couple hours away.

Am I getting the best experience as a graphic designer? Maybe, maybe not. But I do feel that I am getting the most opportunities for running my design business and living a life that I love. So it works for me.

On Oct.17.2008 at 11:01 AM
Raphael’s comment is:

In regards to Paul's comment I totally agree that Chicago is a good balance in that it offers you choices whether you need a quiet peaceful moment or you need to immerse yourself in urban noise or a combination of the two. There's a neighborhood for almost everything and some stay up much later at night than others.

On Oct.17.2008 at 11:43 AM
John Mindiola III’s comment is:

I just moved to Minneapolis area. Love it. Lots of culture, lots of students and practicing professionals, the Walker, okay music scene, good culinary variety. As far as balance, the Twin Cities Metro Area is great. I live in Maple Grove, on the edge of the Metro Loop. Lots of parks and good school systems. And, the burbs all blend together, making the commute to downtown painless.

On Oct.17.2008 at 04:31 PM
Josh’s comment is:

Okay music scene in Minneapolis? We get nearly everyone big on the national circuit. At home we have Low, Tapes n Tapes, Paul Westerberg, Haley Bonar, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S, Dillinger Four, Dosh, The Hold Steady(adopted, but justly), Prince, Bob Mould, Motion City Soundtrack, Bon Iver(another adoption, played alot)and the renowned modern jazz of Happy Apple and the Bad Plus.

All the rest you mentioned John is fantastic also and I second anyone looking for a great quality of life place that Minneapolis is top notch. Just need some more innovators and industry there.

On Oct.17.2008 at 09:55 PM
Becky’s comment is:

I'm also from Pittsburgh, and I have to say I love it. There is a reasonable design community here, larger than would be expected for its size; many make great opportunities out of seemingly nothing. But I'm sure the opportunities for broad types of design work are very limited compared to bigger cities; the quality of the work is still excellent.

And above all, Pittsburgh is beautiful and affordable and Pittsburghers are kind and generous and good-natured. It's the wonderful quality of life that outweighs anything related to whether I'm designing a product ad or a fashion website, in my mind. As long as I'm designing in this beautiful city of mine. ;)

On Oct.18.2008 at 03:15 AM
Juan’s comment is:

Im in Graphic Design and Advertising. I live in Miami, and I'm sick and tired of not getting any internship opportunities at big shops, any mentions of job openings in art magazine and website job boards, etc!
Every ad agency and design studio job is in NY, LA, SF, Boston, Chicago, Austin...... Where's an up and coming creative to go in Miami???

On Oct.18.2008 at 12:43 PM
Jason Puckett’s comment is:

I'm an Art Director at a small agency in Dallas, and the metroplex is very strong. There are a ton of places to work at, design firms, agencies, in-house, large & small, that concentrate on a variety of industries & media. Like Armin, I believe those are the kinds of aspects that make a design community exciting. Our community is also very close, public transportation is minimal, but can be very advantageous if you work around one of the stops.

As an employee, I look for a city that cares for & believes in good design & what it can do. I think the electronic age has helped firms go national without being national. And I think a good design city has a culture that embraces the arts, which is also why LA & NYC get all the fame.

Texas always takes a lot of flack for any industry besides oil, but when you talk about design & the arts, you also can't forget Austin! After all, Pentagram does have a small office there, and DJ is continually doing great work.

On Oct.19.2008 at 12:05 AM
Su’s comment is:

and to a lesser extent Chicago,

...the extent being that the train system here is useless by default rather than falling apart when it rains.

On Oct.19.2008 at 09:43 AM
the young freelancer’s comment is:

I recently moved from NYC, and it was a move I was not planning to make initially. After loosing my corporate design job, I decided I wanted to do some traveling, so I started to look for freelance work. After being made a few offers, I accepted a job in central NJ. Because my new job was close to 3 hours away from where I was living in NYC, I decided to move to the garden state.

It's been a few months since I made this move, and I can honestly say, as much as I love seeing so much grass/trees/open space, and as much as I enjoy my new job, I really miss NYC! In NYC, everyday was an inspiration overload — I had no problem filling sketchbooks with ideas and doodles. In my new home, it's a little more of a challenge (part of me thinks it might be because my new job is really busy and engaging). I also miss the college/design/art community that exists in NYC. Though the town I live in is full of artists, I'm the only Graphic Designer around.

