When you work in the creative industries, the world is literally your oyster. At Shillington, we love welcoming students from all over the world to kickstart their design careers and consider brand new horizons in these creative cities.
With brilliant design studios, agencies and brands at every corner of the globe, there are so many opportunities to work abroad and settle in a different city. But where to go when there’s so much choice?
We’ve come up with 10 of the world’s most creative cities to live, work and play. The final list is based on a range of factors—from the quality of life and cultural options to the number of creative agencies and local attractions, we’ve tried to consider every angle. Our chosen 10 may surprise you.
So roll up your sleeves, dust off your passport and prepare to embrace a new adventure or career in one of our recommended creative cities, potentially miles from home.
1. New York City, USA
Nothing quite prepares you for the Big Apple. That yellow cab ride from the airport into Manhattan will literally take your breath away. But New York City isn’t just about its iconic skyline; it’s one of the best places in the world to indulge your creativity.
As you’d expect from its Mad Men heritage, the agency scene offers some of the biggest ad agencies in the world: JWT, Leo Burnett, DDB… not to mention thriving design studios such as Firstborn, Huge and Pentagram, or digital firms like The Barbican Group and Big Spaceship. Finding a job or freelance work will not be an issue.
For your downtime, you’re in the best place for all things cultural. Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim… that’s just to get you started. And then you have the many Manhattan neighbourhoods to explore—Greenwich Village, West Village, Little Italy, Chelsea (check out Chelsea Market and the High Line), Meatpacking District, and then across the water Brooklyn and Staten Island. You will literally never be bored.
Hey, and it also happens to have one of Shillington’s campuses on Madison Avenue, so if you’re looking to study graphic design in one of the creative cities that never sleeps, you’ve come to the right place. Discover more about the M-1 Visa to move and study in NYC.
2. Berlin, Germany
Labelled the “coolest city in Europe”, Berlin has a reputation worldwide for being the hub of avant-garde art, techno music, gourmet street food and innovative design. David Bowie once famously said “Berlin: the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine”, and we couldn’t agree more.
Amidst its artistic flair, Berlin is together, industrial and charming. Although not quintessentially known for being beautiful, its tree-lined canals and peaceful Tiergarten district, crafts a calm and comfortable feel amongst Berliners, continuously deceiving tourists of its hidden splendour.
As it’s a major magnet for artists from all over the world, it has also become a thriving hub for creative agencies—think VerbalVisual, die Taikonauten, Hort, Colours and the Kids, State, BASICS09 and Ufomammoot. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This cool city has a whole lot more to offer in terms of career opportunities with ad agencies like Scholz & Volkmer, hy.am studios, Stink Studios, Uhura, Ape Unit and KKLD all happily based here in one of the best creative cities.
3. Copenhagen, Denmark
Nestled on the coastal islands of Zealand and Amager, Copenhagen—Denmark’s capital—isn’t just super cool, it’s ranked as the happiest city in the world. The home of hygge (which translates as ‘cosiness’), it’s a laid-back, bike-friendly, super liveable place with cobbled streets, arts and crafts, and a thriving food and drinks scene.
Turning 850 years old this year, it’s an art and design lovers’ paradise with its own green car-free neighbourhood, the famous Nyhavn with its beautiful colourful waterfront buildings, and a traditional amusement park in the heart of the city.
It’s also a leading European city in digital and advertising. Denmark itself has a vibrant design industry—think Danish furniture, interiors and fashion… literally all things Scandinavian and you’ll be in heaven.
If you love creative cities, cycling, amazing food and drink, and wouldn’t mind a superb quality of life and a great creative job, then Copenhagen is a solid choice if you’re considering a move.
Could Barcelona be the perfect city? A warm and sunny climate, beautiful jaw-dropping architecture, a thriving creative scene, famous artworks at every turn. It even has its own beach. It’s the kind of place that any creative soul would fall in love with—hey, it worked for Picasso.
It’s no secret that Barcelona is full to the brim with talented design and illustration studios, with Hey (lovers of colour, geometry and direct typography), Brosmind (aka The Mingarro brothers, Juan and Alejandro), Solo (independent, award-winning design studio), Forma (founded by Joel Lozano and Dani Navarro in 2012), Folch (founded by Albert Folch in 2004) and Toormix (brainchild of Ferran Mitjans and Oriol Armengou) leading the parade.
In fact, today’s creative industries in Barcelona account for 11% of its workforce, a rise of 20% since 2001—so you’ll never be short of opportunities in a city that enjoys a warm climate for most of the year.
Read about 10 Amazing Spanish Creatives
5. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne has always had a reputation for being one of the most creative cities. Considered to be the cultural, art and design capital of Australia, it’s full to the brim with galleries, studios, street art and a thriving music scene. It’s ranked as having the best quality of life in the world for the seventh year running.
