San Francisco is Best City For Graphic Designers

What are the best cities for graphic designers to work in the United States?

Weighing in on this question with a brand new study is ValuePenguin a consumer research and finance website. Based on several metrics — most notably median salary, cost of living and location quotient/job opportunities — the website has declared its ranking of best cities for designers to live. San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles are joined by a couple of surprises among the top five. The full study ranks up to 30 cities, and also notes that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 197,540 designers employed in the U.S. in 2014 earning an average of $50,670.

The motivation for the study? A founder, Brian Quinn, says: “ValuePenguin is all about data and using it to help others make better decisions. To that end, we wanted to take a quantitative look into different career paths and what cities were best to live in for those respective professions.” As you will see, the research focuses on hard data rather than more subjective measures of what might be the “best” environment for a creative person.

The following are excerpts from the ValuePenguin report:

1. San Francisco, CA

For graphic designers, this is the city of extremes. The highest annual average salary ($77,940) and the highest cost of living – and it’s not even close. In fact, the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City is approached only by its sister cities of the Silicon Valley in these categories; the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara triumvirate, home to some of the country’s most imposing companies and promising start-ups, ranked seventh overall (see below). But the more-north Bay Area is alone at the top, where there are also 3,030 jobs, plus countless freelance opportunities. A handful of the world’s best firms operate at least a satellite office in San Francisco. In the Bay Area, it’s also clear that employers, from small to the likes of Adobe, are in the hunt versatile designers, those that are also trained or experienced in the emerging fields of mobile products and user experience.

2. New York, NY

The center of design on the East Coast has 52 percent more graphic design jobs than the next most-concentrated city we studied, Los Angeles, which has 9,600 gigs. While not quite as expensive as northern California, it’s 68 percent more expensive to be New Yorker than to live in the average state. Of course, average isn’t a word that fits in the Big Apple. This is the city that is probably more often the subject of design than it is the source. As a result, New York is where many designers are either starting out or achieving senior status; media giants like Time Inc. and national retailers are seeking managers and directors while farming some of their design work out to entry-level newbies or in-house freelancers.

3. Bridgeport, CT

Like the other four cities among our top five, Bridgeport registered a top-10 location quotient, a metric that points to the availability of employment. In this part of southwest Connecticut, whose data also covers the cities of Stamford and Norwalk, graphic designers earn an annual average salary of $69,750, or 58 percent higher than the average of the 347 cities we compared. Bridgeport also enjoys being with 25 miles of Yale University’s second-ranked program for aspiring designers.

4. Framingham, MA

With just 420 graphic design gigs, this Massachusetts city seems like it sneaked into the top five – and it did, thanks to the country’s fourth-highest annual average salary ($68,900). The Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area of the state checked in on our list at No. 20. Framingham, meanwhile, is home to both freelance designers and independent firms like Levine Design.

5. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, whose data also comprises that of nearby Long Beach and Glendale, actually has the lowest annual average salary among these elite five, at $57,500. There are actually five California cities ranked within the top 15. Given the presence of Hollywood, many of L.A.’s design jobs are at companies like Watson Design Group, which have done award-winning work in designing for the movie industry.

Rounding out the ValuePenguin top 20 cities based on the metrics . . .

6.  Minneapolis MN
7.  San Jose CA
8.  Philadelphia PA
9.  Boulder CO
10. Washington DC
11. Seattle
12. Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine CA
13. Atlanta
14. Oakland CA
15. Bethesda MD
16. Chicago IL
17. Provo UT
18. Dalton GA
19. Columbus OH
20. Boston MA

You can read the entire report here.