Computer Arts - - Special Report -

When the New York Times de­clared Lon­don the de­sign cap­i­tal of the world in Septem­ber 2012, there were 1.7 mil­lion jobs in the cre­ative in­dus­tries across the UK. By 2015, this fig­ure had risen to 1.9 mil­lion, with a huge 40 per cent of those based in the cap­i­tal. One thing is clear: de­spite the growth of cre­ative clus­ters like Bris­tol, Manch­ester and Ed­in­burgh, Lon­don re­mains the epi­cen­tre of the UK’s boom­ing cre­ative in­dus­tries.

Steeped in his­tory, Lon­don is a mag­netic, mul­ti­cul­tural me­trop­o­lis that at­tracts busi­ness, tourism and ta­lent. A world-class ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem en­sures a cul­tur­ally di­verse in­cu­ba­tion of de­sign


ta­lent, while a wealth of high­pro­file in­ter­na­tional de­sign firms prom­ise jobs, com­pe­ti­tion and op­por­tu­nity. “Lon­don has top-class mu­sic, art, fash­ion, sport, tech, film and de­sign – the list doesn’t re­ally end,” agrees Hamish Gard­ner, a de­signer at cre­ative agency The Beau­ti­ful Meme. “As graphic de­sign­ers, we have the priv­i­lege to dip in and out of these worlds. I’d rec­om­mend it to any­one.”

Yet Lon­don failed to make the world’s top 30 ci­ties for best qual­ity of life in Mercer’s 2016 sur­vey. So­cial un­rest dented the cap­i­tal’s sta­bil­ity dur­ing the 2011 Lon­don ri­ots, and to­day the UK faces new chal­lenges with Brexit. Cost of liv­ing, too, is wildly in­flated com­pared to the rest of the coun­try.

So how tough is it to make it as a de­signer in the Big Smoke? “En­try level in­tern­ships and place­ments nor­mally pay Lon­don ‘liv­ing wage’ – £19K per year,” re­flects Gard­ner. “A ju­nior salary will make things eas­ier, but we’re talk­ing about Lon­don. We pay twice what­ever you do for what you buy.”

Nev­er­the­less, Lon­don re­mains a tan­ta­lis­ing cre­ative prospect. “Com­pe­ti­tion is tough, but the huge wash of agen­cies and stu­dios that range in dis­ci­pline from pack­ag­ing to 3D al­lows you to spe­cialise, and carve a niche for your cre­ative path with­out alien­at­ing too many job op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he adds. “This alone is a huge ad­van­tage to seek­ing mean­ing­ful de­sign work in Lon­don.”

Top: St Paul’s Cathe­dral. Left: the city has 100km of wa­ter­ways. Be­low: Lon­don’s pubs. Bot­tom left: the BT tower.

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