It’s also renowned for being home to many celebrated creative studios—DDB, JWT, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, M&C Saatchi, McCann—they’re all based here. And there are notable design agencies such as 10 Feet Tall, Hunt & Co and Deepend. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a thriving tech scene with Zendesk, Slack, Square and Hired making Melbourne the base of their Asia-Pacific operations.
And, even better, it’s another location for one of our Shillington campuses, so if you’ve always fancied a life in Australia and you’ve been thinking about studying graphic design, now’s your chance.
Read our Creative’s Guide to Melbourne
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
One of the world’s most beautiful and creative cities, dominated by its pretty canals and liberal, laid-back attitude, Amsterdam’s love affair with art and architecture continues today as artists and designers flock to this cool creative hub.
Packed with first-class galleries and museums, along with a thriving food and drink scene, Amsterdam is also renowned for being home to some of the best creative agencies in the world. There’s Superhero Cheesecake, an award-winning digital production studio; the much-respected MediaMonks and global heavyweight W+K Amsterdam.
But that’s only scratching the surface, as many design, animation, marketing and advertising agencies enjoy being based in the Netherlands. If cycling is your thing and you want to be based somewhere a little more liberal than your current hometown, Amsterdam offers everything you need to work and play.
7. Portland, Oregon, USA
Portland is different to other American cities. That’s just a fact. Free-spirited and progressive, non-conformist and independent, it’s hugely creative and considered by many to be “weird”—but that’s just up our street.
The largest city in the state of Oregon, this is the home of designers such as Aaron Draplin along with a huge heap of artists, illustrators, makers and doers. Agencies are abound—Nemo Design and Instrument, to name but a few.
When you leave the office, you’ll be utterly spoilt by Portland’s nightlife—the Guardian recently named the city’s music scene as one of the “most vibrant” in the United States. And if you like beer, Portland is home to 58 breweries or microbreweries—the most of any city in the world! To get over your hangovers, you’ll be in safe hands, as the city has a robust coffee culture too. Portland certainly makes our top 10 creative cities.
8. Manchester, UK
The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and home to the Worker Bee, Manchester is one of the most creative cities in the world with a rich cultural heritage to rival any major metropolis.
It’s a city that’s on the rise. Big time. Eighteen skyscrapers are planned or being built in the city centre over the next few years as thousands flock from all over the world, many from London, to enjoy its lower cost of living and better quality of life.
Often joked as a place where it never stops raining (it does, we have sunny days too), Manchester is all beautiful red brick buildings, former cotton mills and canals. It’s also notable for its music (think The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, The Smiths, Joy Division and the all-out house scene that accompanied the days of Factory Records and The Hacienda), arts (Lowry, Ford Madox Brown, Adolphe Valette – need I say more?), culture, media (the BBC now live here and it’s always been home to ITV—who have joined the Beeb down at Salford Quays) and it has a thriving, growing tech scene with startups and digital agencies popping up all over the place.
If you’re looking for somewhere to study graphic design, Manchester is also home to one of Shillington campuses so you can enjoy being part of England’s “second city” and, if you plan to stay, apply to work for one of the city’s many talented agencies.
One of the most multicultural and creative cities in the world, Cape Town in South Africa was named the World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, and named the best place in the world to visit by the New York Times.
Sat on the shores of Table Bay, it’s a beautiful spot with a warm Mediterranean climate, gorgeous local beaches and offers a melting pot of arts and culture. It also has a thriving creative scene and is home to agencies such as K&i and The Agency.
For all you music lovers, you’ll be happy to hear that Cape Town has a whole heap of festivals, concerts and parades—Up The Creek involves lying on an inflatable lounger by a river bed while enjoying some pop and indie tunes. Need we say more?
10. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin has a whole load of heart and soul and is a cultural melting pot that will satisfy any creative. From the lively music scene and inspiring galleries (like the National Gallery of Ireland) to a growing tech scene (which includes the likes of Google and Facebook) and wealth of entrepreneurial spirit, this Irish gem is an art and design lover’s paradise.
You’ll enjoy some of the best food you’ll ever taste, as Dublin has five restaurants sharing six Michelin stars, and the shopping won’t disappoint with plenty of independents to support, like Make & Mend and Indigo & Cloth.
The city also has a wealth of major festivals each year including Fringe Festival, Theatre Festival, Bram Stoker Festival, Hard Working Class Heroes—check out Tourism Ireland for more inspiration.
It’s for these reasons and more that we felt Dublin deserved to be on our list for the world’s most creative cities.
Read about 10 Amazing Irish Creatives
Want to travel the world and become a graphic designer? Learn about your visa options to study design abroad at Shillington in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.