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Best Cities for Graphic Designers

by France Preecha

In this day and age, it can be argued that graphic designers are no longer bound to an office or any other permanent working space. As all projects can be worked on and submitted digitally, designers are technically free to live and work wherever they want.

Although this may be true for those who have decided to embark on the freelance career journey, this isn’t always the case for all graphic designers out there.

As a fresh college graduate, it may be better to work at an agency. Not only will you be able to work in a team alongside many other talented graphic designers, but you’ll also be provided with the types of mentoring and assistance needed in order to grow in your career. 

However, whether you decide to work at an in-house agency or as a freelancer, there is a high chance that you’re going to want to work in a city that will fulfill your needs as a graphic designer.

If you are a graphic designer seeking to relocate for better design job opportunities and quality of life in general, fortunately, we have already done all the research for you. In this article, we have compiled a list of the 10 best cities for graphic designers to work in. 

Factors that we have considered in order to narrow down the list include:

  • Internet speed
  • Migrant worker acceptance
  • Cost of living
  • Salary
  • Job opportunities

10 Ideal Cities for Graphic Designers

1) New York, N.Y.

New York is widely known for being the design center of the world. With various opportunities for entry-level jobs as well as freelancers, this is the location where many graphic designers are either starting out or achieving senior status in their careers.

The New York art scene is booming with countless galleries and design studios to visit on the regular. Also home to the well-known Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and prestigious design schools such as Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts, you’ll most likely never run out of artistic inspiration here.

As many global digital agencies are also headquartered here, there will be many creative opportunities for you to chase. The only downsides there are with living in New York would be the high labor market competition as well as the pricy living cost.

2) San Francisco, California

San Francisco is considered to be a city with its own unique population. The San Francisco community is comprised of a diverse mix of both tech experts as well as artistic hippies. Once living there, you’ll most likely be able to find your niche in no time. 

The best part about this city is that it is known as one of the happiest places to live. While many well-established design and tech firms are located here, the amazing architecture and galleries that you’ll constantly be surrounded by are also guaranteed to continue sparking your passion for the arts. 

Furthermore, the growing start-up community is one of the main reasons why many graphic designers decide to start their careers here. Earning the highest average salary compared to other cities, San Francisco offers many attractive job opportunities for graphic designers at all levels.

3) Los Angeles, California

Next up on the list is no other city than the city of angels itself. The prominence of Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry itself is what makes L.A. one of the key destinations for graphic designers.

Businesses of all sizes, from world-class corporates to small media agencies are established here, allowing L.A. to evolve into a city with a high demand for creatives and designers who specialize in various fields. 

So, for those who are looking to grow their network while also avoiding the typical 9-5 office life, this city might be your best bet. However, similar to New York, competition and rental prices will without a doubt remain high compared to other cities.

 

4) Miami, Florida

Miami is a city that truly stands out from others. With an equal mix of tropical beaches and the feels of a metropolitan city, you’re really given the best of both worlds here. 

In Miami, there is a culturally-diverse art scene, which has been heavily shaped by the large percentage of both Latin and American communities who live there. As a graphic designer, these Latin-inspired works of art could possibly provide you with inspiration for your own work.

Additionally, many graphic designers based here are able to build a name for themselves by working with digitally-oriented companies like CBS and Magic Leap. However, this isn’t to say that there isn’t room for independent artists to grow in their careers here because trust me, there is more than plenty. 

With lots of design job opportunities available and a great salary, this is the city where graphic designers can definitely see themselves thriving. 

 

5) Austin, Texas

Although Austin isn’t as much of a popular destination compared to the other cities mentioned, it is surprisingly a city that creatives should now be on the lookout for. 

In the past 10 years, the city has seen major growth in terms of its arts, music, and cultural scene, hence why festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits (ACL) are hosted there. Austin has also recently transformed into a tech hub with a growing economy which has encouraged many entrepreneurs to move and settle there.

Many of these companies in Austin are in need of help when it comes to branding, therefore graphic designers will play an extremely important role in their business. While it is true that there are strong competitions between many of the independent artists who live there, there is no reason why this should stop you from moving there.

The graphic design scene is definitely growing and there will be a bunch of job opportunities waiting for you there. 

 

6) Berlin, Germany

While the United States surely does offer various job opportunities within the field of graphic design, it isn’t the only country that does so. Despite the jobs not paying as much as it does there, graphic design jobs are just as important in other regions of the world. Most of the time, you’ll even notice that design is progressing much quicker elsewhere than it is in the states. 

Take Berlin for example.

Due to the damages left from WWII, Berlin was a city that had to be rebuilt. Since then, it rose to become one of the world’s most urban cities. The city is packed with modern architecture which has allowed both locals and foreigners to truly experience the young and hip vibe the city has to offer. 

