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8 Great places to live as a designer

Are you looking for a city where you can easily connect and collaborate with other creatives? Maybe you’re looking for a new design job in a city that won’t break the bank? With the help of Dribbble’s analytics team, we looked into cities around the globe examining factors such as average freelance and full-time designer salaries, local demand for design jobs, and cost of living to bring you a list of cities designers are living and thriving in alike.

Whether you’re a designer looking for a full-time role, a freelancer looking for new opportunities, or just want to be around a thriving community of creatives, these eight cities will help give you a better idea of where tons of designers are living, working, and being hired these days. Also, hear what local designers have to say about why they are loving their town.

8. Los Angeles, California

People have always flocked to Los Angeles to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. But these days, careers in design also seem to be attracting tons of creatives to the area. In fact, as a city now filled with designers, it’s a big reason why we decided to host Dribbble’s bi-annual conference Hang Time there last year. Carol Reyes is an illustrator and graphic designer living in Los Angeles and this is why she’s proud to call it home:

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“Los Angeles overall is a highly energetic and fast-paced environment with so many distinctive pockets of inspiration. I love California weather—summer especially. As an advocate for smiling more often, what better way to start the day than to be greeted by the sun? Both the design studio I work at and my own little studio have big windows that allow for plenty of natural light. It’s such a luxury. It’s my favorite atmosphere and it’s how I am most productive. Plus, there is so much talent in LA that it’s easy to make friends and exchange creative ideas. Let’s be friends!”

7. Boston, Massachusetts

As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston is extremely rich in history. On the other end of the spectrum, the city is also a large modern metropolis heavy in creative studios and agencies. You’ll find a healthy balance of vintage and contemporary art here. Fun fact: We also hosted Dribbble’s very first Hang Time conference in Boston! Designer and illustrator Rachel Wright is based here and shares what she loves about the city:

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“Boston is such an interesting city to me—there’s so much history here and yet there’s this whole burgeoning tech scene. You can visit the Institute of Contemporary Art and the old city hall in under an hour. I love that nod to history while also looking to the future. It’s also a great city to be in obviously as a sports fan. I work in the technology space at a sports entertainment company and it’s such a fun industry to be in. What I love about sports is their ability to bring all types of people together—and what better place to be than Boston!”

6. Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s capital Dublin is filled with character when it comes to its people, aesthetic, and community. Aoife O’Dwyer is a designer, artist, illustrator, and curator who is heavily involved in Dublin’s creative scene. On top being a visual designer at an agency, she regularly organizes and hosts creative talks via Glug Dublin
, the local chapter of a global creative community network. After hearing Aoife’s take on being a designer in Dublin, we want to head there ASAP:

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“For me, the best thing about Dublin is how generous and supportive the community is with their time, energy, and their expertise. People here are so committed and passionate about what they do and also really willing to share that experience with the wider community. Ireland is full of incredibly talented people creating world-class work, and I feel very proud and privileged to be surrounded by so much creativity, history, and character every day. The digital design community, in particular, is pretty ‘small’ in the sense that it only ever feels like there are a few degrees of separation between any two designers in the city. We’re a really close-knit bunch and with that comes a hugely supportive network. We’re very talented designers, but more importantly, we’re good people!”

5. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis can’t stop growing. Small businesses, startups, and even fortune 500 companies have made the city their home, putting Minneapolis on the map when it comes to thriving economies. Sydney Jacobson is an independent designer located in Minneapolis who specializes in branding and user interface design. Here’s why she’s rooted her career in this city:

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“Under all that snow, Minneapolis is a unique blend of Midwestern charm and bustling city life. With beautiful lakes, great art museums, and amazing food, there’s a reason why I call this place my home. Not only does Minneapolis have a strong design community, but it’s also big in local businesses and emerging startups. Minneapolis is a city full of great opportunities for creative freelancers.”

