As we’ve travelled from city to city squashed together in our little van, I’ve noticed something about graphic designers: design communities are like living organisms, and they thrive around symbiotic relationships with businesses, schools, and cities. Individual designers feed off of each other’s creative energy, and naturally form collectives and studios of like-minded people. When all of these elements are present in an area, the resulting boon is self-sustaining and everyone benefits.

We found a great example of this in Cincinnati, which surprised many of us. Cincy is a great town with a rich history, but we never expected to encounter so robust a community there. It starts with great art and design schools: both the University of Cincinnati and the Art Academy of Cincinnati have strong design programs that are well-integrated with the larger design community. The second part is having a strong business presence: Cincy is home to several large corporations, and thousands of smaller companies. The third part is having great design shops that have sprung up to support those businesses, and are fed in turn by the talent coming out of the schools.

Cincinnati isn’t unique – we saw many cities with great companies, design studios, and school programs. But to see all three elements working seamlessly together clearly illustrates the best way to form dynamic, thriving design communities.

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