The old cliche about being tired of London meaning being tired of life is there for a reason: while NYC may be heralded as the city that never sleeps, London certainly gives it more than a run for its money. The joy of the city is that it often feels like a strange, winding miasma of interconnected villages than a cohesive whole, each with their own individual quirks and characters, and as such, their own impressive array of places to eat, drink, party, work, wander, and anything else that people do when they aren’t at home. Obviously we each have our own tastes and preferences (it sure would be dull if we all liked the same things), but there are a few places that feel more… well… designer-centric than others. So, we asked a few of our designer pals where they would recommend to their peers who maybe aren’t as versed in the winding streets of old London town, and listed the spaces dedicated to graphics and illustration below.
Galleries Dedicated to Graphic Design and Illustration
This list doesn’t include the numerous commercial product design galleries, but instead shows places where graphic design or illustration is, or has historically been, given dedicated space or exhibitions.
- Design Museum
- Kemistry Gallery
- Beach London
- KK Outlet
- British Library
- House of Illustration
Thanks to the density of agencies in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, many a London designer will frequent the coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs in the area. Pubs rather than bars, as in Shoreditch in particular these are more often heels and sport TV sort of places, rather than the sort of joint where you can bitch about pitches or show off about how much you know about the new wing of the Tate Gallery.
Members clubs like Soho House and its east London Shoreditch House, the Hospital Club, and House of St Barnabas are a popular spots for more established designers, and also go-tos for cultural PRs in the city.
Eating, Drinking + Working
We spoke to some designers in London about their favorite places to eat, drink, and freelance.
Gordon Reid, freelance designer
“There are tons of awesome places to hang out and eat around my way [Stoke Newington, north east London], which is where I tend to be. Cafe Oto is amazing for food and a good hangout, Jackdaw and Star in Homerton is pretty much my favorite pub in London—again, great food and drink. Pamela in Haggerston is a good shout for cocktails, food, and atmosphere, too.”
Simon Manchipp, founder and executive strategic creative director of SomeOne
“London is a giant collection of designer-friendly hotspots. You should do all the galleries. You should walk as much as possible. Follow your instincts. Pop in anywhere that looks interesting. I’m a big believer that people are intrinsically good, so trust them. When someone says that you should try a place, you should try it.
“I’ve never met a successful creative who doesn’t like a drink; almost any pub in the East End is a good start. I’d avoid the West End. Soho is still fun in parts, but the creative heart of London has moved, and it’s found in Shoreditch. Have a craft beer in The Princess of Shoreditch, then a few later go to Found for a Tequila Verdita. Seven minutes later you’ll be talking to someone interesting, even if it’s just Oscar the owner—he’s a good start and will steer you on your way for the night. Ceviché is great fun for lunch. Rivington for dinner. But frankly it all changes daily. Just go east.”
Holly Bishop, illustrator and communications assistant at Bulletproof
“Bussey Building in Peckham always has something going on. There’s a ceramics studio, yoga, arts space (The Copeland Gallery) where they also have flea markets, craft fairs and events. In the summer they open Frank’s bar on top of the old multi-story car park which beats the view from The Shard any day! In that area, Rye Wax combines a great vinyl and comics shop with a cocktail bar and pop-up taco kitchen. That’s open all day and the DJs are always great at night, too, plus two for one espresso martinis! The Nines, also by Bussey Building is a great brunch spot for some down time, and hosting events, too.
“A Bulletproof favorite is God’s Own Junkyard, out in Walthamstow. The warehouse is home to a giant collection of bespoke neon signs and one of those ‘hidden gem’ places to see in London. It’s truly inspiring and we own a few of their pieces that take pride of place in the decor of the studio. The estate also boasts a neighboring gin distillery and brewery that are open to the public if you’re looking to make a night of it!
“Battersea Arts Centre near Clapham Junction is one of the remaining (in my mind) more ‘traditional’ arts hang outs, but still provides new and fresh entertainment in the community with plays, workshops, and a whole variety of activities you can get involved in any time of the week. They have a really full program and there’s always something going on if you’re searching for inspiration and don’t want to blow the bank. There’s a large cafe space which is really easy to spend time in with great food and drink, too. I’m always happy to support this space and the artists and actors who keep it all up and running. It’s also really great if you are looking to connect with other like minded, local practitioners. They’re even renovating parts of the building, where there has been decay from over the years. They have a small interactive exhibition there to show you their plans to completely excavate and overhaul the space.”
Sarah Boris, freelance graphic designer
“When I need to get out of the office, I like to work from The Bach on Broadway market. For eating I like Tayyabs in Aldgate East, Hurwundeki in Cambridge Heath, The Larder in Bethnal Green, and Andina in Shoreditch (try their Pisco Sour). I recently discovered New Tastes on Mare Street, too, which is worth a visit.”