There are 5 art universities and over 5,000 design students in Berlin alone, making it one of the best places to jumpstart and build your career here as a graphic designer. If you are an independent designer, Berlin might be an even better pick for you as there are many amazing co-working spaces dedicated to freelancers there. 

Moreover, the city provides you with iconic contemporary art venues and landmarks such as the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien and the IMA Design Village, which can become incredible sources of inspiration for your projects. 

Simply, Berlin’s design landscape is like no other. The fact that there is a foundation, Projekt Zukunft, created for the purpose of promoting innovation as well as the digital and creative economy of the city, makes it even greater for those who work in the design industry.

 

7) London, England

For a long time, London has been one of the top destinations for many graphic designers around the world. It is a city that is home to many highly respected firms that appeal to graphic designers looking to “make it” within the industry. 

Interestingly, London also acts as a global cultural center of its own with much art, music, literature, and history to be shared amongst the multicultural community living here. The many cultural exchanges that occur within this city will therefore definitely help feed the creative minds of graphic designers.

Another perk of working in this vibrant city is the amazing salary that graphic designers earn here, which is roughly 15% above the average national salary for this position. 

 

8) Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Did you know that many of the world’s largest corporates have their European HQs located in Amsterdam? Heineken, Nike, Wieden+Kennedy’s headquarters, you name it, are all located here. 

Over the past years, the number of media firms and start-up companies in Amsterdam has rapidly increased, blowing up the city with very attracting jobs to those who want to work within the creative industries. 

Creative industries here, in particular, are international, innovative, and experimental. Companies are known to be highly digitally involved and are always evolving with the latest technologies in the world. Today, there are more than 300 international creative companies that are based here and over 200,000 employees who work within these fields.

As the city also offers plenty of room for both work and play, Amsterdam could be another great place for young graphic designers who are looking to explore different areas, whether that would be fashion, advertising, gaming, music, or even broadcasting television networks. 

 

9) Paris, France

Since Paris is considered to be the fashion capital of the world, you may be wondering if there is any space left for graphic designers here. The answer is yes. 

Paris has long been the center of art and fashion, with many of its famous museums and galleries owning some of the world’s most iconic art pieces. Although you can argue that Paris has a reputation of being too conservative due to its rich cultural history, it is actually the perfect place for independent graphic designers looking for a little challenge in their career.

The city has been progressing in many ways with new galleries and artist-run spaces to visit. Breaking into the design industry still requires artists to be more on the disruptive side, however, with designs becoming more global now, the authentic ‘Parisian style’ is slowly fading. 

With that being said, this will open many doors for graphic designers to experiment.

10) Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is an Irish gem with a charming character. Over the years, Dublin has experienced much growth in terms of technology and the resources they have there, which is why the Dublin City Council has been making efforts to transform the city into a design capital since 2010. 

The city has become a cultural melting pot that is known to satisfy anyone working within the tech or creative industry. No wonder Google and Facebook have decided to have one of their main offices located there. 

Dublin offers an interesting view of architecture and inspiring art galleries that collectively adds a unique touch to its culture. Although it is essentially different from other typical design cities, this is what makes it the quirky kind of paradise to many art and design lovers out there. 

So, if you are looking for the next great graphic design city to move to, you should consider Dublin as one of your top choices. 

Summary Table: (Updated 2019 Prices in USD)

While all the benefits of living and working in each city have already been explained, it is also important to take into account other factors such as:

  • The average annual salary
  • Cost of living per month
  • Average monthly rent

To break it down in an easier manner, here is a summary table that lists all the average salaries and living costs for each city. 

 

City Average Annual Salary  Cost of Living Per Month

(without rent)

Average Monthly Rent
New York, N.Y. $55,242 $1,251 $3,064
San Francisco, California $67,198 $1,124 $3,338
Los Angeles, California $54,288 $994 $2,227
Miami, Florida $46,827 $971 $1,707
Austin, Texas $48,009 $860 $1,538
Berlin, Germany $34,037 $857 $1,222
London, United Kingdom $46,989 $981 $1,563
Amsterdam, the Netherlands $34,261 $959 $1,232
Paris, France $34,630 $1,026 $1,350
Dublin, Ireland $33,172 $958 $1,296

Sources: Expatistan, Numbeo, Glassdoor, Payscale

In such competitive markets, there is no doubt that design is a critical aspect of branding. This is why the demand for graphic designers is high in today’s businesses.

However, graphic designer jobs are not without challenges. As creativity will always be needed in a job like this, it can be physically and mentally draining. Hence, it all makes sense as to why you would want to live in a city that will foster the motivation and inspiration for your work. 

As the modern graphic design career calls for much more freedom that there were back in the day, you could consider going on a little adventure to one of the design-oriented cities listed!

 

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