RELOCATING TO NEW YORK CITY
WHY BRITISH DESIGNER AND ILLUSTRATOR TOM MAC, NOW SENIOR DESIGNER AT VAULT49 IN NEW YORK, SWAPPED ONE DESIGN SUPERCITY FOR ANOTHER
Why did you move to New York?
I relocated to work with award-winning studio Vault49 in the heart of Manhattan. Before that, I’d been living in South London, working on web and app design projects, and interesting freelance projects for clients like PlayStation, but it didn’t fully satisfy my urge to be more of a graphic designer, working on longer-term branding and packaging projects with a solid team of class creatives.
How has your career improved in NYC?
I’ve learnt more in my two-plus years here than in any other time since hitting the world of work. I’ve always considered myself as an all-rounder – variety is the spice of life – and that’s the culture at Vault49. It’s also worth noting that NYC is a very international place, as London is, but more so. I’ve met new friends with different approaches to design, which is hugely inspiring and motivating.
How does New York compare to London?
New York is a very creative place. Much like London, each area has its own characteristics and personalities. When I lived in London, I’d always head into Shoreditch after work to check out whichever exhibition was opening and grab some cheeky free beers. I’m a lot busier these days, but areas like Chelsea and the East Village in Manhattan, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn are perfect for that kind of thing.
Wages are noticeably higher here – even after the dollar is adjusted to the pound – but as is the cost of living across the board. The cost of rent for a good apartment that isn’t in a basement and 1m2 was a bit of a shock, but the nature of New York means that you don’t have to live on the outskirts of the inner city to have a nice place. And I’ve never felt unsafe over here, unlike London where I have more than once.
What’s been the biggest challenge of relocating?
The visa itself was a pretty simple procedure. The lawyers did the majority of the work and I just had to turn up at the US embassy once to get the thing approved. Once we got here, adjusting to American culture whilst starting a brand new job was interesting. I hadn’t been to the US before, so a lot of it was very alien to me. Although Brits and Americans share a lot of commonalities, there are some things to get used to – tipping being a stand out, as well as the US credit system, which is vital to making sure you don’t have to put huge deposits down on an apartment.
Luckily the guys at work were there to give me all the relevant pointers and I adjusted quickly. The only tough part about being over here is being away from family and friends, but that is part and parcel of the whole decision.
What are your best tips for people thinking about relocating to New York City?
Travel light initially, hop around a couple of Airbnbs or mates’ sofas, and get advice from folks who already live there before settling somewhere. This will give you a feel for which part of the city you want to live, and let you physically view a space before handing over a cheque. There are a lot of scammers out there – if somewhere looks too good to be true online, it probably is. If you have any large possessions or furniture that you want to bring over, arrange for those to be shipped once you’re settled in. Apart from that, keep an open mind and get ready to enjoy living in the best city on earth. www.workbytommac.com
Clockwise from left: Freedom, a personal piece by Tom Mac; Vault49’s rebrand for Guayasa tea brand Runa focuses on a clean wordmark and abstract landscape; Mac screenprinted NYC Ale at the Vault49 studio.