Top Global Design Clusters - where are they?


I am in the fortunate position of being able to take some time to travel, and am planning to go to the 5-7 largest design clusters globally, with the intention of meeting certain companies and doing some research on what makes these ‘clusters’ tick.

What countries/cities have a large volume of companies with great in house design firms (lets take BMW or Apple) for example, or a large number of high profile consultancies?

I would personally place San Fran/Silicon Valley and NYC up there, but where else, in your experience? Some sources would be useful!

Thanks in advance,

In UK, I’d say London is a design hub - plenty of consultancies of many types of design work, definitely no 1 spot in the UK.

I’ve found SW England around Bristol a bit of a design concentration with Clarks, Dyson, Kohler, and plenty of small design-packaging-branding consultancies - though there may be other concentrated areas in the UK

Berlin, Amsterdam, Milan, Taipei, Singapore, Hong Kong & Paris stand out in my personal experience as design concentrations too

Hey Travis,

can you tell me a bit more about Hong Kong? I only know of Philips Design but I’d sure like to find out what else is based there.

And to add to the list, Shanghai and Beijing are where it’s at in China. Tokyo and Seoul should probably be on the list too but a lot harder to find out what’s going on because of the language barrier.

I had a buddy at Philips design there, but I’ve also met quite a few designers who had set up shop there as independents doing graphic and ID. It might be that I just heard it so often because I’m in the UK and maybe it’s a little less cultureshock for English speakers in mainland China… There’s also an industrial design program at a University there that another friend worked with… maybe he’ll pipe in

I think Munich is pretty strong on the ID side. As you have mentioned, BMW is here, Audi has his Product Design Studio here as far as I know, also BSH Bosch Siemens Householdappliances are located in the area besides a lot of other Firms and there are a lot of big and small consultancies like Lunar, Frog, Ideo, designaffairs, Gravity, pilotfish, teague, designit,…

For Germany I think that Munich has the biggest concentration for ID, Hamburg is also a good place.

Thank you all very much. Travis, we seem to have some mutual West County contacts!

The list of target destinations at the moment in no particular order;

San Fran/Silicon Valley
New York


Hong Kong

Thoughts? It is very interesting hearing all of your comments on this

I’d add Chicago, but I’m probably a bit biased.

Look out for Montreal, it’s one of UNESCO Design cities (Répertoire | Design Montréal).

And Montreal is the based for the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID).

I know its just titles, but there is many industrial design coming out of there.

Ha…I was thinking the same thing.

Where you at Asango?

if your counting automotive design, you can’t count out Detroit, though we do more than just cars too.

this event is coming up, though this may be more grassroots design oriented than you are looking for

Chicago :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

If you’re scheduled to stop in Tokyo and Beijing, try to visit Seoul and Shanghai as well.

You will find a design experience unlike smaller design hubs like New York, San Francisco, Munich, Singapore et al. Understanding design from a city size and cluster size comparison is a very enlightening experience.

Like Tokyo, you will see how a cities design infrastructure operates in the +15 million population category.

Seoul - pop. +20 million
Shanghai - pop. +16 million

Montreal is not in the top global design clusters…wow. Bombardier is way out in Valcourt and Gad Shannan moved to SD. Montreal is pretty quiet now. Other than constant publicity to the contrary.

Toronto is the principle design city in Canada. Boston, NYC, LA top 3 in the US.

I’d definitely include San Francisco in the US top 3 or 4… probably the go-to place for consultancies, and plenty of in-house from Amazon, Specialized, and tons of tech companies


Regarding Shanghai from personal experience as a design cluster. There is little in the way of creative center or design feeling about the city. Shanghai is inspiring and optimistic, and maintains a ready culture of manufacturing things, however consumption trumps creation. There is lots of talk of design in planning circles because it is recognized as a key element, it is in it’s infancy.

Design centers like SF, NYC, Chicago, Munich, Seoul, Tokyo, etc. take decades or more to develop the culture of design. Shanghai is just now starting to see a hint of a hint of that spark.