London for industrial designers

Hi everyone, this is my first post on the core77 forums.

I am looking to move to the UK and more particularly London. Before I uproot my family (girlfriend and dog) and ship them over, I would love to hear from industrial designers in London about your opinion of the city as a place of work. Are there a vast variety of opportunities, room for growth, inspirational climate, decent salary etc. Really any information or advice would be appreciated.

Just a quick bit on my background. I started out my journey in design as a graphic designer. I then proceeded to earn my BTech industrial design. Shortly thereafter I worked for a turnkey design consultancy for a year and I have been freelancing for the last 3 years since. I am ideally looking to work for a studio but I’m also open to a in-house work.

I would imagine that since it’s a global city, the design industry should be flourishing there and the opportunities should be pretty good. If this industry has taught me one thing however, it’s that assumption is the mother of all stuff ups so I would love to hear from other industrial designers in London on their opinion and experience of the city as a place of work.

Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for the help!

Firstly, welcome to the boards!

Where are you relocating from? Just so it’s easier to understand what you are used to.

My personal opinion of London is that it is a really tricky place to move to and to work as a designer. Especially in this political climate.
Salaries and cost of living are completely out of synch in creative fields based on my experience interviewing with agencies.
What was offered was frankly laughable for one of the most expensive cities in the world. But that is of course just my personal POV.

I love London, have many designer friends there and visit it often but from a professional perspective, I would be cautious and make sure you get a living wage.

Hi thanks for the warm welcome and reply!

I am from Cape Town, South Africa. The industry is very small here, with most industrial designers working for point sale companies. A area which I’m not interested in at all.

Our polical and economic climate leaves much to be desired so in that respect I can’t imagine London being any worse.

The cost of living VS salary equation was also one of my concerns. I will make sure to do more research on that front thanks.

Honestly, it’s hard.

As said above the wages vs. cost of living are not good, and unless you (and your partner) manage to snag a job that pays very well, it may be hard to find a place to live with enough space for a dog actually in the city - for reference I’m looking to move more centrally and looking at 1 bed apartments for £1500 per month.

Personally, I have found it hard to find ID jobs in the city, it seems to be leaning far more digital these days (I could go on a whole rant about how 90% of advertised product design jobs are actually software/web -_- )

That being said, it’s a fun place to live with loads happening and there are great design agencies here if you can get a foot in!

As mentioned it can be tricky. London is a wonderful city, and very expensive. I have a couple of friends that made the move from the US. Both got jobs in house with large companies who helped them make the move. One in London, one outside of London (there is more ID to the North).

On a side note. I looked into it as well a few years back. When Nike owner Umbro we were talking about me going there for a bit. The major roadblock was my dog. They have a 6 month quarantine for any animal brought to the island and the mortality rate of any pet put into that quarantine program is rather high. This was 10 years ago so perhaps things have changed, but something to look into.

Why don’t you just start looking for a job and if you have an offer you can consider the move or not depending on the type of opportunity and salary? Just want to remind again that, even though in Europe there is probably more industrial design happening than in SA… it is STILL an extremly niche industry and success isn’t guaranteed, even with a good to great portfolio the competition is stiff. If mainland Europe is an option as well also look into places like Munich that probably has a FAR greater density of design studios per capita than London!

Sorry I don’t know the region very well. Would you mind elaborating on where you are referring to in particular with more North?

The quarantine thing sounds terrible! I realized it would be a expensive exercise bringing a pet over but I had no idea that it could be potentially fatal. Thanks for the heads up, i’ll be sure to do more research.

One of my main reasons for selecting London was the fact that I have British citizenship so the hoops I would need to jump through to work there are minimal. That being said I also fell in love with the city itself and its English speaking which is a huge plus.

Thanks for the suggestion, perhaps I should consider throwing the net wider and look into other EU cities. My absolute primary reason for moving is work so that’s the defining factor as to where I decide to go. Yes as you mentioned, my idea was to first find a job i’m happy with prior to moving over.

Thanks everyone for the input and suggestions.

I second the suggestion to look at Munich. Salaries are also not fantastic but from my experience a few years ago when I interviewed with studios in both places, the Munich ones made the better offers.
Also your quality of life such as housing might have a better chance to be of a higher standard.

With a British passport, you still have the chance now to fairly easily look elsewhere within the EU. But that will probably change soon due to Brexit.
Something to keep in mind.

I think you’ve got the wrong plan to get to working in London. I would heavily advise getting whatever job you can in the UK first, and then move to London as and when you can get a job there. Trying only to go straight to London could work, but it would be easier to move there from within the UK than outside.

Maybe you can look at Manchester? I think it’s up and coming for design and more and more people leave London to set up shop there when they are priced out of London.

Hi everyone, thanks for the suggestions and information. Its a good start and i’m looking forward to the adventure!

There are quite a few ID studios within or on the outskirts of London, but like Bengt said, there’s a crazy disconnect between salary and cost of living. Also massive competition for a small pool of ID / product design jobs. When I worked in London for a year I was heamoraging money, but that might have been because the nightlife is awesome.

I’m a UK designer and have moved around the country a lot - and the provincial cities like Birmingham/Bristol/Manchester are where to find the best pay to cost of living balance.