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Art by Lisa Engler

Top 7 cities for full‑time design jobs

Earlier this year, we published the Top 7 cities for freelance design nomads. Of course, freelancing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—so for those designers who prefer working in-house, we rounded up some of the best cities for you to find full-time jobs.

Sure, you might automatically think that big metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, Boston—or geographies with concentrations of design schools, or industry focal points like Silicon Valley—would be the U.S. cities with the best opportunities or average salaries for designers. However, across the United States, a lower cost of living amongst different cities can afford designers of all stripes vibrant opportunities.

We looked at a few factors such as where designers are mostly being employed full-time, and what cities are hiring the most designers these days to bring you 7 great cities for full-time design jobs. You might notice a few of these cities also happen to be top locations for freelance nomads as well! See for yourself:

7. San Francisco, California

  1. Lyft Post
  2. Stories page update story customer blue landing brand estate web opendoor layout design
  3. Pet project (1 of 2) brand zendesk hand drawn jersey cycling illustration

Row 1: Nick Slater for Lyft, Nicolas Solerieu for Opendoor Design, Bob Galmarini.

Shots from teams in the San Francisco community.

There’s no surprise San Francisco made this list. Since the 1990s, the tech industry has continued to grow at an incredible rate in the Bay Area and it has been a hub for design and development jobs ever since. The city and its surrounding areas are home to some huge tech companies such as Salesforce, Airbnb, and Google (among many others) but also plenty of startups looking to hire designers. Nicolas Solerieu, Visual designer at Opendoor, shares some nice words about why working in San Francisco is so unique.

“At the far edge of this country, there’s a crack in the continent surrounded by swirling fog. Container ships slip in and out of a vast bay under the most famous bridge in the world. San Francisco is 47 square miles of wild optimism, poetic sensibility, and world-shaking ideas. It’s a place of overwhelming natural beauty, where change is the only constant. Where the future is just over that next hill, waiting to be written. designed, or engineered.”

6. Salt Lake City, Utah

  1. Parade Theme minimal ux ui design layout shop store ecommerce template theme
  2. Facebook's Local Team Booklet underbelly book layout design guide san francisco map paper local team scout books booklet editorial layout print facebook
  3. Groupie Garden - Illustration beach guitar drinks garden music

Row 1: Nate Hanson for Big Cartel, Dave Keller for Underbelly, Evan Murphy for JIBE.

Shots from teams in the Salt Lake City community.

Salt Lake City is increasingly becoming a popular home for creatives—this includes both freelancers and designers looking for full-time jobs. Not only is the cost of living relatively low, but there’s also a ton of design jobs available these days, in particular within creative agencies such as Underbelly. See what their Product Designer Jeff Smith has to say about working at an agency in Salt Lake City:

”Far and away my favorite part of working in Salt Lake is that my design team feels like family and our city feels like home. It’s affordable, family-friendly, has good public transportation, and offers some of the most incredible scenery nature has to offer. We also seem to have an abnormally high ratio of great design teams here. That next-level talent forces me to elevate my quality and craft.”

5. Chicago, Illinois

  1. Gifted For Love church god dove nature water gifts of the spirit love
  2. Gin moon cocktail woman character art deco print screen print poster booze liquor gin
  3. Windy City Daruma halftone mascot vintage typography poster matchbook illustration halftones daruma chicago

Row 1: Tyler Anthony for The Village Church, Graham Erwin for Delicious Design League, Tatsuya Kurihara for Soulsight.

Shots from teams in the Chicago community.

Chicago is another city that has slowly become a prime location for designers to find full-time work. From small startups to world-renowned design firms, the city is full of creative job opportunities. According to Billy Baumann, Creative Director at Delicious Design League, the plethora of different kinds of job opportunities is what’s so great about being a designer in Chicago:

“Chicago is a great place to work because it’s a bit of “choose your own adventure”. We have a plethora of large advertising and marketing agencies but we also have a thriving boutique design community, so the opportunities are nearly endless on being able to pick the type of career path you’re looking for and more importantly the type of design work you want to be doing.”

4. Atlanta, Georgia

  1. Dancin' music festival dancing dance illustration
  2. Atlanta Hawks sports identity creative typography layout grid flat ui website ux ui web design web

Row 1: David Reid for Rhyme & Reason Design, James Abercrombie for Mailchimp, Jeff Corey for Visual Soldiers.

Shots from teams in the Atlanta community.

