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London isn’t the only option – the growth of regional creative hubs

London isn’t the only option – the growth of regional creative hubs

11 December 2018

Our Design Economy 2018 report shows that despite one in three design firms being based in London and the south-east, every other UK region (bar Northern Ireland) has experienced growth in the number of design firms since 2010. The south-west has grown 62.4% since 2010 and design plays a key role in several regional economies. Speaking to Design Council, Mike Rawlinson, Design Director and Founder of City ID, a city information and wayfinding design company based in Bristol, tells us how his organisation has benefited from being local and the introduction of their design award for students.

The Design Economy 2018 research showed all UK regions have experienced growth in the number of design firms since 2010. What do you think the reasons are for this growth?

The benefits of good design are more widely acknowledged than ever (as are the pitfalls and costs of poor design). Design is becoming more recognised and respected as an essential consideration of any product or service proposition regardless of location. An increasing value is put on the research and user-testing conducted in the design process. This has resulted in greater input from several specialisms with experts focused on specific areas of design from ergonomics to psychology. Coupled with the rapidly developing tech industry, this has given birth to a multitude of design focused careers throughout the UK, but particularly in creative hubs like Bristol, where there are excellent design courses and a pool of creatives in Information Design, Service Design, UX and UI Design.

What have you found are the key factors in retaining local talent?

The culture within City ID of continual learning and development, supports the ambition to win projects that engage and challenge us to develop our knowledge and skills further. Providing people with interesting and engaging work where they can create and develop design projects to be proud of is key for people building their careers with us.

What are the benefits of being based in Bristol compared to London? 

Being based in Bristol, one of the UK’s most vibrant and creative cities, provides a fertile ground for collaboration, experimentation and innovation as well as an excellent quality of life.

We enjoy the benefits and the convenience of a city, but with many high rating quality of life indicators by contrast with the capital. It’s a walkable city with access to green space and amazing festivals, cultural and leisure activities. It’s also well located for exploring nearby destinations, be it beaches for surfing or national parks for walking, climbing and mountain biking.

What activities or incentives have you implemented to recruit graduates from University of West England (UWE) to join City ID?

City ID have longstanding relationships with Universities that offer exceptional Design courses including the University of the West of England. Over the last 10 years, members of the team, including UWE Alumni, have regularly given lectures, workshops and portfolio reviews to the UWE Graphic Design degree course.

City ID want to celebrate the importance of the design process, and the City ID Award for Outstanding Design Process is to acknowledge the thinking and research necessary to create design solutions that are both engaging and compelling.

The award will be presented to a UWE student who has demonstrated a robust design process throughout their final project to achieve an exceptional body of work.

Design Council also spoke with two graduates, Cal Jepps and Olivia Bull, from UWE about their experience with City ID and their decision to remain in Bristol upon completion of their qualification.

Cal Jepps, Senior Designer

How did you discover City ID?

City ID were always mentioned by tutors at UWE as an example of thorough design process and the thought that goes into making design decisions. I became more interested in their work after a talk they gave whilst I was in my second year, which made me think more about the role of design and how it can affect the lives of people.

City ID is based in Bristol, was this a major factor in that you applied for the role?

After spending three years studying in Bristol I fell in love with the city and I knew I wasn’t ready to leave. There is so much creativity here and I knew of various companies doing interesting things in design, so it was always my aim to contact people locally after graduation. 

What would you say to a recent graduate about staying locally instead of moving to London and gain employment with an organisation?

I’d suggest that if you love the city you’re in then why leave? For me, Bristol is inspiring, and creative, and holds all the opportunities that London can offer but without the scale and stress. 

Olivia Bull, Designer

How did you discover City ID?

I discovered City ID in my second year of university, when two of the designers came in to discuss the company's projects and processes.

What made you apply to City ID?

I always knew that I wanted to work somewhere I could explore many different stages of the design process, from research and development, client engagement, collaboration and prototyping, to art working the final piece. 

What would you say to a recent graduate about staying locally instead of moving to London and gain employment with an organisation?

I think it’s important to communicate that London is not the only option. I feel many people assume that it is in this industry. At the end of the day, you are inspired by what is around you. Wherever you feel most comfortable, settled and happy will have the most positive impact on you and your working life.

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