Design Ecosystem in London

{ 🇬🇧 } – The Major Startup Hub in Europe

Today, we continue to explore design communities around the world. This time in the Design Ecosystems series we are taking a look at London, one of the largest design hubs in Europe.

It’s the capital of the UK, and also happens to be the major startup hub on the European continent. Many companies start their journey here to expand worldwide, which also means that there is a lot of work for the designers in the city.

Let’s see what London has to offer!

London – the City for Designers

Panorama of London after rain
When it’s not raining in London

Some can say that London is tailor-made for designers. There are a lot of small and big things about the city that make it a perfect place for anyone who wants to push the boundaries of their creativity.

Here’s what Alex has to say about being a designer in London:

There are three reasons why I think London is generally awesome and especially great for designers:

Architecture: the city is formed from multiple villages (or “boroughs”) which means that it is very evenly developed. From the city center to the outskirts, you can find interesting cultural artifacts and beautiful sights. There are lots of things to explore without even leaving London.

Design culture: the UK has a strong design school which results in myriads of nice artifacts and art around the city from posters and graffiti to advertisement. It’s quite lively and vibrant, people experiment a lot and you get to experience it first hand in your daily life. There are lots of opportunities to get inspired.

Working culture — every coffee shop would have a couple of people discussing something over a laptop. Lots of people are genuinely doing something and it makes you want to do things as well. You can join someone or start your own thing, there are lots of opportunities.

Alex Perekatov, UX & Product Design Lead @ KPMG

The local community is very open-minded and supportive. As Damon points out:

The design community here in London is huge and full to the brim of creativity. For me what makes it unique is the “Britishness.” The majority of designers that I’ve crossed paths with have been honest and not ashamed to speak their mind. You share an idea, a brief or an early concept and you get the honesty you desire. Add to that the flavor of politeness, and you get the perfect combination for constructive criticism.

Damon Macklin, UX Designer

Regarding local events, both Alex and Damon recommend checking out UX Crunch:

Living in London myself I usually prefer to go out of the country for large events as it is a good chance to have an exposure to different schools of thought. There is a fairly frequent meet up that has a large community called UX Crunch. It’s essentially free and quite good if you are into UX.

Alex Perekatov, UX & Product Design Lead @ KPMG

Also, we got a quite nice list of events thanks to Sergei:

Generate Conference – organized by my favorite Net magazine (consistently great content) focuses on a technical side of web design.

HCID Open Days – a free mini-conference by City University offering a mix of design talks from an academic research perspective.

StartupGrind – series of meetups organized by Google for Startups inviting lots of high-profile entrepreneurs sharing their stories.

The UX Conference – a themed day exploring collaboration betweendesigners, developers, business stakeholders, and researchers. Whilst it’s popular to talk about the latest trends and buzzwords, this conference focuses on the most challenging aspect of design – communication between each other (internal politics, presenting the value of design, speaking the same language with different stakeholders.)

Sergei Golubev, Founder of The School of UX and The UX Conference
Rainy day in London
When it’s raining in London

Working as a Designer in London

Getting a job in design in London doesn’t seem like a hard thing to accomplish. As Chris notices:

> If you have the skills and know how to show them off well, I don’t think there is anywhere better. I have people on my books who have no formal design training but have amazing careers in design. Again, with the community here it is so easy to learn ‘on the job’.

That’s not to say don’t bother with formal education, of course. There are so many great Universities here with strong ties to the design community.

My major tip here for Designers looking for work is to make sure every interaction is a good one. The community is by no means small but with the meetups the way they are and with the small geographical area, you will see people you have met before and people move regularly.

Chris Haslam, Founder @ Move

If you’re confident about your skills, you can start looking for a job. You have a plenty of choices in terms of that too!

Finding contractor work is super easy. Sites like It’s Nice That or Design Week were my go to places. Nowadays I actually just make sure I’m with recruitment agencies that are industry specific. Trust In Soda, Zebra People and Consortia to name a few. If you’re looking for something specifically in the fast-moving startup create an account and create a profile.

Damon Macklin, UX Designer

And once you’ve got the job of your dreams, you can get to work! London is full of great cafes and coworking spaces.

The most recommended coffee shops for working are Bulldog Edition, The CoffeeWorks Project, Look mum no hands!, and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

If you are on the hunt for a good coworking space, you can’t go wrong with TechHub, Huckletree, or Uncommon. That’s just a small bit of what London has to offer. Google’s Campus is also a great option!

I don’t freelance much these days but when I did the best place for me was either Campus on Bonhill St or The British Library. Campus is amazing for networking and meeting like minded individuals working in tech. I used to pick up a lot of work that way too.

Damon Macklin, UX Designer

That’s what you should know about the Design Ecosystem in London! As always, we are encouraging you to share your experience with us on Twitter. We have also created a Twitter List of designers from London. Welcome to check it out!

And if you’re up from meeting new designers from London, head to Phase Community, where you can find #london channel.

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

Nick Budden Avatar

Nick Budden / CEO @ Phase

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