Does geographical location contribute to the richness of creative talent? Does it matter which part of the world you live in if you are to be a successful designer? Certainly famous buildings,design landmarks and landscape design can contribute to a city’s cultural relevance but are some cities intrinsically arty?
The debates will rage on (and feel free to give your thoughts in our comments at the bottom of the page). But here – in no particular order – is a selection of what some creative professionals believe are the best cities to live and work in right now, and their reasons why…
“Berlin is just extraordinary and very different,” enthuses Oliver Wiegner, aka Ice Cream for Free. “The design, art, fashion and music scenes are active and a lot of international and intercultural influences are coming together. So it’s still a great environment for every kind of creative person.”
Compared to other cities, Berlin is a convenient size and there’s a strong synergy between the different scenes, he adds. “I think over the last years, everything has come together more and more. The whole city is pretty energetic and you can’t move for all the street art, galleries and events.”
Finally, the cost of living is lower than in most big cities – which is great for people who want to focus on their work rather than just making money. “Especially good news for creatives,” he smiles.
02. Rio De Janeiro
Rio offers you the perfect balance between a bustling city and awe-inspiring scenery, say Luciano Pouzada and Fernanda Saboia of Huge Rio: “If commuting through mountains, lagoons, beaches and centuries-old architecture every morning won’t inspire you, we don’t know what will.”
Although Rio is a huge city with a vibrant creative industry, the natural landscape gives a light and informal feel in the city that’s unique, says Pouzada. “It’s not uncommon to see people biking to work with their swimsuits under relaxed work clothes. If the beach isn’t your thing, you can count on going to a boteco (a bar!) after work on Thursdays, or most days, for that matter.”
Colleague Fernanda Saboia adds: “Cariocas (the Rio natives) are known for being hardworking, building some of the most inspiring work in the country while still enjoying life outside of the office.”
03. Cape Town
“In Cape Town there are some really excellent schools led by great creatives, who come from ad agencies based here,” says Trevor Swart, owner of branding firm Sploosh Digital. “So the pool of young talent is here. If you want to get a qualification, or a post-grad, you’ll probably end up here.”
Plus, he adds, it’s a great place to live. “Cape Town is a destination of choice for tourists plus there’s an ecosystem of service industries here. It’s where you will find people with high level of education, as in Johannesburg, but with a much better view. I can be walking in a forest on the mountain in ten minutes.”
The biggest city in Japan, Tokyo is a thriving and bustling hub of creativity, fashion and culture – with a particularly edgy art scene. “There are so many interesting places, says Haruki Higashi, founder of Loworks, one of Tokyo’s most experimental and indeed renowned agencies. “Tokyo’s sheer size offers designers great chances, plus there is Yokohama and Chiba right next to Tokyo – providing even more inspiration.”
Ian Lynam – who runs the eponymous Ian Lynam Design – has been a Tokyo resident since 2005. “For me, it’s a mix of things in the visual landscape. The hyper-kinetic power and telecommunication cables that snake through the city and permeate every scene. The use of bright colours for public barriers in lieu of the drab, utilitarian colours elsewhere in the world. The amazing fashion adorning the city’s denizens. The occasional stunning piece of architecture. And the city’s amazing public spaces.
“Typographically,” he adds, “Tokyo is a treasure chest that offers no end of inspiration. Being a designer in love with letterforms, I find something new almost every time I leave the house.”
Why is London such a great place to live and work? “Mainly because of the other creative people that live here,” says Paul Stafford, co-founder of DesignStudio, an agency that has worked extensively with Nokia over the last few years. “London has such a rich, multi-cultural design community that it is impossible not to be inspired or influenced wherever you go.
“Our studio is full of talented individuals who have flocked here to be part of the culture and to work with other talented creatives. It’s a monopoly, you won’t find it anywhere else. London is unique and in my opinion, still producing the greatest creative work globally.”
- Don’t miss our Designer’s Guide to London
“Geographically, Melbourne is so far away from the most influential design hubs of the world, yet somehow its culture, creativity and innovation remain significant and relevant on an international level,” says Jack Mussett, co-founder ofMotherbird.
“The city has a sense of mystery and intrigue about it. You can’t just stumble across its gems; they’re hidden in laneways, rooftops or underground. That’s what makes Melbourne such a great place for a creative; the cultural fabric of the city is so hidden, yet so ingrained in our everyday lives that it never becomes stale or cliché.
“Melbourne might not be considered amongst the most visibly beautiful cities in the world, or even Australia for that matter, and perhaps it is this that forces it to create an inner beauty of its own.”
- Also read: The designer’s guide to Melbourne
07. New York City
Roanne Adams is creative director and founder of RoAndCo, one of New York City’s most famous multi-disciplinary design studios. So why does she love the Big Apple? “New York City is a place of immense opportunity,” she says. “The fast-paced environment creates a competitive atmosphere – which translates into high expectations, high calibre of work and great reward.
With a multicultural, talented design community, NYC continually encourages RoAndCo to produce stronger work. “It can be challenging to keep up with the pace and stand out in the crowd, but that’s what gets us out of bed every morning.”
And inspiration comes both from the talented creatives who live there and the myriad of recourses. “Museums, design stores, galleries, publications, and the presence of the fashion industry – we’re challenged intellectually and creatively every day. Not to mention some of the best restaurants, stores, nightlife and cultural events out there. We’re lucky to call New York City our home.”
Since moving to Toronto, illustrator Ben Johnson has found that it has a great creative community that all seems to connect – with designers and illustrators looking out for each other. “There are a lot of small studios and start-ups all producing amazing work, as well as numerous desk share studios which act as ‘creative hubs’ around the city where creatives can collaborate and make ideas come to life,” he says.
“The city itself is always buzzing and there is a great mix between parks, architecture and street art wherever you look. Being in Toronto also allows easy access to The States for jobs that require travel. There is a great energy that inspires creative work.”
“The graphic design scene in Paris is heterogeneous,” says Julien Dhivert of Parisian graphic design studio Akatre. “Small ateliers, graphic design studios and shows and exhibitions.” It’s not all brilliant, though. “We are still surrounded by poor graphic design in the streets, subway and so on,” he says. “Big companies and clients have a poor education in graphic design, unfortunately.”
But there are many compensations. Thomas Petijean of Hey Hopoints out that: “History is everywhere in Paris. You can still find some very nice enamel boards in the streets, or signs in the subway – the French designer David Poullard made some great work from this subject. There are also some nice old bookshops where you can find some Robert Massin or Pierre Faucheux books. And of course my work is influenced by all this.”
“It’s a small big city,” says Vasava‘s co-founder Bruno Sellese of Barcelona. “It’s got sea and mountains, the weather is mellow and people are open minded.”
Vasava is one of Barcelona’s most reputable agencies, with clients including Diesel, Adobe, and Barcelona FC. When questioned on the creative scene in the city, Selles struggles a little: “It’s hard to describe,” he says. “It depends of the field. There’s a bunch of great bands and musicians, a load of graphic and motion designers and studios, good type designers and cooks!”
Despite the recent economic hardships, Barcelona remains an inspirational place with a raft of young creative talent, he says. “Take Alex Trochut as a great example. And the city’s social scene is one of the best in Europe.”
Ivan Suarez of Mandrill Studio concurs. “For me Barcelona is a city that has a magnificent history, mix of cultures, friendly planned urban spaces and more. Plus the energy you bring it could be like a boiling plate for creativity. Barcelona as a brand gives your projects a good starting point for promote your work around the world.”