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.