The art and design scene in Atlanta is huge! The city is full of art districts, world-class museums, and a growing tech culture which means plenty of job opportunities. Junior Designer Amanda Robinson from the creative agency Visual Soldiers loves how active her team is in the Atlanta design community:

”Being a total newbie from Virginia to the Atlanta design scene, I’ve got to say–the creative hustle here is pretty impressive. Visual Soldiers being in Midtown, the arts district of Atlanta, we’re right in the middle of the maker/creator action. It’s teeming with culture and pulsing with potential, and the projects reflect that. I get to work with some crazily creative cats, so my days are always interesting to say the least! We’re really active in the design community and the company culture encourages personal growth so there’s a lot of creative fuel for me.”

3. Austin, Texas

  1. Giddy Up, Y'all texas shramp horse cowboy hot luck hotluck
  2. Korean BBQ
  3. Whistle While We Work pencil texture typography branding illustration

Row 1: Dayan D'Aniello for Guerilla Suit, Zachary Wieland for Helms Workshop™, Zack Guerra for Canales & Co..

Shots from teams in the Austin community.

Austin houses a number of strong design teams and is bursting with talent. Many businesses have been relocating here the past few years to hire the unique talent in Austin and take advantage of the collaborative tech and design community it fosters. Associate Creative Director Alex Roka of Helms Workshop in Austin tells us what he loves about the city:

”Austin seems to have a unique design style that is heavily influenced by the culture. There’s a mix of inspiration often found in the work—whether it’s funky hand-painted signage, modern traditional tattoos, or just our Texan roots. The city itself is also going through a massive growth spurt which has lead to a lot of new client opportunities in everything from tech to hospitality. It will be interesting to watch the design scene evolve as more people seek out all the great local talent here.”

2. Berlin, Germany

  1. Humans of Finparx branding colorful humans website animation illustration sketch
  2. Usability test illustration flat maps public transportation blog medium usability rideshare mobility android ios app

Row 1: Jürgen Hassler for MAD, Heruman Akuseru for Pitch, henrique j. tramontina for door2door.

Shots from teams in the Berlin community.

Berlin has been known for housing many startups and continues to encourage other small tech companies to relocate here. It probably doesn’t take a lot of convincing since it’s relatively cost-effective for companies to have their headquarters here compared to other European cities. There is also tons of talent to hire from as designers continue to flock here because of all of the opportunities the startup scene has brought! Among these companies is Pitch, an open platform for presentations and content collaboration. Their Designer Axel Herrmann shares what’s so great about being employed in Berlin:

“Berlin is vibrant and diverse, geeky and raw, young but full of history—and Berlin never sleeps. Every day there is something interesting to see or attend, may it be a meetup or talk, a concert, or a pop-up art exhibition. Berlin is inspiring like only a few metropolia which makes it the ideal place to live for creatives. While that seems a given, it’s especially appealing for full-time work because of the vivid startup scene that has been established throughout the last couple of years with a growing need for talent in design and development. But there are also factors like a well developed public transport system, many great places to eat out, and the closeness to nature (parks, lakes, and woods in and around the city) which helps to keep the work-life balance in check. Also, Berlin is still an affordable city, not only for singles but also for families.”

1. Dallas, Texas

  1. Texas Tech Buttons hand lettering t-shirt red raiders guns up texas tech buttons swag life not laundry
  2. Heaven On Earth heaven earth god man peach blue john jesus

Row 1: Jamie Hill for Tide Product Team, Tyler Anthony for The Village Church, Vishnu C T for RapidGems.

Shots from teams in the Dallas community.

Number one on the list of top cities for full-time design jobs is Dallas! And there seem to be many reasons why: It’s a central location, the cost of living is affordable, the economy continues to grow (notably in the tech industries), and the design talent is abundant—especially because Dallas has more than forty colleges in the area keeping the hiring pool flowing. We think Creative Director Melvin Thambi of the design studio RapidGems, sums up his experience as a full-time employed designer in Dallas perfectly:

”Dallas city has quietly found a stimulating balance which many cities struggle to find. The city is a source of inspiration with its design and art and has so many opportunities for the application of art. The creative potential is infinite when inspired minds and opportunities meet. The city is a growing hub for creativity with a rapidly increasing amount of events, meetups, and forums around design. Working as a full-time designer for one of the largest Master Data management company in Texas, I had the opportunity to meet and share ideas with so many inspired designers. And we look forward to expanding our team and client base in Dallas.”

Want to read more articles highlighting notable design cities? Make sure to check out Top 7 cities for freelance design nomads and 10 Inspiring cities for designers.

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