design scene in portland, oregon


i’ve heard that portland, oregon is a great city for design (and living in general). anybody work in portland? how do you like it? do you find it easy to network and be inspired?

i visited portland several years ago and loved the city. now, i’m doing an intensive job search out there and hope to visit again in the next couple of weeks. i’m not quite a designer yet, but i would like to apply my background in order to get an entry-level support position at a design firm. i have a ba in art and science along with several years of research and project management experience.

any comments about the city and advice in general would be much appreciated. thanks!


im not an expert on portland as i have never actually lived there but i grew up in a town about an hour north and lived in seattle making monthly trips to pdx to see my best friend

and let me just tell you, I LOVE PORTLAND! People are incredibley friendly and open. its such an easy city to integrate into, its so clean and safe and while it is still considered a major city and has everything you could need, you still feel the comforts of the suburbs. everytime i go to portland, i regret having moved to seattle.

i cant really comment on job prospects as i’ve never really looked but there is definately a big design scene with lots of cool studios and shops. additionally, everything is so environmentally friendly and with the new MAX tram system, the city is so easy to navigate.

as for inspiration, its endless in this city with such a young vibrant population and the juxtaposition of nature and city. i hope you love portland as much as i do. i always planned to move there when i have kids…

personally I love it:

some good primers:

Fugitives and Refugees: by Chuck Palahniuk (a guide to the city by the author of Fight Club)

A few of my favorite things:

Check out Just Be Toys (which also has the compound gallery) Japanese toys, rare sneaks, art, overpriced Tees, the owner’s name is Katsu and a friend of mine. It’s on NW5th. , aroung the corner is Motel: , Backspace (geeky but funny) and

Thai /pan asian food: Saucebox another great spot within walking is East: I love it there For a good dive bar, check out the Tiger Bar: CitySearch - Your local city guide , the food is actually not bad either. Sushi: Masu Peruvian (if you haven’t you should) Andina: , get a drink at Apothke after right upstairs: Also on the West Side NW 23rd has evolved into kind of a yuppie bonanza of outdoor shops, and 21st street a collection of restaurants.

On the East side if you have time, there are some great restaraunts, the Clark Lewis, Gotham Tavern, and Mint are some of my favorites but if you do get over to the East side, 2 spots to see are The Doug Fir (great place to catch a live show) and The Blue Monk for some local Jazz is for sale | HugeDomains Also on the East Side Hawthorn and Alberta Streets have evolved into nuovo hippy trendy shoppy zones, some good stuff.

Music is great in Portland, I’ve seen a lot of good DJ’s and acts that normally play at bigger spots, in small little venues here, some good spots for music:

good luck and have fun

and this too:

Yo gives up the goods on his posts for Portland. You should be thanking him, that info can only come from a local with time spent.
My very first design job was outside of Porltand in Hillsboro for an tradeshow/exhibit design firm but I lived in NE Portland in a redeveloping neighborhood with a great community. I also do consultancy work now with a partner and clients based in the Portland area, In my opinion, Portland is the last great city in America based on all the factors you would consider; jobs, transportation, affordable housing, activities, music, galleries, etc. I am currently doing my time in SO-CAL focusing on building up a client base, but am planning on relocation to Portland within the year.
Here is a link to my very favorite blog out there:
great blog about life and design in general, good links and insider info into the some of the design scene and players in Portland.
Go there and visit, drive around, ride the MAX, enjoy.

I was recently thinking of moving to portland myself. What i did, and it worked great, was sent out a bunch of emails to companies I was interested in stating that i am traveling in from out of town and would like to stop in and talk. I wasnt sure how this would work but to my suprise many individuals were willing to offer me a half our of their time. I also sent to them all, a small mailer port. then followed up on a the few I really wanted to talk with.
The only reason I’m not there now is that i realized it was just to far from home for me.
I think its a great way to get a foot in the door, it might not necessarily be an interview, but theres always the chance you will get an interview out of it.

best of luck

its true… Portland is the promised land. don’t tell!!!

Moved to Portland from Brooklyn at the beginning of the year for a design job, and can concur with most of what’s posted above – it’s a great town, relatively cheap, good architecture, easy to bike around. The question about what sort of design scene there is, and how much interaction between designers, hasn’t been much addressed.

My own experience has been that this is one of the drawbacks of living and working here. While it’s true that there are thousands of designers in PDX, a good fraction (a majority maybe?) work for large corporate design departments – Nike, Intel, Adidas, etc – mostly located on campuses in the western suburbs. Most of the consultancies are clustered near downtown, but there are only a handful. The Core77 directory lists 37 for the whole state of Oregon, of which maybe half are active, independent and operating in Portland.

Quite a shift from NYC, where most of the corporate design in the region is further out of town, and there are hundreds of small to midsized independent studios in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This breeds a pretty strong culture of designers getting together, checking in on what each other are doing, going to events, openings, happy hours, etc.

Portland designers tend to keep within their companies for the most part, which is a pity since there’s a lot of world-class talent in town, working on fascinating projects that they can’t talk about.

I ran into a few fellow designers at the Compound Gallery on a First Thursday, and a few more at the Japanese Design symposium PNCA put on last month, but that’s about it. I’d be interested to hear other area designers’ experiences with this though.

Comparing NYC design scene to a city that is like 1/8th its size is a little unfair (sorry, I’m protective of the scene)

Compound is typically a hotbed of designers on 1st Thursday (though they usually look like normal people), some get together at East afterward for drinks.