Despite that major con, there is a major pro: planning trips has been a breeze! I'm taking a 3 week trip over the holidays, a few days off to go to my friends' wedding, and possibly a trip to Europe in the spring. At my old job, I would have never been allowed to take that much time off! At my new job, I can be a lot more flexible with my schedule. I can work remotely if I need to, and if I want to work 10 hours on day, and work a 7 hour day the next day, I can.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when my lease ends next August. Will I stay in NJ and keep doing what I'm doing, or will I be a gypsy and move to another city? Only time (and the job market) will tell.

On Oct.20.2008 at 04:26 AM
Nick Woods’s comment is:

I'm originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is a great place (albeit expensive) with reasonable design communities, and close to Detroit, which has some good design options (though, economy is ROUGH there now).

I interned in NYC last winter at an ad agency, and loved it, but my wife found a great job in Morgantown, West Virginia before I went to NYC. So, I ended up finding an interactive design job here at West Virginia University. This little city has very little design, but they are hungry for it. It's a naturally beautiful place with an affordable cost of living, and we basically live on a giant hill overlooking a valley with enough space for me to have a big studio in our attic. Autumn here is gorgeous...

It's also an hour from Pittsburgh, so I go there once a week for music and art. I have to agree with Becky that Pittsburgh is awesome. I'm looking for great agencies to work for there (thanks for the link Jon), so I can make the transition to Pittsburgh. The housing there is insanely cheap...we are finding tons of houses for under 100 grand that are large, in good condition, and in good neighborhoods.

I think the people alone make NYC great. It's a magnet for talent at the moment, so perhaps if people try to start a design culture someplace else, another design city will be born. Someday I may go back there, but I want the cost of living to go down a bit. It's not reasonable, and that's not a complaint...I understand places in such high demand are, well, expensive. But, I also don't feel that it's reasonable to pay half of your salary (entry level) for a 1-2 bedroom apartment. It creates a disparity between rich and poor so great that people with less money must move many miles from Manhattan.

On Oct.20.2008 at 11:13 AM
David E.’s comment is:

I've lived and worked in both San Diego and Los Angeles, and I don't really see much difference in terms of the actual work experience. Obviously, there's more opportunity in a bigger city, but the important thing is doing good work and making a living. The main point I'd like to make is that working for bigger clients does not necessarily mean doing better work, having a more satisfying job experience or making more money...especially if you're not in business for yourself.

On Oct.20.2008 at 12:05 PM
Jason L.’s comment is:

In House in Louisville, KY. Louisville is essentially the biggest small town you can find. The pace is gloriously laid back, the dedication to the Arts and cultural institutions is surprisingly good. The design community is relatively small but pretty tight knit. 19 years ago an independent design organization was formed 9LGDA.org) and has over 200 members that consistently bring in quality speakers, (one Bryony included). We're heavy on the Health Care and the Liquor as far as industries are concerned as well as a bit of a Fast Food mecca, Papa John's and Yum Brands. And I don't care who comments, the cost of living is unbeatable here. Note: I am a total homer and will defend this town until eternity, and I'm not even from here.

On Oct.20.2008 at 05:24 PM
Nick H’s comment is:

I work as an art director at a small agency in New Haven, CT. New Haven, as a place to work and live, for me, is ideal. I have never lived in NYC or Boston but an equal distance between both and I get the opportunity to take advantage of events, classes and lectures happening in either city.

New Haven itself is affordable to live in and with Yale, it has a thriving scene for music, design, art and more restaurants than I can handle.

On Oct.21.2008 at 09:10 AM
sunderwomann’s comment is:

I have experienced the hype of working in New York, the art and design culture of San Francisco as well as the corporate mindset in Cincinnati. I recently moved to Austin and I can't say enough about it.

Although a fairly small design community, the art and culture scene here is thriving - 37% of Austinites are in a creative field. The average age of 33 keeps the city young and full of fresh thinking. I do hope it can continue to move beyond the stereotype that it is all tech - we do everything here!

Oh - and have I mentioned the weather? I guess if you have to say the worst month is August, you're doing ok.

On Oct.21.2008 at 10:35 AM
bob’s comment is:

It's not always where you end up that is most important, it's how you've gotten there. Our studio is in Dublin, Ireland. Before setting up we individually worked in Amsterdam and New York. We continue to travel to other cities to present our work and soak in the surroundings. Inspiration can be found in everything, so it is important to record your everyday observations in your native city and when traveling abroad.

