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Design Ecosystem in NYC

Nick Budden

Designer, and sometimes-writer. Canadian in Taiwan ✈ Berlin. Trying to help people enjoy being creative.

City Of Opportunities

In our series Design Ecosystems, we have already visited Africa, Europe, and Asia. In this article, we are going to cover probably the most famous city in North America – New York City.

NYC is not only the biggest city in the United States but also one of the most international ones.

It’s a home to countless interesting companies and startups that have a huge role in shaping the city’s design ecosystem. Let’s take a closer look!

NYC – The City Of Opportunities

It’s hard not to notice that New York City is huge, and it’s not only about the physical size of the city. There are many buildings, tons of people, a lot of places to go to, lots of companies to work for, and a lot of opportunities to take.

As Suzy told us:

New York City is the global crossroads of the world. It is great to be a designer here because there are so many opportunities to be who and what you want to be.

There are the blue-chip agencies like Pentagram and Ogilvy. There are large tech companies like Google, Buzzfeed, Facebook. And there are thousands of small shops and startups with amazingly talented people.

NYC is home to major industries, like finance and publishing, all of whom employ designers. Designers come from all over the country and the world, so bring a global perspective to the city’s creative industry.

Sometimes it may seem daunting to break into the design world here. Once you do, whether it's through countless soulless freelance gigs or landing the prestigious job, it gets easier to move around
Suzy Cho, Director of Interaction Design @ BrainPOP

Chris also appreciates the number of opportunities New York gives to designers:

Being a designer in NYC provides many great opportunities for both work and community. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been here for the entirety of my career so far (which, graduating in 2014, is still on the younger side), and have been able to make many close friends within & around the field – whether that’s been in my agency stint at HUGE, or in-house at Dark Igloo & now GIPHY.
Chris Cubellis, Senior Product Designer @ Giphy

On the other hand, such a large market also means fierce competition. Before you find a job in the city, you have to get spotted.

There are so many designers and people in general that it is difficult to be seen (in fact, I assume this isn't that different from other industries as well).

However, that being said, the fact that that opportunity is even there is what makes NYC a great place to be in. Once you actually achieve your goal in being "seen", it's just like Frank Sinatra said - if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Madelene Eng, UX Lead Designer @ Ruckus Co


Truly Engaged Community of NYC

Even though the city is huge and full of designers from every possible industry, the community is still very connected and engaged. If you’re thinking about moving here, you won’t be disappointed with networking opportunities, even if you don’t find time for it.

Here’s what Jessica has to say about the Community:

It’s so big, you can basically find any kind of design niche or group that you’re looking for which is cool. In saying that, it can be hard to make the time to actually show up. Life definitely moves at a faster pace in NY, and between work, dinner, seeing friends and walking your dog, networking isn’t always top of mind.
Jessica Stoilkovic, Senior Interaction Designer @ Corra

Madelene has a very similar opinion:

LARGE. There are so many of us with different backgrounds in different fields and departments within different industries with different specialties with different…it really just goes on. The great thing about it though, is that whatever kind of designer you are, the design community really is a "community".

There are many meetups, events, talks, conferences, etc. at our disposal that all revolve around design and the eagerness to attend, network and learn is truly inspirational and motivational.
Madalene Eng, UX Lead Designer @ Ruckus Co

Chris also mentions local podcast recording that are part of NYC's design community:

The community is supporting and ever-evolving and has continuously inspired me to improve both my work and self. I’m not too large of a “networking” person, but have enjoyed attending a few recordings of The Great Discontent’s podcast and currently am getting excited about the upcoming Pictoplasma conference – as a product designer, an illustration-based content will be a nice refresher outside of my normal day-to-day.
Chris Cubellis, Senior Product Designer @ Giphy


Meeting Designers Of New York City

In New York City you’ll find dozens of opportunities to meet people working in design. Similarly to Berlin, there are many design meetups taking place regularly.

Here is what Suzy has to say about local events:

NYC has too many great meetups and conferences. Adobe's 99Uis a great conference for inspiration and creativity. Walkabout NYCis an event where you can visit startups and listen to employees talk about working there; past participants included Artsy, Google, Spotify, Tumblr.

There are always talks and events at AIGA, Type Directors Club, Society of Publication Designers, UXPA, or The One Club. Every May the city hosts NYCxDesign, where you can see exhibitions all over the city. There are meetups for everyone. For example, I belong to Hexagon, a community of women UX designers.
Suzy Cho, Director of Interaction Design @ BrainPOP


Where To Work In NYC?

As you may already guess, there are tons of different places where you can work from in the city. Suzy told us that there are even gyms with a workspace.

We have a few recommendations from Jessica too:

Outside of work and home, Citizens of Chelseaand Merriweatherare relatively quiet and laptop friendly (with good coffee), and the New York Public Library(Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street) is great when you really need to focus. I can also be super productive on the subway if I get a seat!
Jessica Stoilkovic, Senior Interaction Designer @ Corra

Regarding coffee places, I’ve found a few that seem like a great place to get some work done: Stumptown, Budin, and Variety Coffee Roasters.

The whole city is also covered with hundreds of coworking spaces. The most recommended by the local community are The Farm, Green Desk, NeueHouse, and QNS Collective.

And here is it – our quick introduction to the Design Ecosystem of New York City. If you’re a local designer, feel free to join our #nyc channel on Slack, where you can meet up with other designers from the city.

Welcome to share your experience of being a designer in NYC with us on Twitter!

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