I do agree with you that for the amount of designers that are here, it is disappointing there isn’t more going on. I only recently found out the IDSA chapter is active here (though that is probably my bad)… but anyway, hitch, you want to co organize something?


@Carlson70, that blog is flippin sweet.

The event at Office was pretty good last night ( )

Hitch did you make it? There where designers from Merrel and JDK presenting their work and in the audience I saw designers from Ziba, Nike, Adidas, Los Osos and tons of local freelancers. It was good. Its there if you seek it, but it won’t come knocking.

Oh…oh…I feel so schooled…

Yeah I heard about the Office event, and couldn’t go though I wanted to badly (really badly, now that I hear your review). Prior commitment, but I’m glad it went well.

Agreed that it’s not fair to compare NYC and Portland in terms of activity, but I think the fundamental thesis is sound: there are an inordinate number of working designers in Portland, but a far higher fraction of them are on corporate campuses than in small consultancies. The NYC comparison was not about raw numbers – I suspect Portland has more designers per capita, actually – but about the corporate vs. consultancy ratio. There’s nothing in New York anywhere near the size of the Nike campus, and this affects the degree of informal interaction between designers.

That said, I’m glad there are occasional events like last night’s, and would love to see more. So yeah, drop me a note offline and maybe we can plan something up.

I’m with you, and sometimes, after being around 350 designers all week, the last thing I want to do is talk to another designer (OK it’s rare, but it happens).

Lets link up, maybe grab coffee at the Daily Cafe, and figure something out. I remember they where having a revolving design happy hour for awhile in Boston at different spots bi weekly (this was in the late 90’s), something like that could really work. A few friends of mine where DJ’ing over at the Tiger bar every Friday night, but it was always way too loud to talk. But there are enough lounges in all 4 of the quadrants to keep it interesting.


This place is fresh. picked up some mags + pair of kicks (night jogger 0 | 500 made) today from the store.

Yo - thanks for the hook up - dinner and walk around was tight, hard to save $$$ around here, atleast it isn’t that expensive.

my two $ - I just moved out to Portland from NYC and its an adjustment, but so far been aight, and really has many lil spots with some cool shyt. I think has a lil of everything here for anyone. I am still on the look out for 24hr food joints…

be easy


No problem man, anytime.

This might be entertaining: PORT: - Portland art + news + reviews

Yo, is the IDSA scene out there actually decent? Better than the CT chapter right I am sure, but is it as good as Boston? Also, do you know any of the JDK team out there. We are doing a project with them now and I have to say that they really live up to expectations.

The IDSA chapter is not as active as I would hope but they do have what seems to be a regular thing going. If CT is 1 and Boston is 5, Portland is like 2.5, lots of room to improve, but its there and that is a huge feat.

I just saw someone from JDK speak the other day at office… the dude can sketch, he showed a bunch of bag sketches for Merrel. Sounds like they have a cool little office here, I had no idea.

another local thing coming up the Wednesday at the DWR store:

Some other things coming up…

Kitchen Sink is a series of multidisciplinary art events Gary Wiseman
and Alicia Eggert started putting together back in January. The
concept is to expose people to as many different kinds of creativity
as possible in one day/night…2D visual art, sculpture, performance,
live music, film,dance, installation art, etc. The first one downtown
(in the space behind Ghosttown) was a great success. Here comes round

So what happens when 22 artists, 7 bands and 2 DJ’s infiltrate a
vacant house in St. Johns? Find out on July 22nd at “Kitchen Sink:
Welcome Home, Stranger”, a one-night-only multidisciplinary arts
event. Visual artists have been invited to fill the home’s empty
rooms with site-specific installations, and the backyard will play
host to live music, performance, short films and a DJ-assisted dance
party. Excellent, inexpensive food will be provided by Vegan Empire.

5037 N. Princeton, St. Johns. Front door opens at 3pm, music starts at 5pm.
$2-5 Donation. Email for more information.
Please see attached files for postcard and map.

Featured Bands and DJ’s:
Bark Hide and Horn, Dat’r, Ghosting, Hey Lover, The Online Romance,
Team Evil, Tre’, DJ Ricky Pang, DJ Two Handed Manny

Featured Artists:
Gordon Barnes, Steven Beatty, Katrina Boemig, Seann Brackin, Maggie
Casey, Philip Cheaney, Liam Drain, Alicia Cortney Eggert, Alex Felton,
Eliza Fernand, Carla Forte, Jason Giglio, Rochelle Koivunen, Laurel
Kurtz, Lacy Lowry, Johnny Mac, Heather Mackenzie, Scott Mazariegos,
Hope McManus, Christopher Nakayama, Dalas Verdugo, Gary Eugene Wiseman


the Championship race of this years Ferrari Challenge will be in Portland at PIR.

August 4-6

Tickets are $15

Might be a good chance to see cars as expensive as my house scrape it up on the track…

There will also be a “historic demonstration” of vintage Italian cars of all makes.

To get in on the action at our level, they have the Ferrari Kart Challenge: >

I was in PDX last August to do some ethnographies and some customer interviews - I loved Portland. I like the outdoors and bungalow architecture, indie music, hills, local beer and classic cars so PDX was like a Shangri-La to me.

But really - do you need anymore East Coast people out there :wink:

It’s growing thanks to people like Hitch…

I don’t know anyone on the JDK team, but the presentation they gave at Office pdx was awesome.