As the world becomes more connected, traditional design hubs like New York and London are beginning to lose pride of place to up-and-coming locales around the globe. The question is, what is it that makes some cities especially well-suited for designers and artists?

Here we’ve listed ten exciting cities that, as they grow, seem to be offering the right stuff for creatives. They tend to be youthful and culturally vibrant. They have good educational and transportation infrastructure and, of course, freedom of expression. They are, like many of us, moving toward a future founded on a robust creative economy.

Of course it was difficult to pick only 10 design cities, but we think these nicely showcase the urban trends that all designers should be aware of. Here they are:



The Shivaji Terminus historical and current transit station in Mumbai

  • Long considered an international city and arts center
  • Recently filled an IT niche in the Indian economy
  • Architecture is a mixture of European and Indian styles, providing inspiring variation
  • Home to Bollywood, one of the world’s top film industries
  • The city features government-funded art spaces as well as commercial galleries (i.e. Jahangir Art Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art)



A typical Amsterdam canal

  • Considered by some to be the birthplace of modern graphic design
  • Designers here are held in high esteem, often higher than bankers!
  • Factors said to have contributed to the nurturing of graphic design in the Netherlands: small country and prosperous economy, combined with a rich history of and appreciation for art
  • Design studios are sponsored in large number here both by government commissions and financial grants from cultural funds
  • The country’s rich history of art and design means a large collection of museums such as the MOTI (Museum of the Image), Stedelijk Museum (Modern Art collection) as well as Rijksmuseum in which you can see the world’s largest collection of classical Dutch art
  • Some of the city’s more infamous activities have been known to occasionally boost creativity …

São Paulo


Street art is prevalent in São Paulo

  • One of the world’s largest metropolises, it has been called South America’s answer to New York City
  • Lots of colorful and politically charged street art, like the now-famous Os Gemeos. The city both officially and unofficially supports this practice – for example by staging street art exhibitions at sculpture museum MuBe
  • one of the most multicultural cities in South America, having long encouraged immigration from all parts of the globe
  • named the Latin American City of the Future by fDi Intelligence

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb Contemporary Art

An interactive exhibit by Christian Höller at Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Arts



The Johannesburg skyline

  • A city in the midst of a revitalization. Since hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010, Johannesburg has been looking to the future of its business and cultural spheres
  • Districts such as Maboeng feature artists spaces like Arts on Main, which acts as a gallery space and a venue for artistic events, often in old sites from the inner city that are being re-appropriated for new purposes
  • Features two metro systems: Metrorail Gautang and Gautrain
  • The updated central library contains an entire collection of research materials for artists and students
  • Affordable living rates
  • Access to the great outdoors – always a good refresher for a city-bound artist or designer
  • A population of diverse cultural backgrounds



A panoramic view of the Singapore cityscape

  • Considered one of the world’s top business cities and one of the world’s richest metropolises
  • Has shown an acute interest in graphic design, funding an entire commission on the subject: the Design Singapore Council
  • Multicultural by design, no prevailing culture wins as the ‘norm’
  • The city emphasizes a system of meritocracy which favors those who are hardworking and talented
  • The red dot design museum is one of the largest and most focused graphic design museums in the world


Toronto Downtown

Downtown Toronto from above

  • Winner of 2014’s Youthful City Awards
  • sometimes called the cleaner version of New York City
  • 50% of the city’s residents are not from Canada, ranking it as one of the most multicultural cities in the world
  • host to a thriving graffiti scene. Street art is legal in the area known as Graffiti Square
  • neo-bohemian and artsy hangouts include the Distillery District, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Ossington
  • the University of Toronto features specializations in arts and design and the city also has its own arts-only college: Ontario College of Art and Design

Mexico City

Mexico City

New and old meet in Mexico City

  • From Dia de los Meurtos designs to the work of Frida Kahlo, Mexico has been historically a culture given to striking and colorful art
  • the Mexicano Museum de Deseño is one of the latest museums to focus on the new media art
  • Jumex Museum of Modern Art sponsors other forms of modern participation in Mexican visual culture
  • UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico) is the city’s arts specific university and one of many such educational opportunities the city has to offer
  • The city has long had a representation as up-and-coming art center, and now galleries in old buildings and performances on rooftops appear to be making this a reality
  • Because of a lack of funding for the arts in public schools, art museums and galleries offer alternative arts education courses



Macau’s bus lines feature graphic artwork

  • Macau sits at the historical junction of China and Portugal: it is a city used to a co-mingling of cultures and a combination of art histories
  • the city is rife with casinos, each asking for a new, glitzy way to stand out in this modern visual environment
  • A cultural institute supports creative interaction and now features its own Arts Academy
  • there are design-specific initiatives, like Creative Macau and Lines Lab, which are centers for the creation, communication, interaction and display of works in new media
  • San Lazaro is noted as the newest thriving bohemian hangout
  • was featured in recent James Bond film Skyfall. Cool!



Jakarta even has its own Bienalle, just like Venice! Image by rakyan ‘boyan’ tantular

  • This nation has rapidly adopted computer-based forms of art and design, and is home to 99designs’ largest population of designers!
  • Indonesia is super digital, having more Facebook users than Canada has people
  • lots of upcoming startups in the media industry which are going to need designers
  • Jakarta’s residents educate one another through programs like Serrum, a community for social arts education, Askara, a book store that functions as a meeting place, and Kampong Segart, a student art union … not to mention tons of 99designs meetups!
  • Outside of social media and social education, the city also has its own school that focuses entirely on design: the International Design School Jakarta.

What do you think makes a city ideal for designers? Are there any up-and-coming design cities we missed?