Top U.S. cities for design professionals

Creativity is not as concentrated on the coasts as one may think.

July 09, 2014 |

Step aside New York and L.A., The Atlantic’s CityLab finds that not all design jobs have these two trendy hotspots as their epicenters.

CityLab Editor at Large Richard Florida worked together with occupational data provided by the labor market data and research firm EMSI to identify geographic clusters of the design sector – architects and landscape architects; commercial and industrial designers, graphic designers, fashion designers, interior designer, and others. His analysis included both designers working for firms and self-employed freelancers.

Around 625,000 Americans are employed in the design sector, a decline of about 12,000 since the Great Recession.

The analyst zoomed into specific metro areas (those with more than a million people) and mapped out the number of workers in the design sector, median wages and regional share of designers for the largest 51 U.S. metros.

Florida developed a stat named the location quotient (LQ), which measures the concentration of a given occupation in a metro area to its concentration across the country. Hence, an LQ of 1 indicates the occupation’s share matches the national average, an LQ of 2 is double that, and so on.

Though the concentration of fashion designers expectedly falls on New York first and L.A. second, Florida’s findings indicate four clusters of design fields concentrated in a city other than those two, and here they are:


Detroit – Commercial and Industrial Designers

Commercial and industrial designers that design manufactured products like cars, toys and appliances are centered in the rust belt, with Detroit’s LQ leading at 5.7.


Seattle – Architects

With an LQ of 2.42, Seattle was far above New York, which came in tenth, and Los Angeles, which came in twentieth.


Minneapolis – Graphic Designers

The Twin Cities tops the list of graphic designers with an LQ of 1.7., which Florida thinks is “driven by its long-standing strength as a center for marketing and advertising.”


San Francisco – Self-employed Designers

It’s only natural that San Francisco, the hub of start-ups, would also invite a lot of independent, self-employed designers of all fields. With an LQ of 2.06, the City by the Bay is ahead of Los Angeles and New York, with tech hubs San Jose, San Diego and Austin between them.

Visit CityLab to learn more and view maps of the United States with bubbles showing the concentration of workers in the design sector.

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