All clients are good clients, whether you live and work in New York, Deli or Co. kerry. It's your ability to evolve and your hunger to continually learn that's important.

By the way I disagree with that lad in Den Haag, it's too safe, plus Amsterdam is a much nicer city to live in and Rotterdam is a lot more edgy than either of them.

On Oct.24.2008 at 05:11 AM
Tan’s comment is:

First, thanks for the props, Jason. It's nice to come back for a visit. Place hasn't changed much.

So, I've been fortunate to have worked in a number of major US design markets thoughout my career, and currently am settled in Seattle.

There's really two ways to look at this question. What's a good city for a design business? And what's a good city for a designer?

The first is easy. All big design markets require big clients -- the Fortune 100 variety like P&G, Nike, Coke, Microsoft, Starbucks, Dell, Target, FedEx, etc. Those size of clients will support the local design and ad community through the economic ups and downs that are inevitable, and help ensure long-term survival. Those cities are the usual suspects -- NY, Chicago, LA, Minneapolis, SF, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, etc.

The second question is more subjective -- what's a good city for a designer? There's standard of living, and then, there's a sense of culture, diversity, progressiveness, and appreciation for art, education and quality of life in general. That's all much harder to quantify and rank.

Personally, a few cities that rank high for me in this category is Seattle, Portland, Austin, and Boulder.

Cities that rank low in this category for me are LA, Dallas, Atlanta, and probably Chicago. Great cities, but not great cities to find a balance between work and life. I especially would hate to work in LA. My agency has a second office in LA, so I travel there frequently. I'm always happy and thankful to be on a plane back to Seattle.

A few other subject thoughts. Minneapolis is a great design market, but it is F*CKING cold. I'm hearty, but you don't know what cold is till you've lived there. Chicago is also a great city, but they get the worst of the seasons -- their winters are brutal, as is their summers. I grew up in Houston, but the hottest, most miserable day I've ever experienced aywhwwerewas in Chicago when it was 105º with 100% humidity.

Where I really wish I could live and work is Maui, Hawaii. But alas, there is NO work for a graphic designer there. None whatsoever. Maybe I could find a massive out-of-state client that could support me...

On Oct.24.2008 at 04:13 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

There are no small design cities, only small designers.

On Oct.30.2008 at 10:15 AM
darrel’s comment is:

"Maybe I could find a massive out-of-state client that could support me..."

My first gig out of college was at a large design firm where we had a couple of employees working out of their homes in the back woods 10 states away.

I think that's where I'd ultimately like to end up... ;0)

On Oct.30.2008 at 11:38 AM
Tan’s comment is:

If not Hawaii, then Amsterdam, maybe the Hague. I love everything about Amsterdam except for maybe the food. Cold, pickled herring on a bun is not a sandwich. Blech.

I know of a few ex-pats from Nike/W+K that opened up a design firm in the Hague to serve Deutsch Telecom (T-Mobile's parent company). Amsterdam and the surrounding area has a great design community, everyone is fit and beautiful, the standard of living is high, and many speak or is fluent in English. That's good, because Dutch is fucking hard to learn. So it's easy to work there as an American.

On Oct.30.2008 at 04:12 PM
Char’s comment is:

I've lived in many cities in the US and out of the US. I get this horrible scary feeling when I think about moving out of NYC. I just can't. I am scared of bad tans and bad shopping. Boring design agencies and museums. I can't, I can't.

That's all I have to say. Now if you excuse me, I'm gonne grab some coffee from Dean & DeLuca.

On Apr.09.2009 at 10:53 AM
Ben Weeks’s comment is:

I live in Toronto and like it for a variety of reasons. It's less dense and more affordable to live in than NY. There are a good range of clients, magazines, firms, ad agencies, banks etc. It's one of the major business centers of Canada so many national accounts are based here. There is a nice variety of neighborhoods reasonably close to each other, with a bike you can cover most of the city core quickly and easily. Anything you can find in NY stores, you can pretty much find here. Good galleries and concerts, multicultural, fairly safe, lots of schools and universities. Plus my family is here. There's interesting work going on to help some of the most broken neighborhoods too and a loving community.

On Apr.13.2009 at 11:31 PM