4. San Diego, California

San Diego has always attracted people because of its great weather and beautiful beaches—but lately, the city’s emerging tech scene has been a big reason professionals love it here too. Gabe Abadilla is a freelance designer from San Diego who collaborates with all kinds of startups, agencies, and brands. According to him, it’s an ideal place to be freelancing because there are tons of opportunities for designers… and of course, he’s a fan of the weather too:

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“I love living and working in San Diego because of the variety of work available. With a blossoming tech and startup scene, there are a lot of opportunities for designers to make an impact and have a seat at the table. San Diego is also home to a vibrant developing art and design scene. While often in the shadow of the Bay Area and Los Angeles when it comes to design, agencies like Basic
 are constantly proving that world-class design can come out of San Diego. Personally, I think the quality of life can’t be beat. We enjoy 75° degree weather year round and we are in the top ten cities for the lowest commute times. There are not many places where you can surf and snowboard in the same day!”

3. Toronto, Canada

As Canada’s financial and commercial center, it’s easy to imagine why there’s a thriving design scene in Toronto. Roger Dario is a creative director at the Toronto-based design and experience agency Jam3. He focuses on digital platforms, products, and content for Jam3 partners like Adidas, eBay, Spotify, Google, Oculus, and Microsoft. We love his thoughts on seasonality in Toronto and how it relates to the creative process:

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Roger Dario Roger Dario Creative director @jam3. Co-founder

“Toronto’s distinct seasonality serves well as a backdrop for my creative practice. Long winters, transitory summers, and (almost) non-existent springs and autumns complement my capacity for productivity. Mary H.K. Choi describes a “creative metabolism working in a way where I have ingestion periods. Then, I have gestation periods. Then, I have output periods.” which for me, has a synchronicity with the seasons.”

2. Stockholm, Sweden

Not only does Stockholm have drop-dead gorgeous scenery—as a creative you’ll be inspired almost everywhere you go because design is such an important part of the culture in Sweden. Whether that be through beautiful interior design, the hundreds of museums scattered across the city, or simply the artwork hung on the walls, it’s clear this is a city made for and by designers. Jonathan Dahl is freelance illustrator and animator living in Stockholm. He can’t see himself living anywhere else and here’s why:

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“Stockholm is a beautiful city built on 14 islands where the medieval meets the ultra-modern. As a designer you will find some of the worlds best agencies here who I’m sure will invite you for a Fika
 if you ask. Sweden and Stockholm have a culture of appreciating flat hierarchies in their workplaces and tend to strive for flatter organizations which help keep people’s egos in check in the design world. We never address anyone by Mr. or Sir and only use first names instead. With a vibrant inner city life and nature just ten minutes away it’s a hard place not to love. People tend to have a good work life balance and good quality of life and adding what’s called the Swedish Model with free health care and child care—it’s difficult to really want to work and live anywhere else.”

1. Berlin, Germany

It’s no surprise Berlin is at the top of this list! It’s made most of our lists for notable cities for designers. You’ll find absolutely no shortage in both freelance and full-time design opportunities in Berlin. Not only that, but Berlin makes a huge effort to foster it’s creative community through it’s world renound museums, plethora of co-working spaces, cultivation of startups, and more. Muhammad Elmelegy is a Senior Product Designer currently designing at Volkswagen. Before Berlin, he worked in all kinds of places from Cairo to Toronto to San Francisco—but Berlin has stolen this designer’s heart and here’s why:

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“I moved to Berlin almost four years ago and I never expected that I’d fall in love with this city. Berlin has so much to offer from the diversity, the nightlife, the food, the art scene, and of course the coffee. I would say Berlin is a nice blend between New York City and San Francisco without the skyscrapers. Being a creative mind in a city like Berlin whether you are working in design, fashion, music, or tech, you are in no shortage of inspiration. Street art is everywhere, meetups happen regularly in every part of the city, concerts and festivals take place all year long, and there are plenty of creative folks to hang out with.”

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

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