This is a question that someone recently asked me. What is it like, as a designer, to work away from a major city? It’s a question which kind of stopped me in my tracks, and one I’ve been thinking about ever since. Are designers who work cities like London or Manchester, for example, better placed than those who are not? While I think there are some benefits to working in busy hubs like these, things have definitely changed over the past decade or so – freelancing is becoming commonplace, and remote working can be done from pretty much anywhere. Interestingly, being away from those major cities is becoming more and more attractive, as people are finding that living and commuting to these places is becoming so much more expensive. I wanted to share some of my own thoughts and experiences with you, and talk a little bit about the changes which have led us here.
Digitalisation and design trends
The way in which businesses work has changed in many ways, and continues to do so. Most aspects of design now are done with digital tools, for digital media. And this in itself has huge benefits, in the freedom we have as designers, and where and how we work.
In theory, a designer can work from any location, anywhere in the world, whether that’s a large city or a tiny village, as long as we have a decent internet connection. Basic as that sounds, the tools of our trade are now simple and portable, at least on the surface.
Is there really anything stopping a young designer with a lot of flair and passion from setting up shop, even if he or she is based in a remote location in the middle of nowhere?
The pros and cons of working remotely
I used to work in a small market town, where there was a strong student community (thanks to two colleges nearby), a few established businesses, and not much else. It was perfectly workable, there were plenty of cafes and bars within easy reach, the rents were cheap…
But it was mind-numbing!
It didn’t take long for my inspiration to wane, and there was practically no stimulation to ignite my passion for design. It felt pretty stagnant.
Since setting up The Severn Agency, we made the decision to relocate to a larger town, and settled in Shrewsbury. Here, there’s a lot more going on – though it is a market town, it’s much more vibrant and it has much more of a community. From a design point of view, there is never a shortage of things to see and do, which is so refreshing. I also find that it’s much better located for meeting people to discuss work.
Would I like to work in a city? I can see that there could be benefits in that. For starters, there are a great deal more designers working out of places like London, and I’d imagine that it could be a great place to find fresh inspiration, and be in the centre of new innovations.
But do I need to work in a city? Absolutely not. I think designers, and freelance designers, are in an age of great opportunity right now. We really can work from anywhere – and we can be as portable as we like. With the right tech, we can work on the move, from client’s offices, from home. The limitation which in the past tethered us to our locations are quickly disappearing. It’s exciting to think that in the future, location will no longer even be a factor.